1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Recently while reading in the book of Luke I ran across something that makes me think that Jesus may have struggled to be “successful” in ministry, by today’s standards.
I say this because it seems that in our world today ministries are judged by how many “Friends” we have on Facebook, “Followers” on Twitter or how many people attend our church?
Take a look at the last six verses of Luke 9 and I’ll show you what I mean. Here we read the account of three new potential followers, which should be very exciting to any ministry.
So let’s learn from the Master how He “seals the deal” and obtains new supporters.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Now that’s what I’m talking about. Here’s someone that is willing to do whatever it takes, to go where you have to go to make it work. This guys a keeper?
Do you remember how Jesus replied? He said,
“Ding, Ding, Ding, we have a winner. You’re in! Come on down, you’ll never regret your decision.”
Unfortunately, that’s NOT what He said. No, He told the potential new recruit:
58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
I can hear the consultant’s:
“Just a second Jesus, you may want to reconsider that response. You’re going to run this guy off. This isn’t the way to win friends and influence people. We need to validate his decision and encourage him before he gets ‘buyers remorse’.”
It’s o.k., that’s just a little stumble. Jesus is a quick learner, He’ll do better next time. Read the next verse:
59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
So good so far, this man’s response was normal enough, he just needed some time to take care of a family situation then he’d have time to get involved in the cause. We can work with this.
60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
I can see the consultants wringing their hands. I can see them say:
“Jesus, this isn’t going to play well and we may need to rethink our approach here. By the way, does anybody have a number we can call to market test a couple of other responses before we go live with this? I just don’t think we’re going to grow with this approach.”
Don’t worry, there’s one last opportunity to have a new follower join, here goes:
61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Excellent! That’s easy enough, we let the man go home and say his good-bye’s, get his house in order and then he’ll come out on the road and join is. That’s not too difficult, right?
62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Here come the consultants:
“Jesus, come on, that’s a reasonable request. We’re having a hard time understanding this. We could’ve had more people joining us to take your message out. Why turn them away?”
I see something interesting in these responses. They remind us that as a Christian:
These verses can come across VERY mean spirited, but may I challenge us to interpret Scripture with Scripture. We know that Jesus isn’t going to contradict Himself so when we look at Scripture it will help us understand what’s going on here.
Also, keep in mind that we don’t have all of the words that were spoken between these men and Jesus. Plus we can’t know what body language was saying or what the inflection of their voice was or even if they meant what they said. All we have is some of their words. So, while we can’t know if this was a genuine request by these men or that they meant what they said, Jesus DID!
And, we have His Word. In there He tells us to honor our mother and father, so there’s obviously something else going on that we don’t know about.
By the way, physically dead people don’t bury other physically dead people. Since this is true I would suggest that this man was obviously referring to those who had rejected the life saving message of Christ, the spiritually dead, not the physically dead.
To me, all three of these responses make’s Christ’s teaching about “narrow is the gate” in Matthew easier to understand.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Take the third example for instance. To anyone who’s ever farmed or rafted the Grand Canyon, this is very easy to understand.
Here’s what I mean, farmers, pre GPS days, and river boatman have a “marker rock” or a point of reference to help them keep a straight line. Well, Christians need a marker rock as well to help us stay focused on our relationship with Christ!
May I suggest that “rock” should be Jesus Christ, the “chief cornerstone!”
While some may think Jesus needs a lesson on marketing, me personally, I think Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. And He’s also set a pattern for us to follow. We’re to speak the truth, IN LOVE!
He’s made it very clear that we have the ability to go in whichever direction we desire. But He’s also made it abundantly clear that there are consequences with the decisions that we make.
Choose you this day whom you will follow. I’d encourage you to follow the “narrow” gate. While it may be more difficult in the short term, the experiences that we’ll have along the way will prepare us to be warriors for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Which way are you choosing? Look at your level of commitment, which you can judge by how much you put into practice what you know God would have you do. Would “narrow is the gate” describe the way you are choosing to live? Or, are you choosing the smooth way, the way that meets the least resistance?