Gospel choices - Luke 9:57-62

This is a sermon by Richard Tearle from the Riverside Church service on 26th January 2014.

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There is a scene towards the end of the first Lord of the Rings film where Boromir [PIC] lies dying underneath a big tree. He’s got 2 or 3 dark black arrows in his chest. He’s finished. And over him stands a tall figure. A friend not a foe. It’s Aragorn [PIC] the long-awaited King who will lead the people against the forces of darkness. And Boromir’s final words are these:

‘I would have followed you...my brother...my captain...my king’

Aragorn is a king worth following. A loving, courageous, devoted, heroic King.

He is a king worth following.

And he reminds me of THE KING WORTH FOLLOWING.

Jesus is well worth following. He’s the all-wise, all-powerful, fully loving, deeply compassionate, courageous, devoted, heroic king of kings. He draws out of me that desire to say ‘I will follow you, my brother, my captain, my king’.

Now if you’ve been coming here a while (whether it’s weeks, months or years) it won’t surprise you that we believe that Jesus is the king worth following. We follow him. He is our king. BUT what I would like us to see today in the bible are 3 factors which stop us from wholeheartedly following King Jesus.

Remember 2 weeks ago Lee showed us how Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem? He resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He was heading there to die for us.

You see it in chapter 9:51:

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

He was determined. He wouldn’t be distracted. His focus wasn’t fuzzy. And today we will see 3 factors which stop us from resolutely following King Jesus.

The first one is COMFORT (v.57-58)

Take a look down at verse 57:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Now this little interaction is very interesting.

The man says “I will follow you wherever you go”

Jesus doesn’t say “yes you will” or “no you won’t”.

But what Jesus does is he shows what following him looks like.

Jesus says this is what my life on earth is like. If you follow me yours will be the same. As the leader goes so goes the follower. [The ‘Son of Man’ is a title that Jesus used to refer to himself.]

Jesus is opening up a can of worms here. He’s exposing the guy. He’s exposing something in our hearts which stops us from following him. It’s comfort.

Jesus point is: he’s not at home in the world. He’s not getting settled down here. Foxes have cosy holes in the ground and birds have cosy nests in the trees. But Jesus (though he had a home and family and friends) is not at home in the world. He’s not here to get cosy.

If you follow Jesus he promises hardship. It won’t always be comfortable. It won’t be cosy.

And this is where we struggle. We want to follow Jesus. But we want to be comfy as well. And you can’t have Jesus as your King and comfort as king as well. There’s only one throne.

There is a danger that we will choose comfort over Christ.

COMFORT is so enticing isn’t it?! We all like a bit of comfort. Home comforts. Creature comforts. Comfort food. Cosy, comfy sofas. A nice soft comfortable duvet.

But following Jesus isn’t comfortable and that’s when we start to find our comfort in worldly things we wander from Christ and the comfort that can be found in him and him alone.

Just think about how it works out in the HOME:

As Christians we know our true home is not here. That’s what Jesus has just alluded to. His home is somewhere else. His is the heavenly home. And so is ours. So that means we are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter). Were just passing through on our way to heaven. But we have our holes and our nests don’t we?

T.V., internet, the comfy sofa, the cosy living room, other material possessions like cars and caravans and computers. Gardens and gadgets and games. Hobbies and home improvements and holidays. And then of course there’s food. With all of these good God-given things there is the temptation to find our comfort in them, to settle down and to build up our own places while Jesus and his cause are given 2nd place (Haggai).

But what about comfort in the CHURCH:

We all have our comfort zones. It could be who you choose to talk to? It’s more comfortable and comforting to talk to people who are similar to you. In age or education or gender or political views or whatever it is. Or your comfort zone could be in terms of ways your prepared to serve Jesus within his family. Perhaps there are areas of service that you’ve decided are off limits? There uncomfortable.

But when we follow Jesus we don’t join the foxes and the birds in their holes and nests.

However the answer is not to reject comfort. We are hard-wired to desire comfort. That’s why you love an open fire and marshmallow hot chocolates. But the answer is to rediscover our comfort in Jesus. Find comfort in him. After the busy day at work turn to him for comfort rather than food, wine, T.V., internet surfing etc.

And then when discomfort comes in the service of Jesus. When serving him is hard work and difficult and demanding. You have your own supply of comfort. It comes direct from him.

COMFORT is the first factor that will stop us from resolutely following Jesus.

But Jesus meets a 2nd man in verse 59:

He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

The big issue here is NECESSITY (v.59-50)

This man is presenting something which just seems emotionally and practically necessary to do. He needs to go to his dad’s funeral.

