30/06/2019 Sermon - Hyperbole by Steve Bell

Published by Zoe Bell on Wed, 3 Jul 2019 09:21
Sermon

Luke 9 51-end

A Samaritan Village Refuses to Receive Jesus

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’[a] 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then[b] they went on to another village.

Would-Be Followers of Jesus

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 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.’ 59 To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus[c] said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61 Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ 

On Trial for Jesus

If you were to stand trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

A brief, uninformed reading of today’s gospel passage might make you guess that there probably wouldn’t be.

This is one of those passages that make me put my hand to my face and say “Why do I always get the difficult ones?!”

In my day job, working in sales, this passage makes me cringe every time I come across it.

I read it and think, “it’s a good thing Jesus doesn’t have my job!”

If I spent my days painting such a negative view of what I do, I wouldn’t have many clients.

Jesus meets three potential clients, puts two of them off and summons the third with conditions that he clearly isn’t prepared to meet!

But then again, maybe that’s what Jesus is going for.

I heard a story by an American Evangelist, Tony Campolo, about a friend of his who took over as pastor of a church of 300. They met up two years later and Tony asked him how it was going.

“Great” replied his friend, “I’ve managed to preach the church down to 20”.

That might seem a strange approach, but he said that he would rather have 20 committed disciples than 280 people who attended as a hobby or for their social life.

You see, Jesus has set His face towards Jerusalem. He is now heading to His death.

Recruiting disciples who are only in it for the fun would be counterproductive as they wouldn’t stick around when things get tough further down the road.

He uses hyperbole too.

He isn’t really saying that you can’t still have friends and family, or that you can’t grieve for the departed. He is making the point that sometimes things do get tough, but by focussing on God and His love we can get through anything. But we MUST be focussed on God.

If the disciples had only had the fun exiting stuff that went with following Jesus, they probably wouldn’t have stuck around when He was executed on the cross.

Jesus wants us to follow Him, but he doesn’t want us to do it without understanding the cost involved.

In following Jesus, we don’t have any earthly security.

When the first man says to Jesus that he will follow Him anywhere, Jesus replies “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The irony about this is that the one who created the universe has nowhere He can call home.

His challenge to us is to think about where our true security lies.

It’s easy to say that it lies in our relationship with God, but do we really live like that?

The next man asks Jesus to let him go to bury his father. This seems like a reasonable request, but Jesus replies “Let the dead bury their own dead”.

At first, we might think that Jesus is being a little harsh on the man, but if his father had just died and hadn’t yet had the funeral, in those days, Jewish bodies were buried in a tomb immediately, he wouldn’t have been out and about. A year after the burial, their bones were collected and put into a slot in the wall of the tomb.

So either this man was seeking a delay of up to a year, or his father was just an old man who hadn’t died yet and he wanted to stay around until he had.

Either way, Jesus’ response was to say that when we are faced with a choice between earthly things and following God’s call, we MUST choose the call of the almighty.

Now, God will not call us to be irresponsible, and hurt those around us. Jesus often used opposites to make His points, and that is what he is doing here. He is making a point about priorities.

When the third man asks for permission to go and say farewell to his family, to which Jesus replies that one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.

This again sounds pretty harsh, but if you have ever watched a ploughing competition, you will know the losing focus for even a second can ruin the lines that you are ploughing.

He isn’t really saying that you should just walk away from loved ones when you follow Jesus, but you should take them with you on your journey. Looking back is usually about regret, and Jesus doesn’t want anyone to regret following Him. But He does want us to know that following Him does not come without a cost.

If we want to follow Jesus, to REALLY follow Jesus, we need to be true to our word, to speak the truth no matter how uncomfortable, to stay focussed, not get distracted by things, to give our lives wholeheartedly to him and not look back with regret.

This is truly authentic Christianity. Count the cost, leave it behind and don’t look back.

That is the call Jesus give to the three men in today’s passage, and it’s His call to us today.

But, the cost of following Jesus is nothing compared to the cost of not following Him.

Jesus says that He will give us life in all its fullness. If we choose not to follow Him, we will never know the fullness of life that He has to offer.

So I ask again, If you were to stand trial for being a Christian, do you think they would have enough evidence to convict you?

If not, and you want to experience the level of fullness that Jesus offers to your life, lets start making a trail of evidence.

Amen

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