So sorry this is so delayed in its arrival, dear friends and readers! Â We have been sick sick sick — and it was a struggle to do more than make sure we all had food to eat the past few days. Please forgive me! Weâ€™ve finally made it to the last post of the Cost of Discipleship series from Luke 9! I hope you like the bite-sized portions. I donâ€™t think you wouldâ€™ve read it all if it wasnâ€™t. I probably wouldnâ€™t have written it either. Letâ€™s press on!
So last, another person showed up and said, â€œLord, Iâ€™ll follow You. Just let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.â€ But Jesus said to him, â€œNo one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.â€ In some ways similar to the second person, this guy wanted to follow Jesus on his own terms. We might as well say, â€œLord I want to follow you, as long as I can keep on beating my wife and getting snockered on the weekends,â€ or â€œLord, I will follow you, but just donâ€™t call me to share my faith with my neighbours. I donâ€™t like that evangelism stuff.â€ Maybe even, â€œLord, I will follow you, as long as it doesnâ€™t involve me doing anything other than going to church on Sunday and cutting back on my cuss words.â€
Matthew Henryâ€™s Commentary spells out the issues with this guyâ€™s attitude really well:
First, he looked upon his following Christ as a melancholy, troublesome, dangerous thing; it was to him as if he were going to die and therefore he must take leave of all his friends, never to see them again, or never with any comfort; whereas, in following Christ, he might be more a comfort and blessing to them than if he had continued with them. I never would’ve picked up on this. Thanks, Mr. Henry!
Second, he seemed to have his worldly concerns more upon his heart than he ought to have, and than would consist with a close attendance to his duty as a follower of Christ. You probably picked up on that.
Third — seriously, I never wouldâ€™ve thought of this — “he was willing to enter into a temptation from his purpose of following Christ. To go and bid them farewell that were at home at his house would be to expose himself to the strongest solicitations imaginable to alter his resolution; for they would all be against it, and would beg and pray that he would not leave them. Now it was presumption in him to thrust himself into such a temptation. Those that resolve to walk with their Maker, and follow their Redeemer, must resolve that they will not so much as parley with their tempter.” Wow. Enough said, methinks.
Jesus’ response to this is quite a rebuke. So what is this putting the hand to the plow and looking back stuff all about?Â Let’s break it down. Plowing happens before sowing. If you donâ€™t properly plow the soil — for example, if youâ€™re trying to push the plow forward while looking behind you — you can imagine that youâ€™ll make a mess of the field youâ€™re working, and it will not be fit to be sown in. You won’t be fit to receive the ‘seed’ of the kingdom of God, plowing and looking back, if we consider our hearts the field in this analogy. Or, you arenâ€™t fit to scatter the seed, or the Gospel, if (in a different analogy) you are the sower. If your purpose is to ‘be about’ the work of God, you need to ‘be about’ it. I think Henry concludes these considerations very well:
â€œThose who begin with the work of God must resolve to go on with it, or they will make nothing of it. Looking back inclines to drawing back, and drawing back is to perdition. Those are not fit for heaven who, having set their faces heavenward, face about. But he, and he only, that endures to the end, shall be saved.â€
So if we tie all these lessons together, I think they meet in a pretty nifty conclusion: 1. You have a calling. 2. You should answer it. 3. You should answer the call of God, on His terms, under His conditions, in His timing.
The Cost of Discipleship is great. The path is narrow and there are few who find it. The road probably wonâ€™t be easy. (If it is, I have a feeling youâ€™re on the wrong road.) But the reward is well worth it. To God be the Glory. Out of all of this, the Lord has been challenging me in my willingness to follow Him without looking back. That, too, is a story for another post — blessings as you continue your journey in the meantime!