As they were going down the road someone says to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus says to them, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus’ invitation to share in his homelessness likely stops the would-be follower of Christ in his tracks. Kingdom life is always growing, always changing, an unpopular kind of life; it doesn't allow you time to settle into complacency, all the comforts of a stable lifestyle cease to exist. Faith becomes your guide, not your luxuries. Thus the Son the Man has no need for a mortgage payment, no need to mow the lawn, or rake leaves, or wash the car... these things consume too much valuable time.
Jesus has a second encounter. To this person he says simply: “Follow me,” and the man says, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” – “Let the dead bury their own dead,” Jesus tells him, “I need you to go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Now this seems like a reasonable request. And absolutely, it is more than fair to ask permission to go bury your deceased father, but not if you take into consider the perspective I’m about to share, one about a peculiar practice that began around the time of Jesus where people in the Jerusalem area began a type of “secondary burial.”
Rabbinical sources, archeologist, early historians, all confirm that for a period of about 100 years this practice gained in popularity in and around Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. What is secondary burial? Secondary burial is when someone dies and a family member wraps the body in a shroud and places it in a slot in a tomb carved out of soft rock. Perhaps they left a few artifacts: a perfume bottle, a small lamp, a memento to accompany the deceased. Then the family waits—for 12 months—they wait for the flesh to decompose. Then one or more family members re-enters the tomb, gathers up the bones and places them in an ossuary. There are many different theories about how and why this practice began and what it means.
My point is: This man was asking Jesus to let him wait the customary 12 months until secondary burial took place. Now who is being unreasonable!?
This hard saying has to do with priorities, of making wise use of your time, of choosing God over everything else. Commitment to anything else before the kingdom of God simply will not do (ensuring your father’s funeral arrangements are properly executed is no exception).
Finally another person tells the Lord, “Lord, I’ll follow you but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." To that person Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Again, Jesus seems to be saying that the kingdom of God must come first. Take plowing a straight row, for example. Look back, lose your concentration, let your mind wander, and the nice straight rows become useless zigzags in the dirt. Not paying attention results in inferior work. And so it is in our relationship with God.
Our Christian journey involves choices and commitments. The three encounters in Luke’s gospel are about choices and commitment. The relationship between Jesus and his disciples (us) is much more than simply signing your name on a list to take a trip to heaven some day.
It is a lifetime journey of becoming fit for the kingdom—it’s a commitment to seeking out a deep and lasting relationship with God, it’s a commitment that has the power to transform us into something that more closely resembles The Master. (Luke 9:57:62).