June 26th 2022As Real As It Gets   Luke 9:57-62

A comment was made at a past New York City Marathon, and recorded by a newspaper reporter. When the wheelchair participants came into view and people began to applaud, a man alongside the reporter remarked, "Wait until the real runners come along!" Another person nearby said, "This is as real as it gets!" (Donald J. Shelby, "Unless the Race Is Worth Running,")

That is where it is today with our scripture lesson. Jesus' call is "as real as it gets": "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God."  Jesus is talking about discipleship, about following Him. This particular word is His response to three men who said they wanted to follow but gave reasons why they couldn't do it then. Let's look at these three men and their excuses.

The first fellow was a victim of impulsiveness. No one ever followed Jesus under false pretense. He made it clear that the demands were tough. Let's read verses 57 and 58 again: 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."

It is a graphic picture. Jesus is pointing out that he didn't even have the comforts that such lowly creatures as foxes and birds have. They had their own holes and nests; He had no place of his own, no resting place to which He could retire--no home to which he could return for renewal and rest--no place where he could settle down and be at ease. His was a moving life--always on the move--eating and sleeping in other people's houses. Not even living out of a suitcase, because we don't know whether he had a change of clothing or not.

The meaning of this passage is for you and me. If we are going to follow Christ on the road to glory, we must be prepared to give up the idea of this world as our home. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must become travelers, restlessly moving on, never willing to settle down as long as Jesus is walking ahead of us. You know how to test whether you are where you need to be in your Christian walk? Ask yourself this question: How far out front is Jesus? Most of us have a lot of catching up to do.  Jesus makes it clear that following Him is serious, often tough and painful business. And no one ever followed Jesus under false pretense.

The scribe simply had not thought it through! To follow Jesus meant sharing his homelessness and rejection. Could he do that? Can we? How impulsive have we been in our response to Jesus?

Now look at the second fellow in our story. If the first fellow was the victim of his impulsiveness, this one was the victim of reluctance. Let's read his story, verses 59-60: "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 this own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

The point Jesus was making is that in everything there is a crucial moment; if that moment is missed the thing most likely will never be done at all. The man in the story had stirrings in his heart to get out of his spiritually dead surroundings; if he missed that moment he would never get out. There is an old proverb based on the experience of blacksmiths which is appropriate for our Christian faith. "Strike while the iron is hot."

Certainly, there are occasions when we need to take our time and think through the actions we are about to take and calculate the results. That is what Jesus was telling the first man who volunteered to be his follower. But Jesus moves quickly to say that there is a time for moving ahead once the consequences are considered. To fail to move ahead is to court disaster.

"Many years ago a young man went to work at a hardware store. He found all sorts of junk that took up space but did not sell well. This clerk asked the owner to allow him to put it all on one table and sell each item for 10 cents. He did so and had a successful sale. Later he did the same thing, and had another successful sale. The clerk approached the owner and suggested that they open up a store specializing in items that cost only a nickel or dime. The owner thought it was a bad idea and refused. The clerk went into business for himself and became very successful with his idea. His name was F. W. Woolworth. His old employer later said, 'I have calculated that every word I used to turn young Woolworth down cost me a million dollars.'

Jesus wants his followers to consider what they are in for, but he does not want them to waste their lives over the matter without ever making up their minds. The all-consuming claim of Jesus is too important! Matters of the Kingdom of God just will not wait. Obedience is necessary when Jesus calls.

There are people in this congregation this morning who have been backing away from obedience. The call of the Lord is clear to you--at least clear enough to take a step or two, to change your direction.

You know that the Lord is calling you to become involved in a particular ministry. 

For everything there is a crucial moment. Jesus calls, and the more we resist that call, the less likely we are to hear him the next time around. We run the risk of missing his presence and glory.

To that reluctant man who wanted to first go and bury the dead, Jesus said rather sternly -- "Let the dead bury the dead." And he says to us: Let those who have no sense of duty to the kingdom -- let them do what they will. But you -- you have heard my call. You are sensitive. Come follow me.

Now let's look at the third person. Read his story, verses 61-62. 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 plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God."

He, too, was guilty of reluctance, but there was also an indecisiveness about him that is a challenge to us. Jesus' word to him is as clear as it could be. This is as real as it gets: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

It is not easy to make the clean break with the past that we need to make. It is not easy to cease following our own whims and our own desires and follow Jesus. But that is the call.  So many still live in the world of “would’ve, could’ve and should’ve!”   We live in the past.  We live with the attitude if only things were like the way they were when I grew up or when so and so was alive.  I know, I say to myself I wish the world was like it was before 2008, when the church was growing by 3 to 5% a year. 

But the reality that I and all of us need to realize is that we can’t go back.  We must move forward from where we are.  No one is exempt from moving forward from where you are.  Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Truly the fullness of life that comes only from following Jesus.  Go follow Him, He knows where you need to be led in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.