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Community Lutheran Church | OLD

The Son of Man Has Nowhere to Lay His Head

This week we continue our series on Parables, which are the method of teaching that Jesus preferred to use during his time on earth.  He would speak in metaphors or in short stories to portray truth about the kingdom of God and our relationship with the creator of the universe.  And his parables usually take on two different approaches, one deals with how we relate to God, purely out of grace through the death of Jesus, but the other deals with what we call discipleship, or how you and I live out our lives here on earth in a way that not only gives honor to God for what He’s done for us, but also in way that blesses and serves others.  But what does that life of discipleship, of following Jesus in this world look like? Is it supposed to be hard? Is it supposed to be easy? What can we expect as we seek to be disciples of Jesus even here in the 21st century?

 

You might have seen on the news this week or on Facebook about some comments said by a woman named Victoria Osteen, the wife of famed pastor Joel Osteen out of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas which boasts over 20,000 in worship every Sunday.  She is getting quite a bit of heat over a theological statement about God she said in front of her church one Sunday.  Take a look: (Show Video).  According to Victoria and other “Prosperity Gospel”preachers, the life of discipleship is a means to an end so that we can have physical blessings on this earth.  Because God’s ultimate goal for our lives is that we be happy! And its not completely off base, either.  In our life of discipleship, God does not want us to be miserable.  But that doesn’t mean that being a disciple is always easy and we always get what we want.  Sometimes life’s situations just don’t allow for prosperity to take place.  Back in the 1940s, in the height of World War 2, a Lutheran Pastor by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and sent to a Nazi concentration camp for protesting the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazis.  While in prison he wrote the book The Cost of Discipleship, in which he documents the hardships that came to him and others BECAUSE of their faith in Jesus.  Bonhoeffer was hanged in 1945, two weeks before US infantry liberated his camp and about a month before Nazi Germany was toppled. So what does being a true disciple of Jesus look like? Does being a disciple pay off as many of us would like to believe? It is easy if we just believe? Or is there a cost to being a disciple? Does it automatically mean suffering? Or maybe something in between.  Let’s look and see what Jesus has to say. 

 

In Luke Chapter 9, Jesus leaves the region of Galilee in the north of Israel and sets his face for Jerusalem to begin his journey toward the cross.  The Jews of His day would have thought that the proclaimed Messiah would be on His way to Jerusalem to take his rightful place on the throne and set up His kingdom. But Jesus is not the Messiah they were expecting.  For Jesus, traveling to the most holy of places, Jerusalem, was where his full mission would be accomplished in His suffering, and subsequent death and resurrection. It is in this context, that Jesus tells many parables about the kingdom of God and what a disciple of God’s kingdom should look like including the Good Samaritan parable we talked about last week. Today, we’re taking a look at a series of conversations that Jesus has with people on his way and His response to some of their misgivings or misconceptions about discipleship. And in the meantime, we might learn a little bit about what it means and does not mean to truly follow Jesus today.  So let’s take a look.

 

Luke 9:57 - As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.

Now first off, I really like this guy’s enthusiasm!  He makes a brave declaration that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes!  And the word that’s used here does not simply mean walk with or travel with, but what this man is promising to do is to be his disciple, to learn his ways, to serve him in whatever he needs, and to carry on Jesus’message.  In fact, by adding on “wherever you go”in Jesus’time was commonly used as a way of saying that he truly believed that Jesus was going to be a great political leader, a king, that he was going to change everything, and that this man was ready to be his right hand man at all costs. You can hear his immediate devotion. However, little does this man know what he is asking.  Jesus responds:

 

Luke 9:58 - 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.

