When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Have you ever been to a meeting with church leaders where they talk about how they can increase their numbers? The ideas are diverse. Make the worship more lively. Get better preachers. Serve more refreshments. Arrange babysitters for the kids. Have a fun fair. And, of course, there is the fail-safe: organize a healing retreat; that will definitely draw the crowds!
And then I look at a passage like this and marvel at Jesus’ method of recruitment. We find a variation in Luke’s gospel (see Chapter 9:57-62), and I would like to use that version, a little reimagined. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and crowds follow him. There is this one gentleman, undoubtedly impressed with the glamor that seems to surround Jesus. He says, “Jesus I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus says, “Really? Where? I might eat at a rich man’s house tonight, but tomorrow I might share a bowl of rice with a beggar woman; the day after, I might be in jail; the following day, dead. You still want to follow me?” What do you think this guy did? Followed Jesus or run for his life?
And then Jesus turns to another man and says to him, “Hey you, you follow me.” This poor chap has just lost his father and replies, “First, let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus says, a little uncharitably you might think, “He’s already dead. You can’t do anything more for him. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” What do you think this man did? Followed Jesus or run away too?
Then a third guy, possibly somebody who has been hanging around Jesus the past three years, starts to get a little nervous. This isn’t quite what he was expecting. So he says to Jesus, “You know what. I’ll follow you but I need to think a little more about it. I have parents to look after, a wife to satisfy, kids to provide for. Let me take care of all of them and then I’ll come — maybe when I am 90, you know, and follow you.” And Jesus says to him, “You go, you stay gone.” And what do you think this fellow does?
Okay, I might have exaggerated this, but not by too much. This was the way that Jesus spoke. He didn’t say, “Come, healing service tonight.” Or, “We got the Jerusalem Worship Ministry playing tomorrow. Free snacks thrown in.” He said it like it was. And if folks left, so be it. He wanted those who would stay to know what they were getting into, because they would change the world. And they did.
So, whatever your strategy is, you might want to rethink it.
May the Spirit be with you.