From Luke’s Gospel:
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.?”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 9:57-62 – October 22, 2012)
Jesus is so demanding! Follow me and you won’t have a place rest; leave your dead; if you look back, you aren’t worthy!
My grandmother used to have a way of responding to excuses. She’d tell us to do something and my brother or my cousins or I would say, “But, Grammy . . . . ” And she would reply, “No ifs, ands, or buts!”
As I reflected on today’s gospel lesson I tried to find some humor in it, but the plain truth of the matter is that Jesus is demanding. To the rich young man he said, “Sell all you have, give the money to the poor, then follow me.” (Luke 18:22) To his followers he says, “If something in your life, even a part of your body, causes you to sin, get ride of it.” (Mark 9:43-47) Our allegiance to him and his gospel is to be so exclusive that it may even make enemies of our closest relatives: “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Matthew 10:35-36) No ifs, ands, or buts about it!
This is a man who brooks no compromise and if we are to be his followers, he demands that we adopt the same attitude: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” (Matthew 10:24-25)
No wonder many of those who thought they would be his disciples turned back and even those who continued with him found his teachings and example hard to follow. We still do; the church and her members still make the compromises he warned us not to make. But in the end we are left to ask with Peter, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
It is a dilemma! To whom else can we go? But Jesus is so demanding! No ifs, ands, or buts about it!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.