Look Before You Leap.
Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 9:57-62
But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” – Matthew 8:20 NLT
So you want to follow Jesus? That’s wonderful. But why? Is it because He can perform miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, feed thousands of people by replicating bread and fish out of thin air, confound the religious leaders, walk on water, or cast out demons with just a word from His mouth. Or maybe you want to follow Him because He offers eternal life. Not a bad choice, when you consider the alternative is an eternity separated from He and God in hell. People choose to follow Jesus all the time. And they did so in His day as well. He was always attracting crowds, and in those crowds there were those individuals who decided, for whatever reason, that they wanted to become official followers of Jesus. It was a common practice in those days to do so. But normally, a respected rabbi would hand pick his followers, just as Jesus did the twelve disciples. But it would not have been rare for someone to voluntarily offer to become a follower. And usually, when they did, they would have had to meet a certain amount of criteria. They would have had to measure up to the rabbi’s standards. A good rabbi wouldn’t accept just anybody as a follower.
In these two passages, we are given a look into how Jesus handled these occasional “volunteer” disciples. You’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t tell them that they can’t follow Him. He doesn’t turn them away. He doesn’t reject them as unworthy or under-qualified. He simply asks them to think about what it is they’re doing. But He does it in His own inimitable way. When one of the teachers of religious law comes to Him and exclaims, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus doesn’t ridicule his enthusiasm or question his sincerity. He doesn’t ask him for qualifications or require him to take an entrance exam. He just makes a simple statement. “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20 NLT). Luke does not include the fact that this is a teacher of religious law, a Scribe, but I think it is vital to understanding why Jesus says what He does. As a scribe, he would have been an expert in the law of Moses, judicial proceedings, Jewish life, and would have been considered both a teacher and authoritative leader in the community. Their role was vital to keeping the integrity of the Scriptures because they acted as copyists, making sure that the word of God was duplicated accurately. They were men who were well taken care of for their efforts and who lived relatively easy and cushy lived. So when this man tells Jesus that he is willing to follow Him wherever He goes, Jesus knows the truth. This man is used to living in relative luxury. His job is easy and His life is good. He is well-respected and well-compensated for his work. So rather than reject Him, Jesus simply tells him the truth. If he becomes one of Jesus’ followers, he will have to leave behind the comforts of home. He will have to give up his comfy bed, regular paycheck, well-appointed house, and respected position in exchange for a life of uncertainty and anonymity. Following Jesus is about emulating His life. Jesus had no place to call His home. So neither would this man. Jesus didn’t have a regular nine-t0-five job with a paycheck, so neither would this man. Jesus was obligated to follow the will of God each and every day of His life. And the same would be true for this man – if he decided to follow Jesus. But he didn’t. The passage seems to infer that the man’s enthusiasm dwindled when he heard the truth. He lost his zeal when he discovered the reality of what it meant to follow Jesus.
It would seem that Jesus was interested in followers who knew the whole truth regarding discipleship. It was not easy. It was not always comfortable. In fact, it was costly. Perhaps we do too many people a disservice today because we fail to tell them the entire truth regarding a life committed to Christ. We paint too pleasant a picture. We go out of our way to make following Christ look like it is going to be a romp in the park. We accentuate the ease by which one can follow Christ, because is it is based on a gift, offered freely to any and all who will accept it. But we fail to tell them that there is also a cost. While eternal life is the ultimate benefit of following Christ, there is still the fact that we must continue to live our lives here on this earth, complete with the presence of indwelling sin, the reality of an enemy who is out to destroy us (John 10:10) and a world that hates us. When someone follows Christ, they will be required to die to self, put off their sin and put on Christ every day, pursue righteousness, and submit to the Holy Spirit’s rule over their lives. They will have to learn to “seek the Kingdom of Godabove all else, and live righteously” (Matthew 6:33 NLT), and trust God to meet all their needs. Jesus was honest with this man. So shouldn’t we be with those to whom we share the Good News of Jesus Christ. It isn’t that the Good News has bad news attached to it. It is that the Good News requires that we open our eyes to just how bad things are around us. There are temptations galore, trials of all kinds, troubles around every corner, our own sin natures to deal with, and daily decisions that will require us to obey God’s will rather than our own. Our salvation requires our sanctification. We must be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and that is a lifelong, ongoing process that will not end until God calls us home or His Son returns for us. Following Jesus requires a commitment. It is not just about a ticket to heaven. It is a recognition of and dedication to having Jesus Christ take over our lives and transform us into His likeness, through the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word of God. And it is well worth it – both now and for eternity.
Lord Jesus, thank You that You are always helping me understand the cost of following You. It is not a burden. It is part of the process of dying to my own will and learning to submit to that of our heavenly Father. I am slowly learning that His will is better. His Word is trustworthy. His Spirit is always right and worthy listening to. My way is wrong. My heart is wicked. My desires can be too selfish and my outlook on life, too limited. But You are changing all that, one day at a time – as I continue to follow You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men