‘[Jesus] said…“Follow me”…’ (Luke 9:59 NIV)
I’m sure we can all remember one time or another when procrastination has got the better of us. Maybe there was a job to do or someone we needed to contact and we just didn’t get round to doing it.
A little bit of procrastination is inevitable in our everyday lives but we need to beware of making excuses when the stakes are a lot higher.
In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus called two people to leave the life they were living behind and follow him. They said they would, but not before they had done certain things.
The first man wants to bury his father and the second wants to say ‘goodbye’ to his family. Sounds reasonable enough, except Jesus doesn’t think so and implies that they are procrastinating.
The first request has been misunderstood to imply that the man’s father has just died, but the phrase ‘to bury one’s father’ refers to the cultural expectation of the man’s duty to stay at home and care for his parents until they die.
If the man’s father had just died, or was about to, then the man would not be whiling away his time on the roadside but would be keeping a vigil over his father.
So in reality the first man is putting off following Jesus to the distant future when his father dies, who knows when. The man is concerned about what his community expects of him and so he makes his excuses.
The second request is not to say a simple ‘goodbye’ to family members, but means ‘to request permission to leave’.
In that culture there was an expectation that the person leaving must request permission of those left behind. So again we are dealing with community expectations, which can be understood in our terms as peer pressure.
Both men were allowing this to influence them into procrastinating about following Jesus.
However, Jesus makes it clear that these men can’t have divided loyalties:
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (v.62)
Ploughing was very precise work that needed undivided attention. Looking back made it impossible to plough properly and their work would be compromised.
The analogy is clear, Jesus is saying that you can’t follow me and be looking back to what you left behind. If you do that your relationship with me will be adversely affected.
Jesus is showing that loyalty to him is more important than loyalty to the cultural norms of our society.
Our relationship with Jesus is too important for compromise or procrastination and that is why Jesus’ words on this matter are so strong.
If we are convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he died for us, then no expectation of our culture can allow us to make excuses and procrastinate when it comes to following him.
Father, may we follow Jesus wherever he goes.
Have a good week following Jesus,