Scripture: Luke 9: 51; 57-62
By Matt Bisel
First encounter – Reread Luke: 9:57-58
Have you ever had one of those mountain top, life-changing spiritual experiences? Perhaps at a retreat, conference, on a mission trip or as a youth in summer camp? I wonder if that’s what Jesus is getting at in this first encounter. After one of those intense experiences, we just want to blurt out, “I’ll follow you wherever you go!” We’re on fire, showing up every time the church doors are open. But after a while we settle back into our routines, the enthusiasm fades and experience becomes a memory. We get comfortable and our “Yeses” turn into “Yes, but…I’ve got that work thing. Yes, but the big game is Sunday. Yes, but” … and the excuses are easy to come up with. What Jesus is forcing us to realize in this first encounter is that our yeses need to be our yeses, not just in midst of the excitement of the mountaintop, but through it all. Including the walk back down the mountain leading into the valleys.
Second encounter – Reread Luke 9: 59-60.
Just as we find the first person on the mountain top, the second person we find in the valley facing death and Jesus says to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and spread the news of God’s kingdom.” Let the dead bury the dead???? What does it even mean? Come on Jesus, that seems a little insensitive, a bit unreasonable? If you are like me you’ve struggled with this one. But what I’ve realized is that Jesus calls us to follow him even in our grief, when faced with death. This is Jesus’ way. Jesus, the creator of all things, the sustainer of all things, the one who goes before us in all things, through the mountain tops and in the valleys of death, is making a way and calling us to follow. This is the news of God’s kingdom, that out of the ashes of death Jesus calls us to life.
Third encounter – Reread Luke: 9: 61-62.
During the morning routine at my house the other day, I had my daughter strapped up in the car seat ready to go to school and moments from pulling away she cried out, “I forgot to say good-bye to mommy!” I replied, “What do you mean you forgot to say good-bye? Mommy knows, you don’t have to say it directly.” Tearfully she said, “But I need to tell her good-bye.” Now frustrated I blurted out, “We don’t have time for that, we are in a hurry, I have a meeting to make!” She didn’t understand my urgency. The paragraph that introduces the verses we are looking at today starts out by saying, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” That’s Luke letting us know the plot was changing. Jesus knew what was coming, he had a sense of urgency about him. The days of Jesus’s ministry were nearing an end. Jerusalem was in sight and Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.” There is no time for toddling around, for dragging your feet. The time to say yes to Jesus is now.
We are not sure if any one of these individuals ended up saying yes and following Jesus, but we do know the rest of the story. Can you imagine finding out later that you missed out on the resurrection? I wonder, how often we miss out on the resurrection?
- Look back at all three encounters. How do you see your own experience in them?
- Can you remember a time when you said “no” to something and missed out?
- Can you remember a time when you said “yes” and experienced something beyond what you imagined?
- What does saying “yes” to Jesus and following him look like in your life?
- How do we know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?
Wesley’s Challenge Questions for the Week:
- Can I be trusted?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?