Plowing In A Straight Line

Luke 9:57–62 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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

These verses are the conclusion of Jesus’ lesson that takes place throughout chapter nine. In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sends the twelve out on a mission after giving them very specific orders and encouragement. In Luke 10:1-12 Jesus sends out seventy-two on a mission. Jesus wants the disciples to lead His people. Jesus wants them to feed His sheep and be examples of good discipleship, but the Apostles are not yet fully committed. They are not “all in.”

Jesus needs them to learn about devotion and focused obedience. Jesus needs them to internalize this lesson. He needs them to plow in a straight line. The Christian life is a long obedience in the same direction, but there is a lot that can distract us from Jesus – a lot that can keep us from being faithful and fruitful farmers.

Jesus needs the disciples to comprehend this. So, throughout Luke 9 Jesus drives this point home using varied and stark examples.

Luke 9:2–3 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.

Jesus commands the apostles to go on a preaching tour and tells them not to worry about anything; not clothing or food or where they will lay their head. He tells them how to handle rejection.

They find immediate success but very quickly we see how distractible and unfocused they can be.

The hour is getting late in a secluded spot where Jesus is teaching a quite large crowd. The apostles approach Jesus and say;

Luke 9:12–13 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”

They are not listening to Jesus. They are not heeding the lessons they have already learned.

They confess Jesus is the Christ in v. 20 and they know that Jesus provides for them, but they are distracted by the large crowds, the late hour, the seclusion – the circumstances – what they can see with their eyes of flesh does not compute with what they know spiritually – that Jesus is the Christ of God.

They are not focused on Jesus and His self-revelation up to this point. They do not trust Him wholeheartedly. They see their circumstances as being bigger and more powerful than Him. If Jesus can provide for them so they can focus on the gospel while on their preaching mission, is there a limit?

Jesus knows what time it is. Jesus knows the size of the crowd. Jesus knows who has a bologna sandwich and who doesn’t. Why doesn’t Jesus seem worried about the circumstances? They don’t even think to ask.

Jesus is not surprised by the circumstances. Jesus wants His servants to trust Him and rely on Him and He will providentially lead us into situations in which His actions demonstrate why we should have had faith all along.

Luke 9:17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

If Jesus can feed 5,000 men from five loaves and two fish and have twelve baskets filled with the leftovers, then He can certainly take care of the needs of twelve men. And their churches.

Focus on the teaching boys and Jesus will handle the rest. Don’t get distracted by the apparent lack. The seeming impossibility. The so-called insurmountable task. Focus on Jesus. On preaching His Gospel. Christ will worry about the rest.

Jesus goes on to privately expand the scope of the mission; of the meaning of discipleship.

Luke 9:23–27 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Kingdom of God is made of disciples who humbly and unashamedly lay their lives down for Jesus. Don’t lose yourself to the world below. Lose yourself to Christ and gain eternal communion with the Father amidst the heavenly host. Lift your mind to what lies above. Unashamedly proclaim Jesus and don’t focus on the world. Not the world on your left, right or behind you. Turn from it and put your eyes to Jesus lifted up, raised up, ascended – at the right hand of God the Father.

Jesus then shows them what He is talking about – he lets them glimpse what they ought to keep their focus on. v. 28-36 is the transfiguration, in which a select group get a glance at the that glory unimaginable – that dazzling splendor of God and His heavenly host on a mountain. And Peter, poor earthly- minded, tradition-obsessed Peter asks Jesus to build tabernacles. This isn’t about the traditions of Israel, though, that are like so much ash and chains in the hands of the people of God who can’t see for looking or hear for listening. Even Luke can’t withhold a comment at this point, Peter did “Not know what he was saying.” Peter doesn’t see the new things before His eyes, he can only think in types and shadows. He can’t look forward and see what lies before Him while his eyes are fixed in the past.

So, the Father reiterates and testifies about His son, something greater than the tabernacle is here and He is the promised Messiah who will lead a new Exodus. “This, Peter, is my son – my beloved son who will fulfill all the promises of Abraham’s seed. Peter! It was always about this – my son – who stands before you and not behind you. Listen to Him! Get your Attention on Him!!”

But the world is choking out the word of God in the Apostles. They are distracted to utter worthlessness.

In v. 37-43 we hear an account of the Apostles being unable to heal a boy with a demon. But Christ gave them authority over demons in v. 1. They have lost what little effectiveness they had, twisted up, looking every which way but forward. They are distracted by shiny objects in which they can see only their own reflection.

Luke 9:43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples.

They are not listening to Jesus. They are dazzled. They are no longer asking questions that lead to insight like back in 8:9.

They are focused on the brilliance and bling. They want that glory for themselves so in v. 46-48 they are arguing about who is greater and Jesus tries to get them back on task by placing a child in their midst, but they don’t listen to Him because the very next moment, they want Jesus to stop a man casting out demons – the very thing they themselves just failed to do, but should have been able to do.

The man is doing what they should be doing but He isn’t of them – he is an outsider. Their mission, at this point, is to be the inner circle – not affective ministers like Jesus. The Apostles are twisted up and bent. They are not functioning and thinking right because they are distracted this away and that. Then the very next episode they are acting like the courtiers of a French king.

Luke 9:51–56 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.

They seek to call down fire and brimstone on a town that rejects Jesus. But Jesus already explained to them what to do when a town rejects Jesus. Shake off the dust. But they have their honor to think of…. I mean Jesus’ honor to think of. Yeah. Jesus’ honor.

They want to be prophets like Elijah – I mean they just saw Him on the mountain top. But the father said Jesus is the prophet – listen to Him. Listening is obeying. The Greek word for obedience literally means to Hyper-hear. The Apostles are not hearing Jesus because they are distracted.

They are not focused on Him. They are looking for the way to the top and Jesus is talking about the bottom – about service and self-sacrifice and childlike faith and the way of the cross.

That’s down, though not up. They need to look out for #1 – Self. They have to worry about the welfare of the crowds, about silencing outsiders, punishing evil doers, about their rights; what’s coming to them.

They are looking this way and that – anywhere but at what is right in front of them.

Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Jesus, in sharp contrast, is focused. Jesus’s eyes are forward. Jesus is plowing in one long straight line and will plant there – the tree of life. Jesus summarizes the lesson, it’s time to keep moving. It’s time to send you out at the head of a small army.

One more time, what do I want from your apostles? What is the example that I am setting?

Luke 9:57–62 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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Hey apostles, pay attention.

Jesus isn’t distracted about where He is going to lay His head or His own status in the community. Jesus isn’t distracted by the dead misinterpreted manmade traditions. Jesus isn’t looking back or this way or that. Jesus has set His face toward Jerusalem, toward the cross, toward the empty tomb because what lies beyond it are His Father and His eternal glory. And He is calling the world to follow.

The apostles are not devoted. They are not single minded. They are distractible.

But they didn’t have the Holy Spirit, yet, so what is your excuse? These are men without the internal guidance, understanding and power of the Holy Spirit like we do.

And that cuts us to the heart. But the Father says, stop, eyes forward on Jesus. Listen to Him.

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

And the good news is for us. We repent. And in that repentance, we find Christ waiting with the same words He said at the start, “follow me.”

Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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