But let’s add to that the fact that burial was very important for the Jews. It had to be done right. Burial in fact was more important than most of the other religious duties. Burial was a big deal. Plus God’s people were (and still are) called to honour their parents.

The man’s desire to bury his dad (before he follows Jesus) just seems like the obvious, high priority, responsible, urgent, important NECESSARY thing to do. It seems like the obvious reasonable thing to do in the circumstances.

And that’s exactly the point.

Jesus takes something which to them and us seems so obviously the necessary thing to do and he suggests that there’s something MORE necessary, MORE urgent, MORE important, MORE responsible and MORE of a priority.

[It’s likely the father wasn’t yet dead and the man needed to realise he couldn’t delay following Jesus until his father had died and he’d buried him. The modern day example would be missionaries who go overseas and don’t get to bury their family.]

But do you see what Jesus is doing? He’s challenging our categories of thinking and living.

Jesus is tackling that feeling that rises up within you and says ‘I’ll follow you Jesus...just not now’. ‘Jesus following you is a high priority...it’s just not THE priority at the moment’

‘I’ll just get this sorted and then I’ll be with you Jesus.’

I was talking with a Christian leader recently who had spoken with a young man. This young man was looking into the Christian faith. He was interested. He has Christian friends and he was coming along to things to find out more about Jesus. But he decided that he would leave it till he had settled down – house, car wife and kids. Then he would maybe get round to the whole Jesus thing.

Are you someone whose being coming along, you’ve heard a fair bit about Jesus here but there are things which you consider to be necessary which are taking first place in front of him? Are there higher priorities at the moment? Is there something or someone who will come first before Jesus? That’s a dangerous place to be.

Let’s take Jesus priority wake-up call and work this one out in practice.

In daily life when it comes to general spiritual things (reading your bible, praying, fasting, coming to church, financial giving, prayer meetings etc). This is how it often works:

We wake up and there are many things to get done. Right? I don’t need to spell them out to you. We are all busy in different ways. We all have a set amount of hours each week in which to get a set amount of things done. And the pressure is on. With the many things to get done spending time with Jesus in his word and praying and sorting out your financial giving (these things) get sidelined. The urgent things (like the sudden flurry of phone calls, the family emergency, the impending approach of Christmas, the work deadlines, the never ending emails, the paper work and shopping, and in-your-face household jobs) crowd out the important things (spending time with God and his people). The urgent always crowds out the important. Jesus had to fight this in his own life and ministry. And the time management guru’s will tell you exactly the same thing. We have to fight for our priorities.  

We need to make sure that the right things get top priority. And then we define what “NECESSARY” is according to what God says. Jesus first.

I know some of you are currently living in ‘survival mode’ – that’s when there’s no time or energy for leisure activities or T.V. it’s just a case of getting through and doing the bare minimum. Many of us here have gone through seasons when were just taking each day as it comes. Normally it’s brought on by really high work demands, ill health, the arrival of a baby or a family crisis. Or a combination of those things.

It’s in those times when eating and sleeping and just getting through the day are the only activities that spending time with Jesus must become part of that BARE MINIMUM package that you’re trying to achieve. Everything else can wait. When your being squeezed let other stuff go but not Jesus. And then when easier times come. Hold onto that ‘Jesus first’ lifestyle and fit everything else around him and his priorities. He is ultimately NECESSARY.

On a lighter note.

I’ve probably put on a few pounds since Christmas. If I continue in my current line of work I am going to spend many hours sat either at a desk or in meetings, teaching people, doing admin, reading, studying and so on. Christian ministry is not manual labour! It would probably be good for me to fit into my week a 30 minute run. Just once a week! Now, do I have time for that? Yes I do. Will it happen? Well that depends on whether I consider it NECESSARY and important and a high priority. If I do, and I fight for the time and I plan when it’s going to happen. Then it will happen.

And that would be good wouldn’t it. KP would be happier to think that her husband is healthier! My brain would probably be more effective when I am back at my desk. And there would be long-term physical and mental health benefits no doubt.

BUT if in crow-barring that physical exercise into my weekly timetable that then meant that I wouldn’t spend time with Jesus in the bible on that day...then the weekly run can kiss Richard Tearle goodbye. It’s not as important. If I need to spend that time with KP then the weekly run can jog on. It’s not NECESSARY. It’s not as important. Jesus comes first, the wife comes second and the run is way, way down the list.