Now this verse seems almost self-interpretive.  We might be prone to thinking that Jesus is using simple metaphors in a parable to describe the journey of Jesus as a poor man with no home, and thus those who follow him, should also take on a life of poverty, of giving everything away.  We’ve even heard Jesus say in another Gospel to a rich young man, “one thing you lack in order to be my disciple - sell everything and give it to the poor”We might think, Jesus doesn’t want us to be rich, he wants us to be poor!  But while it is true that there were times that Jesus did not have a place stay, at various other times, he was shown tremendous hospitality, and when he sends out his disciples to preach about the kingdom of God, he commands them to stay in houses and receive hospitality along their way.  So while it could mean that we should expect poverty at various times as followers of Jesus, I believe that there is an alternative interpretation, one in which Jesus is using verbal symbols to speak about the political situation of His day.

 

During the days of Jesus, the words fox and birds of the air had symbolic meanings. Foxes were a common symbol for the Ammonites, a racially mixed group of people who were related to the Isrealites. The family of Herod Antipas, who was in control of the region Jesus was traveling through, similarly was also one of these racially mixed Israelite hybrids. And “birds of the air”was a common expression to speak of the many Gentile nations who were living in and around the land of Israel.  So what Jesus is saying to this man, in reading his intentions to see Jesus become a great political leader, is that it seems everybody has a stake in the land of Isreal, but the true Israel. And the Son of man, Jesus, has no intention of setting up any land or kingdom of His own.  We don’t hear this man’s reaction, but the lack of one seems to denote that disappointment ensued. 

 

Being Jesus disciple is not about POLITICAL or ECONOMICAL gain. I think most of us know that this is the case, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about it sometimes.  We find ourselves saying, if only we Christians  could get our act together, we could get this nation to repent and God would bless us again.  If only we could get a solid Christian leader as president, then all our problems would be resolved.  And maybe a little larger dose of morality wouldn’t be so bad for our country, but that is not the focus or worry of a disciple of Jesus.  Being a follower of Jesus means following Him to the cross, where the powers of this world cursed him and put him to death. Being a disciple means sharing with others the reason why He did that - to save broken sinners like you and me.  Whether we are rich or poor, whether we have influence or not, really only places us within a context share this message.  And God can grow his kingdom in times of blessing and in times of poverty. Jesus called the richest of tax collectors to the poorest of prostitutes to follow him. He’s called you too.  Jesus is saying, don’t waste the gift of faith by putting your faith in earthly authority to save the world.  Jesus has already saved us and you neighbor needs to hear that. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to address other misconceptions about what being a disciple means Jesus shares with us a conversation he had with another man.

 

Luke 9:59-60 – To another he (Jesus) said, “Follow me.But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father. And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

Wow, harsh words from our Lord! I can’t imagine the day my dad dies, my mom calling me and I say, “Eh, let the dead bury their own dead, I gotta preach at church tomorrow.”  Wouldn’t happen!  And that’s not what Jesus is telling us to do. In the context of Jesus’day, this might make a little more sense. In the Middle East, even today, there are many sons who will stay at home until their parents die.  It might be soon, or it might be YEARS from now, but it is the social expectation and even law in some areas was that the oldest son remain home to carry on the affairs of the family.  This was true for all EXCEPT if one was to leave home for religious reasons, such as to pursue following a Rabbi.  For this man, he had been freed from societal pressure to stay home till his folks died, yet he still felt tremendous pressure to stay anyway.  It was such an honor that the young man was able to supersede the law of the day and follow the rabbi without taking care of the affairs of the household.  There should have been no hesitation at all! However, this man’s response reflects his inner disposition. It is not the attractiveness of Jesus’offer that doesn’t elicit a proper response, rather, it’s the man’s bond with culture of his day and the expectations of his community, family and friends that prevent him from being able to willingly follow Jesus.

 

Being Jesusdisciple is not about PLEASING or APPEASING society.  Now sometimes, our faith causes offense to others and so it is best to approach them not slinging Bible verses, but simply to be a witness through your kindness and compassion toward them, no strings attached. But I think more often than not, we walk around so afraid of what people will say, that sometimes our friends and neighbors may not even know that we are Christian. When religious conversations come up, we are either silent, or we don’t engage with who Christ is for fear that we might lose friends. We shouldn’t fear what others might say, nor should we use it as an excuse for not sharing truth, even if he or we are rejected.  Being a disciple means being devoted to Jesus over and above what our culture thinks we should be.

