Choosing to Follow Jesus

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22)

In our verses for today we are given two examples of differing attitudes of those desiring to follow Jesus.

“Nobody can fight properly and boldly for the faith if he clings to fear of being stripped of earthly possessions.” -Peter Damian
The first–a teacher of the law–approached Jesus in a zealous and seemingly resolute. At first blush, one would assume Jesus’ response to this teacher would have been one of gladness and excitement. How strange that our Lord would have responded in the way that He did. Yet knowing the heart and perceiving his unfounded zeal Jesus begins to describe to this teacher the cost involved in following Him which perhaps he had not taken into account. Jesus knew that emotional zeal without knowledge will not sustain anyone when times become difficult. Jesus does not want His followers to enter into their relationship with Him without counting the cost. True discipleship must include intentionality and sacrifice. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke:
“Repentance can help us discover the wondrous significance we have in Jesus Christ: We are deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally acceptable, and complete in Him. Our journey is a joyous and challenging adventure with Christ.” -Robert McGee

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30)

The other disciple also desired to follow Christ, yet he wanted a delay in fulfilling his commitment. He was slow in performing which–as we see from Jesus’ response–misses the mark as much as emotional zeal and hastiness. We must act on what we know today. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

Jesus requires that we make Him our priority.

“Great victory has never been possible without great sacrifice.” -Samuel Zwemer
He is to be first. He does not share His throne. The request from this man was not really due to the death of his father, as he would have already been involved in the burial process rather. This was a desire to go home and wait for his father to die. Familial responsibilities are extremely important to the Lord Jesus and likewise they are to be valued by His followers as well, yet they are never to take precedence over Him. We must remember that only Jesus is to occupy the throne of our lives.
“There is only one time that is important–now!” -Leo Tolstoy

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)

“Your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love, and you are to accept it cheerfully; you are to carry the cross as your chosen badge and burden, and not to stand judging it too severely. Jesus bids you to submit your shoulder to His easy yoke. Don’t kick at it in petulance, or trample on it in vain conceit, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear, but take it up like a true follower of Jesus. Jesus was a cross bearer; He leads the way in the path of sorrow. Surely you could not desire a better guide! And if He carried a cross, what nobler burden would you desire? The ‘Via Crucis’ is the way of safety; don’t be afraid to tread its thorny paths … Carry your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt.

“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.” -Martin Luther
Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly; remember that it will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble. The Lord help you to bow your spirit in submission to the divine will which becomes a follower of the Crucified.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)

Take It to Heart

Emotional zeal will not sustain us when the winds of life blow hard. Our love for Jesus must be grounded in the knowledge of the truth of His Word.

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