Do you struggle with some of the things Jesus said as recorded in the Bible? I’ve always struggled with a passage in Luke, but God illustrated it for me recently.
Luke 9:59-62: “He (Jesus) 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 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.'”
Seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? I mean, these men were asking to take care of their families, and Jesus tells them to follow him. I’ve often rationalized this scene, thinking I don’t know the whole story. Maybe these two men didn’t really have to do the things they asked to return home to do. Jesus would have known their hearts.
Upon further consideration, I believe that Jesus was sending a message to these men, those around, and to us, reading this account in the Scripture.
Here’s the same passage in The Message translation: “Jesus said to another, ‘Follow me.’ He said, ‘Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.’ Jesus refused. ‘First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!’ Then another said, ‘I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.’ Jesus said, ‘No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.'”
I think this version makes things a bit clearer for me in understanding why Jesus answered the way He did.
Recently, one of my husband’s pastor/friends came to our church to preach a revival service. Before the service, the pastor explained about his father who was dying in a nearby town. He had been told that it was only a matter of a couple of days. He was going to be with him after the service that evening. Twenty minutes before the revival service began, this pastor received word that his father had passed.
My husband encouraged him to go ahead to be with his family. The visiting pastor said, “No, my father was a retired pastor and I know he would tell me to suck it up and get up there and preach what God gave to me. I will deliver the message God has been unfolding to me for almost two months. Then I will slip out and you can tell the congregation why I’ve left so quickly.”
We prayed for the pastor to be able to deliver the message that he knew God had given to him. After his sermon, several people hurried to the altar. It was obvious that the message had touched many.
As the pastor slipped down the aisle and out the back doors, the scripture passage above from Luke came to me. Chills ran up my arms. I finally got it.
It was more important for the pastor to deliver a message that meant people could be drawn to salvation or that Christians could get right with God again, than for him to be with his father when he passed. The visiting pastor knew his father was headed for heaven. But God needed his message to draw some at our church who might not have been heading for eternity with God.
Jesus wants us to know that telling others about Him and the salvation He offers isn’t something to be put off until another day. We don’t know what the next day holds. We have to seize the moments we have , even if that means pushing aside our agendas.
Yes, taking care of family business is important but not at the expense of a soul being lost or a child of God straying. In the Luke passage Jesus wasn’t being heartless. On the contrary, He was seeing the most important need.