Luke 9:23-27 Then he said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
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, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 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 a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
The verses above are often used to encourage people to follow Jesus. Just as often these verses are quoted without a context, which strips them of their meaning. Note that verse 23 begins with “then”, implying that this connects with what has occurred immediately prior to this. Verse 22 speaks of the Son of Man who must face “great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed”. Jesus has left rural Judea and is heading for Jerusalem. The ultimate end to his journey will become Golgotha’s suffering and death. Then Jesus said to those who are listening “If anyone desires to come after me.....” I suspect that the initial response was less than enthusiastic. Luke 9:45 tells us that “they were afraid to ask him about this saying”. Following Jesus is difficult, dangerous and may cause your death!
This then becomes the challenge to each succeeding generation of Jesus-followers: to “deny themselves and take up their cross daily” (Luke 9:23) But as I peer into my own motives and attitudes I see little desire for suffering. If I am honest I prefer a quiet life, sustained by supportive friends and a loving family. Yet there is this inner voice that continually prods me out of my place of comfort: a voice that asks me to welcome those who live on the margins of society; a voice that urges me to plough a furrow where none exists; a voice that asks me to set everything else aside for this One Great Love. Each morning I hear that voice saying “Come, follow Me”, and I have to decide what I will do with my day.
Prayer: Gracious God: you have given me life. Help me to pay attention to you call on my life today – so that I may follow where you lead me. Amen.
Second Sunday after Epiphany
8. “Come follow me”
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 59.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.