LUKE 9:57-62 (ESV) | “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, 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.’ 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.’
This passage reminds me of the ad placed by Ernest Shackleton, the British Antarctic explorer, in a London newspaper back in 1912:
“Wanted: men for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success."
Sign me up! Along with Luke 9, the scriptures have countless appeals for arduous adventures:
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” 2 Timothy 1:8
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.” Philippians 3:10
“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3
“For I will show him (Paul) how much he must suffer for my name's sake.” Acts 9:16
“For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” 1 Thessalonians 3:4
In my youth, I wanted nothing more than to go to the uttermost parts of the world and have adventures with Jesus. The suffering part for me seemed somewhat glamorous. That was because suffering was not a part of my everyday world… yet.
I once listened to a woman as she recounted how Jesus had been with her and had given her strength to endure. Her husband and sons had been killed. Her daughter had been raped. Instead of blaming and hating God, she could only thank him for how he was by her side and with her daughter as they experienced these horrific events. His very person was with them as they suffered.
In their intense pain and loss, there was no shrinking back, no looking for hope or answers elsewhere, no blaming God, just accepting the cost of following their Savior. My life has been forever altered by being with men and women who are willing to go without the comforts of this world, who leave the dead to bury the dead, and who look for hope in Jesus no matter what suffering they encounter.
Witnessing and experiencing the reality of suffering, I understand more fully that obeying God in the midst of pain requires a faith of great depth. Luke 9 is no longer something I just study. I have watched uneducated men and women live out a faith that I had only read about. Despite my years of education and experience, being with people who obey God, no matter what the cost, has challenged me to examine my willingness to do the same.
Jesus’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy are free to us all, but following him may cost us everything. May we not shrink back.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
- Have there been seasons of suffering in your life? Reflect on those times, even if brief. How did they affect your relationship with Jesus?
- How does the biblical assurance of suffering as a follower of Jesus impact how you live, witness, or reach out to others? Spend some time reflecting on this with Jesus. What might he be inviting you into?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Norris Williams and his wife Laurie have been missionaries since 1983 and served with CRM since 1997. They have four adult children and six grandchildren. Norris serves and mentors leaders, especially those focused on starting Disciple Making Movements in the Middle East and around the world.
This piece was originally published in CRM’s 2012 Lent Devotional.