A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus, The Cost of Following Jesus
by Ben Doggett
Luke 9:51 begins Jesus’ steady trek to Jerusalem, where he will face the ultimate test of his obedience to the Father: the cross. This reality frames the rest of the Gospel, not least the verses immediately afterward containing his admonitions to various individuals about the cost of discipleship.
On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters three different people. The first initiates a conversation with Jesus, saying he will follow him, and Jesus warns this man that if he does, he will have nowhere to truly call home. A second individual says that he will follow Jesus, but wishes to bury his father first (it is likely that this meant he wanted to wait some time for his father to die). To this man Jesus says rather starkly, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And finally, to another man who commits to following Jesus—but with a qualification that he needs to say a few goodbyes first—Jesus gives the admonishment that “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
These statements by Jesus may seem harsh to us, and even confusing, as we also read passages elsewhere in Scripture about the blessing of family and community, of homes and places to rest and be at peace. But the key question for us is whether we are willing to choose obedience to Christ over our other commitments if and when we are called on to make such a decision.
And when we think of this passage in light of the cross that Jesus was now heading directly for, we must also realize that Jesus is not calling us to anything other than what he himself has committed to. He had just been rejected in a town and had “no place to lay his head”, and he was anticipating a violent end to life in which he would not be given the courtesy of saying his proper goodbyes or putting the family business in order first. And yet, he “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” So when Jesus calls us to a radical discipleship, he is calling us to be like him. Hidden in these strong words of Jesus is the intimate invitation to truly know him, as Paul said, “in the fellowship of his sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10) Through this Lenten season, may Paul’s words become more and more true of us: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)
Father, search my heart and reveal to me where my commitments truly lie. Give me the clarity of mind to hear your call, and the courage to follow Christ even through great loss. Help me to experience the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, that I might know him better. Amen.
Ben Doggett serves as our contemporary worship leader at The Falls Church Anglican.