 

Luke 9:61-62 Yet 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

I don’t know how much you guys know about plowing with an animal, but in Jesus day, as is the case still especially in Southeast Asia, a farmer needs TWO hands to plow a field, one to hold the plow, and one to direct the animal.  It was common to do four plowings, one to break up the soil, one to provide proper drainage, one to clean it up, and the fourth plow is done after the sowing to cover the hand sown seeds. The farmer must be completely focused the entire time. To lose focus for one minute would mean that the plow is taken off balance by a rock, or that the drainage system is damaged and the field might flood or the seeds would not be covered so that they would be left exposed to birds. The man in this story wanted to follow Jesus, but he didnt want to give up his former way of life. He wanted to be able to turn back when he wanted to, to separate discipleship and his real life. His was eager, but his commitment was lacking.  Jesus is saying that being a follower of Jesus takes full-time devotion, in all areas of life. In other words…

 

Being Jesusdisciple is not a SIDE HOBBY.  You can ask my wife, I have so many little projects around the house that I picked up but didn’t finish. I ripped out our baseboards a year ago, and still haven’t put new ones in. I’ll pick it back up when I have time, I say….But being a follower of Jesus is not like this. It requires more than giving it a passing look in the bible or tossing up a prayer every once in a while when you’re desperate or when football season starts. It requires more than just having to listen to a half hour sermon from Pastor Joel each week! It takes engaging with Jesus in all areas of your life, and not putting it off.   It means constantly turning away from sins and habits that plague us. It means daily evaluating our attitude toward our families and friends and confessing and asking for forgiveness. Being a follower of Jesus engages our entire lives every single day. And if we do backslide sometimes, it doesn’t mean we lose our faith. However, if we habitually make our relationship with Jesus into a “every few weeks or months when I feel like it”kind of relationship, we are unfit for the spread of His kingdom. Living a life of sin and living a life that proclaims the Word of Christ in word and deed are mutually exclusive. We cannot live one while living the other. Your faith is more than hobby.

 

So if following Jesus isn’t about earthly success, and if it’s not about making friends with everybody we meet, and if it’s not about just reaching out to the big guy when you need a favor, what is this Christian life about?  I think Jesus summarizes it nicely in Matthew 11:29-30…

 

Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. 

 

Being Jesus disciple is about COSTLY GRACE. Following Jesus is truly the only thing that can bring unending joy and peace. Yes it’s costly. You may not always have enough money or health, but you have a treasure in heaven waiting for you that is far richer than anything you can find on this earth.  You might not be best friends with those who are turned away from Jesus, but you can be a confident shining light to them and blessing them as God works to bring faith to their hearts as well.  You might not be able to blindly put aside your faith and pursue the false pleasures of this world, but as you discover the joy of belonging to Savior King Jesus. Unlike what Victoria Osteen said, you won’t have to worship God in order to be happy - that’s cheap grace. You will have joy, even in the midst of suffering because you are honoring God with your life.

 

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, Being a disciple of Jesus is costly because it changes your life, but its grace because it gives you eternal life. It is costly because it calls you to follow, but its grace because it calls you to follow Jesus Christ where you find not more work, but rest. It is costly because it points out and condemns sin in our lives, but it is grace because it tells us we are completely forgiven and gives us a new opportunity each and every day to follow him, and if you’re like me - more than once a day.  It is costly above all because it cost God the life of His own Son, but it is grace because God did not reckon his son too high a price to pay for us.

 

Being a disciple of Jesus is the easiest and the hardest thing all at the same time.  As we walk through this life, we will be challenged to respond in faith when Jesus asks us to trust and follow him.  And while we struggle with it, we don’t do it alone.  He has given us His Word and His promises.  His Church and His People. His Sacraments and His life. And it’s all free. How is Jesus asking you to follow Him so that you might experience rest for your soul? We don’t know how these men in the story responded to Jesus call, but it’s really not about that.  It’s about you. May we always respond, Here I am Send me!

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