Do it now! Luke 9: 59-60 (Seven Minute Sermon)

Luke 9: ’ 59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he 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.’

do it nowThis is one of those small cameo scenes which shows Jesus interacting with individual people as he walked through the countryside of Judea, going from village to village, preaching the Good News that the Kingdom of God is here. As he travelled, he was talking to people, sometimes large crowds, sometimes small groups, often just his close friends. He was healing people, he was casting out evil spirits, he was performing great miracles. We use these words sort of lightly, but Scripture says that Jesus spoke, for example, to a man who was paralysed. It’s the kind of condition that we might think of as someone who has been in a serious accident, perhaps a motorcycle accident, and their injuries leave them paralysed. It means that parts of their body don’t work properly any more. I don’t know how badly paralysed the man Jesus healed was, but I know he couldn’t walk – his legs didn’t work at all – his friends had to carry him on a mat to bring him to Jesus. After a few minutes with Jesus he was healed. The paralysis was gone. He rolled up the mat his friends had used to carry him and walked (or danced) home with it tucked away under his arm.

ParalysisOn another occasion, a young man who was having serious fits was brought to Jesus. He was foaming at the mouth and screaming. It sounds like epilepsy. Because of the sudden onset of an attack people thought of it as possession by an evil Spirit. In an instant, Jesus healed the boy and gave him back, healed, to his father. This are huge events. I haven’t even mentioned the moment when Jesus, in the middle of nowhere, managed to feed five thousand men, and probably as many women and children aswell. It’s easy to forget just how massive these moments are. So it’s not so surprising that people wanted to be around Jesus. To see what was going to happen next. To be seen with Him. To experience His presence. To be part of the action.

So as he’s walking along, Jesus comes face to face with a man, and He sees something special in this guy. ‘Follow me.’ Says Jesus. Everyone wants to be with Jesus, and here’s Jesus saying ‘Follow me.’ Sounds like an incredible moment. We don’t know anything about this man, but I’d expect him to be off like a shot.

FishermenWe read that when Jesus called the disciples they just immediately obeyed his command and followed Him. My personal favourite is when he called James and John, who were fishermen. ‘Follow me.’ Says Jesus. They could have said, ‘Alright Jesus, we’ll catch up with you later, when we’ve finished fishing..’ But no, ‘Without delay’, we read, ‘they left their father in the boat with the hired men and followed Jesus.’ It’s as if they were in the middle of fishing with their Dad, and they literally jumped out of the boat, ran, splashing through the shallows, leaving their Dad to do the fishing, because they had decided to follow Jesus.

But this man on the road is different. ‘First,’ he says, ‘let me go and bury my father.’ At first look, Jesus reply sounds harsh. Very harsh. ‘Let the dead bury their own dead,’ he says.

Actually, this isn’t as harsh as it might seem. If you were reading this in the 1st or 2nd Century after Jesus died, or indeed throughout most of history, you would have grown up in a society where it was your responsibility to look after your parents. You would work in their business. You would provide for them in their old age. You would feed them, if they were sick you would nurse them. And when the time came, of course, you would bury them.

So, in that culture, which incidentally still exists in most of the non-Western world, if you had the opportunity to do something, or go somewhere, you might really want to do so but you knew that your family responsibility was to your parents, so you’d say something like, ‘I’d love to do that, but only after I’ve buried my parents.’ You see, it doesn’t actually mean that your parents are dead, or even unwell, it just means something like, ‘I’ve actually got to deal with this lot first.’

A great Bible teacher called William Barclay tells a story of a young Arab man from a poor background who was offered a scholarship to Oxford or Cambridge, which from his humble beginnings was an enormous and exciting opportunity. ‘I will take it,’ he said, ‘but only after I have buried my father.’ At the time, his father was only 40 years old and fighting fit.

So what was Jesus point? I think he was saying that there are some things in life for which time is critical. So many things, if we put them off, never get done. If we are moved by an advertisement encouraging us to donate to starving children we might intend to do it. But if we don’t do it straight away, in reality most of us forget to follow through with our good intentions. If we know that a neighbour is unwell and really needs a bit of help with the laundry or the shopping, we might intend to do it, but it’s so easy to put it off, and it never gets done.

Loaves and fishesSo Jesus has looked at this person, and seen his potential. He has called him to follow him. The man is spiritually dead, but the Jesus who can heal the paralytic, and the epileptic, and feed five thousand people with a couple of loaves and two fishes knows that this man is capable of much more.

And so he is saying to him, ‘this isn’t one of those moments when you put it off.’ Following Jesus isn’t about disrespecting your family (the Bible tells us how important it is to love our families, especially our parents). But it is about trusting Him for today and for the future. It is about taking a risk and stepping away from our comfort zone.

So just imagine yourself as that man. The whole of Scripture is telling you that Jesus is interested in you and me. It’s telling you that he wants to offer you and me freedom from lot’s of the stuff which makes us feel uncomfortable in this world, and he wants to put things right between you and God. You have huge potential. Jesus sees your potential, and He wants you to achieve that potential. You are special to Him. He wants you to experience His love, which is like no other love you ever felt. He wants you to have good relationships, and to be successful in life, and he wants you to do all that while you are following Him

I don’t know whether this guy ended up following Jesus, but I rather think he probably did.

In his situation, we would be unlikely to respond, let me bury my parents first, but we could easily say , well maybe after I’ve finished my A levels, or after I’ve finished at Uni, or after I’ve got a job, or after I’ve got married. Or whatever….

Jesus is the Son of God, and He calls you to follow him. The point is he wants us to follow him while we’re doing all that stuff. He has a future plan for you which lasts your whole life and then on into eternity. He wants you, and me, like that man, to follow Him and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

His message is simple. Follow Jesus. Don’t put it off. Do it now.

Keep on praying.

 

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