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ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.”” (Luke 8:21, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 213: Dutiful Son. This is one of those instances where Jesus does something that just seems inexplicable to us. Anyone who reads this and takes it seriously must be left scratching her or his head. What a callous and cold thing for Jesus to say. Jesus called to a man, asking him to become a follower, and the man expressed a desire to do so; however, his father had died and he wanted to bury him first before leaving his home behind to follow the Lord.
Jesus’ reply, at first look, is mind-boggling. “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60, NLT). For a devout Jew, this teaching is beyond harsh. It goes against the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12, NLT)
Culturally speaking, caring for and burying one’s father was the greatest honor a devout Jewish son could have. But before we get up into a tizzy over Jesus’ words, there is something to consider. It is not clear that this man’s father had died already. If he had, why would this man be with Jesus instead of with his father? It is more likely that this man’s father was still alive and, if that was the case, this man was actually saying, “I will Lord, someday. As soon as I can.” In other words, this man was saying that he would follow Jesus once he was done caring for and burying his father, whenever that time would occur.
That context makes a world of a difference when it comes to understanding Jesus’ response. It may still seem cold and callous, and it certainly still seems to fly in the face of fifth commandment; however, Jesus’ words also become a little less shocking and easier for us to digest in order that we might come to an understanding of what Jesus was teaching this man and the others who were around him.
Yes, it is important to take care of one’s parents and, yes, it is important to uphold the ten commandments; however, which is MORE important, honoring your earthly father, or honoring your Father in heaven. Jesus had come from the Father that all might find Salvation in him. The Good News was urgent and Jesus knew his time on earth was short. He was calling this man into discipleship, a call that would lead to establishing his body on earth once he resurrected and ascended. The body of Christ, also known as the Church, would go on to be builders of the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.
So, when Jesus calls this man, there is divine urgency; however, the man wants to put off the call until another time when it is more convenient. He his putting his familial and social responsibilities ahead of his duty to follow the Lord our God. The message from Christ is clear, follow now. There is no time to wait, and God will not be put on the back burner. Follow now, or God will move on from you to others who will.
This, then, should be alarming and challenging to all of us. Do we serve Jesus and put him first in ALL things? Do we spread the Gospel faithfully with urgency? Or do we put him on the back burner while we tend to other things first? Of course, we struggle with that and, of course, there’s grace in all of us; however, the message couldn’t be clearer, NOW IS THE TIME TO FOLLOW AND SERVE OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. I pray our hearts, and eventually our actions, fully align with Jesus through the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs – let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ.” – Ignatius of Antioch
Lord, help me to sense the urgency in spreading your good news and give me the courage to spread it. Amen.