The Call to God’s Kingdom
And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. – Luke 9:57–62
The time had come in Jesus’ public ministry when he was turning his gaze to Jerusalem. His time of public ministry was coming to an end, and He was well known throughout the land. He many times had a multitude traveling with him.
Luke records for us three different individuals who were nearby when Jesus was traveling. One volunteered to Jesus that he would follow Jesus wherever He went. The reply of Jesus was a comment that foxes and birds have places to live, but the Son of man does not have a place where to lay His head. This does not sound like a welcoming or inviting response. However, our Lord and Savior knew the hearts of all men. Did He hear the self-assurance of one who thought he could follow Jesus by his own ability, courage, and understanding? Jesus’s words to the man point out that following Him, Jesus, means ‘denying oneself, and the need to take up the cross and following him’ (Matt. 8:34).
One’s Own Understanding Leads Nowhere
One’s own ability and understanding may bring one a short distance, but the end is often unfortunate: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). Peter, on Maunday Thursday evening, promised Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). Peter’s self-assurance resulted in him being found in the place of one who denied his Lord and Savior.
Another man heard the invitation from Jesus to “follow me.” He responded with the request to first go bury his father. Jesus replied to “let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Jesus does not disregard the death or burial of loved ones; in fact He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus (John 11:33). Here He wanted to remind that the preaching of God’s kingdom goes forth to those who are yet living here on earth – those who have passed away have no ability to change their fate, as the rich man in the parable realized too late (Luke 16:19–31). This is why Jesus has sent His own, to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, in His name (Luke 24:47), saying, “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9).
Keep the Gaze on the Goal
The third man heard the call to come follow the Lord Jesus, and said “Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” Jesus replied, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” The use of a plough to till the soil for planting must have been familiar. When guiding a plough, one needed to look ahead to ensure the rows were straight. The best way was to look to the destination, the end of the row. If one’s gaze turned away from the goal, the plough would turn off the path as well. This metaphor serves to highlight the place our faith must have in our lives.
Jesus’ words also remind of the first commandment: “I am the Lord thy God… thou shalt have no other gods before me.” If something or someone becomes more important than God, it has become a false god. Jesus Himself said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). Even family relations, those whom we live with and are closest to, cannot be more important than the gift of faith.
These examples show us how important it is to take heed and pay attention when we hear the call into God’s kingdom. The call into God’s kingdom is unconditional. When the disciples Peter, James and John heard the call, they forsook all, and followed him (Luke 5:11). Nothing remained more important than following the Lord and Savior. When we begin to place conditions on our entry into God’s kingdom, the call is not accepted. We cannot demand God to show us our errors or prove to us why we are not correct. Rather, as the Holy Ghost says, Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts! (Heb. 3:7,8). He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:7) The gospel of God’s kingdom is also unconditional. To the poor, the gospel is preached (Matt. 11:5). The preaching of God’s kingdom is sweet and beautiful (Isa. 40:9).