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The Kingdom of God
“Not So Wise Men”
Many people are surprised when they read this particular section of Scripture and how Jesus was actually discouraging people from following Him. It also comes as a surprise to think that Jesus wasn’t as seeker friendly as many make Him out to be.
In our passage Jesus is behaving in a manner unlike anything we’re accustomed to. We do everything we can to attract people to come to church, but here Jesus is doing the exact opposite.
Read Luke 9: 57-62
The question becomes why did Jesus handle these three guys the way He did? Why did He say these things that seem harsh when we see this as an honest desire on their part to follow?
Mainly because they didn’t realize some truths about the Kingdom of God and Jesus wanted them to know exactly what they were doing and asking. And so it’s from Jesus’ response to their requests that we find out some really valuable information about the nature of God’s kingdom.
And just an FYI, these guys had been following Jesus for some time. They saw His miracles, listened to His teachings, and they are interested, but they still were unprepared to follow fully, and Jesus confronts them in these areas.
The First Guy
The first guy rushes up with great excitement proclaiming,
“Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” (Luke 9:57 KNJV)
He’s ready to leave it all behind and follow no matter the cost, or so it seems. Now if someone came up to me and said that he or she was ready to follow Jesus I’d say, “Great, what a blessing,” and encourage the heck out of that person. To me this is the type of man or woman the church needs, the sort who would make an excellent addition to God’s kingdom.
But not Jesus! Instead of welcoming this person Jesus rebuffs Him and if you would, discourages Him. We could say that Jesus stopped Him dead in his tracks.
This type of person is quite common. He was attracted to Jesus’ preaching and miracles. This conversation took place right after Jesus cast out the demonic spirit and healed a young boy. This first guy probably heard as well Jesus sending out the 12 disciples with the power to heal. Maybe he even heard what others said about how Jesus spoke with authority, and Jesus saying that the Kingdom that was about to come.
Jesus presented something new and fascinating, not like the old stuffy religion he grew up in, so he was all in.
I remember a similar occurrence. A gal had experienced a miracle, and her son, who was a believer, saw the miracle and wanted to follow in the same way that this guy in the story did. He signed up for seminary but quickly became discourage and quit.
It’s a picture of an idealist. A person who wants to do good, seeing the misery and unhappiness in the world, but not prepared for what lies ahead. They see only what is on the surface, the excitement and success.
And lest we think that Jesus only had these words for this guy, He said much the same to the disciples who had started to argue amongst themselves as to who would be the greatest in this new and improved Kingdom Jesus was talking about.
“For he who is least among you all will be great.” (Luke 9:48b NKJV)
And so what we see are those who enter with great enthusiasm and zeal not realizing the cost, and later leave disappointed and discouraged because the Kingdom didn’t come in their timetable.
There’s an interesting statement Jesus made about the cost of discipleship. He begins by saying that if anyone who wants to follow after Him doesn’t hate what holds them back, including their family and even their own life, cannot be a disciple. (Luke 14:26)
And then Jesus said,
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28 NIV)
Many use this as a reason not to get involved in this or that ministry, but that isn’t what it means. A tower wasn’t a luxury; rather it was a necessity. And so the last thing that anyone wanted was a half-built tower. Instead they were to find out how much it would cost and then secure sufficient funds to finish.
We are to know the cost of discipleship, and then know it may cost our jobs, family, and even our lives. And then move forward with what God has called for us to do.
And this is what Jesus ended up telling this guy. He’s saying that the Kingdom of God is all about changed lives, and that to fulfill that mission it’s going to cost.
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58 NKJV)
Can you imagine what this guy thought? Here is Jesus, the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Christ, and while the animals had a place in this world, He didn’t. Here is the Lord, the ruler of the universe, and owner of everything, and yet He had nothing of this world.
Jesus didn’t come to set up a kingdom on earth; rather He came to seek and save the lost and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Luke 19:10; Mark 10:45)
And so Jesus told this guy that if you follow me you’re going bear the same shame, not adulation and applause. Jesus said,
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20 NKJV)
And so to this first guy Jesus deflated his idealist view of the Kingdom of God and brought it down to the reality that those who follow, those who want to be a part of the Kingdom of God aren’t going to be any greater than the King Himself. And then He said that the King doesn’t have anything that the world would consider of value; instead it’s a life of dying to self in order to live for God.
The Second Guy
This guy is someone that Jesus invites to follow.
“Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:59-60 NKJV)
While this guy was attracted and interested in the possibility of following and becoming one of Jesus’ disciples; he was hesitant. And so Jesus challenged him, and this second guy responded, “I’ll come, but first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus responded to this request by basically saying that if the Kingdom of God is here then don’t hesitate to enter no matter what my be happening in your life. And while Jesus statement may sound harsh, He wasn’t refusing the man to go home to bury his father.
If this man’s father had indeed just died then the man wouldn’t have been with Jesus at that particular point in time. This man’s father instead was most probably old and home in ill health. What he was doing was giving Jesus an excuse as to why he couldn’t follow, an excuse that didn’t hold when held to the light of truth.
Basically this guy was saying what so many people say when it comes to following Jesus, when it comes to becoming a Christian. They say they’ll follow but not right now. They say they’re just too busy with their jobs or families, or that they need to wait until they get this or that right in their life.
