Luke 9:51-62 (autumn, AD 29)
Ever had the urge to do something useful, moved in the direction of doing that useful thing and had second thoughts when you got close? Often we can become excited by the anticipated end point, only to be discouraged when we catch sight of how long, winding and uneven is the road to get there.
Want to be excellent at something? Practice for 10,000 hours.
Want to conquer sin? Do battle every day for the rest of your life and get ready for many small defeats on the way.
Want to be a good spouse? Love your spouse with determination and gratitude every day, especially on the days you can’t be bothered and feel resentful.
The appeal of hobbies and life goals can whither when staring into what looks like a swamp of commitment. Leaving a toxic job can seem the only route out of despair, until you see that the route is paved with self-doubt and the fear you’d never find anything better. A closer walk with God can seem desirable for as long as we think God will drop it on us, rather than showing us the way through prayer, serving and Bible study.
This passage contrasts the resolution of Jesus that we looked at in our last reading, with the equivocations of some would be, maybe, thinking about possibly being…followers.
On the one hand there was the Son of God: perfect in every way, flawlessly godly, giving his life so that we could be reconciled with our Creator. And on the other hand there were people. Wondering whether discomfort, tradition, and a sneaking suspicion you’d rather just be at home were more of a motivator than the idea of following Jesus.
“Just let me go and bury my father” (v.59) wasn’t a ‘My Dad just died today and the service is in two days’. It was a, ‘I’ve buried my Dad, and in a year’s time we will follow custom and move his remains from their original cave tomb to the family burial lot’. So I’ll get back to you in a year.
And the line, “first let me go and say goodbye to my family” (v.60) was just that – a line. You can see from Jesus’ reply that he knew the person didn’t actually want to follow him and would much rather stay where they were.
So what’s the key?
‘Set your face’.
When Peter was looking at Jesus while walking on the water, he walked in faith. When he looked down, he started to drown in futile self-reliance.
So we must look at Jesus, the object and perfecter of our faith. Not whimsically, but with a face that is set towards him. When we look around or inside us for meaning, or for strength, we fail. When we look at him for both of those things we walk in slow, steady, painful, glorious victory every day.