[Texts: Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62]
Really it’s almost rude, Jesus’ treatment of potential disciples who confess to having a To-Do list still to accomplish before they can join him.
“I just have to bury my father –”
“Let the dead bury their own dead.”
“Just let me say goodbye to everybody –”
“Fine plowhand you are, looking over your shoulder all the time. You’ll never plow a furrow straight enough for Kingdom work that way.”
Obviously he’s weeding out the less-committed recruits with these words — but what are we to take from this bluntness, how to understand it? It’s not uncommon to seek to apply it directly to ourselves, here and now, maybe with the language of idolatry worked into the application: “Why are you striving after that degree, that worldly accomplishment, that relationship? Drop everything and follow Me!” — i.e., cast aside your self-centered idols and commit to full-time ministry or missionary work.
Or maybe, if we weren’t inclined to be so extreme, we could temper it a bit, spiritualize the message until we read Jesus saying, “Turn off the social media already, and spend time in Bible study, prayer, and good works! You’ll never grow up straight in your spirit if you keep looking away from the gospel message.”
Inspiring and challenging as these potential messages may be, I think the best reading is much simpler: “Follow, fast!” — That is, for those listeners there and then, there was only a small window of opportunity to join Jesus while he was still alive and walking around among them. He had “set his face for Jerusalem,” Luke tells us; he was down to a matter of weeks, maybe days, before the showdown. There and then, it was time to move. So follow, fast — or not at all.