People see the truth of the gospel message and while it troubles their life, but there are other things they want to get out of the way first.
Consider St. Augustine’s prayer. He was listening to a teaching about the Kingdom of God and was greatly troubled. He knew what the preacher was saying was right, and that he wasn’t living his life for God, but he also was living with his mistress. So a conflict happened within him and so he offered up this prayer.
“Lord, make me good: but not yet.”
To this second guy Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60 NKJV)
What Jesus was saying is those who are not saved are not a part of the Kingdom of God and therefore they are already dead. The natural man is dying, and since they praise each other, Jesus was basically saying let them bury each other. Our job is not to bury those already dead; instead our job is to preach that new life is available through belief in Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. It’s not to bury them but to bring them back to life.
There’s nothing wrong with looking after our aged parents and taking care of their needs. But this is not the first priority of those who are citizens of the Kingdom of God.
It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Anybody can bury their father, but it’s only a citizen of God’s Kingdom can tell their father that He needs to be saved, so go preach the gospel.”
Jesus is telling us to go and awaken people to their plight and that Jesus didn’t come to bury them but to save them.
Christianity is all about a living Savior, Jesus, who still seeks and saves the lost. Religion is about morality and it’s easy for people to harp on immorality. But Jesus came to save the immoral and give them a brand new life. So He has given all of us the responsibility to speak life to the dead, not bury them.
When a person hears the good news, nothing, not even family, should come in the way of following Jesus.
Concerning family ties, Jesus never allowed such ties to stop Him from His mission. Look at what Jesus said concerning family ties.
“‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers.’” (Matthew 12: 48-49 NKJV)
Jesus also said,
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NKJV)
Jesus isn’t telling us to hate our families, but rather that our families cannot come before Him in our devotions. If a family member stands between you and your belief in Christ, then put Christ first.
Now this doesn’t mean divorcing, because God hates divorce, but rather to believe in God, and what the Bible says is that by our chaste behavior maybe this will win them over. (1 Peter 3:2)
And so Jesus is saying that there’s an urgency to the Kingdom, and it’s message that cannot wait for a better or more opportune time.
The Third Guy
Jesus also invited this guy to follow as well, but he gives Jesus another excuse.
“Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” (Luke 9:61 NKJV)
Not an unreasonable request to say goodbye to the old in order to start living for the new. But Jesus knows that heart of man, and the deceitfulness that is in the heart.
“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NKJV)
It is interesting that when driving, if we’re not looking straight ahead, if our attention is drawn to the right or to the left, our car begins to drift in the opposite direction.
Jesus is saying that once we start to follow Him, it’s all or nothing. We mustn’t look back at the old, but rather we need to be looking ahead to the new. The past represents an old life, a dead life, and that is the last thing we need to look at, and while learning from our past mistakes we shouldn’t dwell upon them.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)
Lot’s wife may be the perfect illustration of this. They were told to leave Sodom, but not to look back. But Lot’s wife didn’t heed the warning. The old life held some value to her. In her heart she really didn’t want to leave, although she knew it would save her life. So she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
When we enter into God’s Kingdom we must make a clean break from the worldly kingdom we once inhabited. We must turn our backs upon the past, because if we don’t we’ll be torn in two, and Jesus said we can’t serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24)
The Apostle James said,
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 NKJV)
If we love the world and the things of the world then the love of God doesn’t really reside within us.
Here’s the point, if we believe that Jesus loved us so much that He left the glory of heaven to die an inglorious death upon the cross so our sins can be forgiven, and so we can have eternal life in heaven, how can we ever look with longing upon the world that led to our sin and to His death? Can we truly desire those things that ruined our soul and produced His death?
In our passage, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God calls for an unconditional surrender. This guy was half-hearted. He wanted to follow but at the same time he didn’t want to make a clean break from the world in the process. This is a case of divided loyalty.
Look at what the Lord said to the Israelites through the prophet Hosea
“The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake.” (Hosea 7:8 NLT)
I remember my own calling to come to Mesquite. The Lord was speaking to my heart that He was going to allow me to return to the church I was pastoring and remain there as its pastor, but He added that His presence wasn’t going to be there for me anymore.
In essence God was calling me out, I didn’t know where, but it was to be out of Las Vegas. And lest I was tempted to go back, the Lord later added these words that Jesus spoke that once I started on this new path, there was no returning, and if I did, I would never again be able to draw a straight line for God in my life or in the lives of others.
Jesus knows what was best. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and once we go back into the world, even if it’s to say goodbye, we may never want to leave it again.
When we follow Jesus and enter into the Kingdom of God, we are no longer our own. We belong to the Lord and no longer to the world. It’s not an easy life, but it is the most fulfilling life we’ll ever live.
The Kingdom of God is not some novelty we enter into and then dump if it doesn’t work out or until something new comes along. The Kingdom of God isn’t about following the old ways or desiring them anymore.
The Kingdom of God is about following fully after Jesus. It means picking up our crosses daily and following after Him. It is realizing that we are no longer our own, but we are now the Lord’s; therefore we should be glorifying Him in everything we do.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study