Real Discipleship

Notes from the pastor


Real Discipleship

Read Luke 9:51–62

Discipleship doesn’t mean following an idea about Jesus or a set of moral values.  Neither is it another activity to add to our already-busy lives.  Discipleship means following Jesus on a lifelong journey of transformation, in which our lives increasingly take on the shape of Jesus’s life.

In Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus travels with his disciples to Jerusalem—and to the cross—he comes across three ordinary people with fairly ordinary demands on their lives.  He calls them to be disciples, but each one misunderstands what it means to follow Jesus.

The first wannabe disciple runs up to Jesus enthusiastically: “I will follow you wherever you go.”  This one has undoubtedly heard about Jesus through stories about his miracles or by witnessing them himself.  But this guy has no idea what he’s signing up for. Jesus replies,  “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Jesus is set toward Jerusalem, toward the cross, toward suffering. No reasonable person would desire that for him or herself.  And that’s the difference.  The young man has no reply; he wants to follow Jesus as long as it makes him look good and—for the perks—but not if it requires him to sacrifice something to follow Jesus.

So Jesus keeps moving. Another person catches his eye, and Jesus says,  “Follow me.” This one replies, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  I hear this and think, “Well, that seems fair.”  This second wannabe disciple has obligations he must fulfill before he can give himself to follow Jesus.  But those are the key words, “First let me…” Something else has taken priority. Jesus replies, “Let the dead bury their own dead.  But you go and spread the news of God’s kingdom.”  Sometimes we’re guilty of getting so caught up in the rituals of life that we think our affairs have to be in order before we can be Jesus’s disciples.  “First let me…” But when we answer Jesus’s call, our obligations are determined and flow out of our life in Christ instead of simply adding another thing to our list of things to do.

Jesus continues onward until a third wannabe comes to him ,  “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to those in my house.”  Nothing seems wrong with the third disciple’s request at first either.  But Jesus’s reply provides us with some insight into what’s really going on:  “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s Kingdom.”  This third wannabe disciple wants to hold two lives together:  the life Jesus is calling him to, and the life he has made for himself before encountering Jesus.  He wants to follow, but he wants to set the terms and limits, to follow when it’s convenient for him; he puts his former life ahead of Jesus.  Again, a “but first let me” stands between this person and Jesus.  He doesn’t want what Jesus wants.  He wants to follow Jesus from the comfort of his former life, but Jesus wants him to give up his former life to follow him.

I’m sure all of us can identify on some level with one or more of these wannabe disciples.  The good news is that Jesus’s call isn’t a call to go on a solo mission or to burn out trying to save the world.  Jesus calls us to be serious disciples on mission together who love each other with God’s love so much that it spills over into everything we do and onto everyone we encounter.  It’s a love that puts us beside other people for our salvation and for theirs.  Together.

~ Rev. Patrick Murphy

Last Published: October 19, 2016 3:58 PM
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