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Devotion: Hard To Follow

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 no place to lay his head.” 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.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-63)
Remember when you were younger? Do you remember playing “follow the leader”? It’s the game where the leader does something and all the participants copy the leader and follow him about. As a child I always looked up to my father. When he worked in his workshop, I would go downstairs and work at a smaller table right next to his. He would give me a scrap piece of wood and I would use a smaller hammer and pound nails into the wood just like dad did. With my over-sized safety goggles, a tool belt that wouldn’t stay around my waste, and a grin on my face, I was a spitting image of dad–or at least I tried to be.

In Luke 9 we learn about what following Jesus is like and it is not like copying dad in the workshop. Jesus is approached by a man that says he will follow Jesus wherever he goes and to our surprise Jesus’ response is not “Blessed are you” or “Great is your faith.” Rather, Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus is saying that he has no place to rest and that is also what those who choose to follow Him can expect!

Jesus then tells another man to follow him, but he pleads to first go and bury his father. Again, Jesus’ response leaves us off balance. “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” It is as if Jesus has pulled out the rug we were standing on and lands us on our backs. How could this be the same Jesus we learned about in Sunday School?

The third man that encounters Jesus on that round also says that he will follow Jesus but would first like to return to his family. Jesus responds, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” You’ve put your hand to the plow, have you ever looked back?

Here in Luke we learn that following Jesus is not as easy as we thought. In fact, we see a side of Jesus that makes us uncomfortable. Are any of us truly capable of following Jesus the way he describes? Following Jesus is not like copying dad in the workshop or an exciting game of “follow the leader.” It is challenging. It is frustrating. It is something we all too often fail to do.

Being a Christian is just plain hard sometimes. The cost of following Christ seems impossible, and yet there is endless joy in knowing whom we are following. A former professor once said, “It doesn’t always matter where you are going in life, it matters is who you are following.” Those words ring true. It does not really matter where we are going in life. In fact, wherever we go in this life is going to be difficult. The joy in following Christ is that we get to follow in the shadow of His life, His love, and His cross. When Jesus says, “Follow me” we may not always know where we are going, but we know who we are following.

We follow Jesus, our high priest who can sympathize with all our weaknesses because he was tempted in every way just as we were, yet was without sin [Heb. 4:15-16].  While following Christ isn’t always easy, we don’t walk alone.  Our loving God does more than say “Follow Me,” He walked the road of perfection for us.  He helps us when we stumble and enables us to keep following our leader.

Published January 1, 2008

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