Sunday October 14, 2007 | Greg Boyd
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them ?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
In this first sermon of the Revolting Beauty series, we learn two aspects of how we are to stand out and revolt against our culture. First, no matter how “together” our lives are, God wants us to be part of what he is doing in the world. Second, allegiance to the Kingdom of God means that we may have to give up things that are good and normal in our culture. We need to consider even our most firmly rooted values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In this passage, Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem. The literal Greek here says, “He set His face toward Jerusalem.” This implies purposeful intention on the part of Jesus, to take a journey toward something that people that surrounded Jesus would not have understood. In fact, the disciples don’t understand what Jesus is doing. They are also on a journey where they are learning about what it means to follow Jesus. The truth is that all of us are on a journey; none of us will get it right. We learn, like the disciples, on the journey. The process of walking to Jerusalem is what teaches us.
In the second part of this passage, Jesus encounters three individuals who are looking to follow Him to Jerusalem. Jesus’ responses to these three men highlight just how radical it is to follow Jesus. You cannot even begin the journey with split allegiances. Following Jesus must trump all other commitments.
These three men were not ready to join the journey at this point. They may have become followers later in time, but at this point, they were putting cultural norms of the time ahead of the radical call to follow Jesus.
In fact, all of the things that the men used as excuses were good cultural patterns of first century Judaism. The same thing happens to us today. We must ask, “What are the fundamental assumptions about life in modern American culture that might stand in the way of following Jesus?” Foundational to American life are the assumptions we make around the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even though these rights form an excellent foundation to the US government, we must ask questions about how these cultural norms stack up against the Kingdom of God.
Jesus was challenging the norms of the first century, which would have been emotionally troublesome. In the same way, Jesus challenges the norms of modern culture so we are clear about what it means to follow Jesus all the way to Jerusalem.