Jesus wants to play around with your priority list. Jesus wants to take first place. Jesus wants some things that you consider to be NECESSARY, high priority, important activities to be redefined as unnecessary, good but not essential. And he wants that time and that energy and that priority position for himself.

But Jesus application is actually more specific than that.

So let’s move from the general picture to what Jesus says about speaking the gospel.

Remember Jesus said to the man: ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

In other words Jesus is saying that the something MORE necessary, MORE urgent, MORE important, MORE responsible and MORE of a priority is proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Speaking about Jesus takes priority.

It comes first.

That’s the urgency that we find throughout the bible. God’s people must speak about him to those who don’t know him. God is the rescuer but he uses his people as a means to that end. We speak, people hear and in God’s wonderful plan – some come to know him.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong on many things. They need to hear about Jesus. They need to be told about how they can know God the Father through Jesus finished work on the cross. They miss out on a relationship with God. BUT the other day when they came to my house I was reminded again of their URGENCY to spread their message. Their message is false. It’s wrong and dangerous. But nonetheless they are urgent in speaking it.

We have the true message. We have the real joyful good news of salvation from sin, of free forgiveness. We have the greatest news ever. So we should be urgently speaking it.

And this is ultimately NECESSARY. Other things have to take second place. The rubber hits the road for you when those secondary/unecessary things are quite close to your heart. But Jesus is firm. First things first. Jesus (and proclaiming his message) get’s priority position.

The third factor that can stop us from wholeheartedly following Jesus is FAMILY (v.61-62)

Let’s read from verse 61:

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Now ‘Family first’ is a phrase in our English language.

This guy is feeling THE PULL of family. He wants to go and say goodbye. Now Jesus knows the emotional ties and pulls and pressures of family life. He knows the effects that our family have on us. His own family thought he was mad and they went in force to tell him to buck his ideas up (Mark 3). Families can pull us away from Jesus and service in his kingdom.

Let me tell you the big bible building blocks on the whole subject of family:

  • Family is a good thing. God created male and female, marriage, sex, child bearing and rearing, relationships, eating together, affection, boundaries, communication etc. God created family and it’s good.
  • Family fell down badly in Genesis chapter 3. The family broke down. Ever since then family life has been fraught with sin and mess.
  • However God has worked in and through families all the way through the bible and history. And Jesus has made a way for us to be adopted into God’s spiritual family. We become children of God. He’s our Father. We are told to love and serve our biological families. Though Jesus also repeatedly said some critical, challenging things about families - today being an example of that.
  • Finally, one day God’s whole family will gather together for the greatest family get together ever. With no tears, no politics, no jealousy or favouritism or fighting.
  • So you see that amidst that whole sweep of bible perspective on family life. Jesus brings some critical comments. Some timely warnings. And today’s bible section warns us that THE PULL of family life can become a magnet that draws us away from following Jesus fully.

    Jesus takes us to a field and shows us THE PLOUGH.

    Now when you plough forwards, face forwards and focus forwards it all goes well. [Use the lawn mower to illustrate]. Like Jesus who resolutely focussed forwards towards his goal. But when you look back with your hand still to the plough, when you become fuzzy about the focus and vague about the vision, things go badly wrong! Looking back means your work and your ways go off course.

    THE PULL of family and families and family ties and emotional pressures will PULL us away from THE PLOUGH of Christian service. That’s the clear teaching of Jesus here. This doesn’t mean we don’t love our families. It doesn’t mean we don’t spend time with them or care for them (that would go against the clear example of Jesus and the rest of the NT) BUT beware of THE PULL of family which makes THE PLOUGH of Christian work go off course.

    I bet family pressures are placed on you when following Jesus starts to take up your time and energies and money and priorities? Am I right?

    Or what happens about going to church when they come up for the weekend or you go to them for a holiday? The pressures on. It might be subtle, it might blatant but it’s there and it’s felt. Your pressured to not go to church and to be flimsy in following Jesus.

    The picture that’s being painted here is of the person who tries to follow and serve Jesus while being pulled away by family ties. It’s in contrast to the early disciples. Jesus called them to FOLLOW HIM and they left EVERTHING jobs, businesses, home, family, dad, community and security and they FOLLOWED HIM.

    Jesus is the king worth following.

    Why? Because he set his face to Jerusalem and went there to die for you.

    He’s the only king who is willing to lay down his life for you.

    But as we seek to follow him, as we seek to set our faces, there are 3 factors which stand in our way. COMFORT, NECESSITY and FAMILY.

    Take heart today. Jesus is the king worth following.

    So set your face and follow him.

     

     

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