Jesus’s “Tough” Words

I meet with a good friend of mine every other week for breakfast to disciple him. We recently finished a book and now we’re talking about our observations from God’s Word. One day last week, he sent me a text about an observation from Eastridge’s daily reading plan. He noticed that in Luke 9, Jesus uses what appears to be some tough, harsh words toward his followers. One particular passage stands out:

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

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

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good‑by to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)

I explained some of Jesus’s other statements that my friend deemed tough by telling him that, though it’s hard to read it as such, a lot of scholars believe that many of Jesus’s statements were not made harshly but with a sense of humor. This passage, though, is different. Here, Jesus is talking about the level of commitment it takes to follow Him completely.

Of course, Jesus isn’t telling the first man to neglect his family. He saw through the man’s motives and knew whether he was making an excuse. We should view our responsibilities to family in the context and light of our relationship to God. And, obviously, Jesus tells the second man to not look back. This man could easily have been making excuses as well.

Following God requires commitment of the “no excuses,” “don’t look back” variety. Yes, we need to fulfill our duties to family, but we can’t let those responsibilities stand in the way of our commitment to God and our role as His disciple.