A Walk Matching your Talk

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Jesus was continuing His mission of spreading the news of the Kingdom of God with His words, and authenticating His Kingship by His works.  Already in this chapter

  • He heard the cry of the leper, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus touched him, and he was clean from his leprosy.
  • He heard the cry of a centurion, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly,” and Jesus said to him “Go, let it be done for you as you have believed.
  • He had heard the cry of Peter that his mother-in-law lay sick in bed with a fever, and he touched her and the fever left.
  • He had heard the cry of the demon-possessed, and cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all who were sick.
  • All of these were to be authenticating signs, authoritative signs, validating signs, verifying signs that the King had come, that the Anointed One had arrived, that the Messiah was ministering.

There is always something so attractional about the spectacular. There is something that draws mankind to the magnificent and the marvelous. Like moths to a flame, we fly to the fantastic. We are interested in the incredible, moved by the miraculous, and astounded by the awesome.

But listen, it is possible to see the Works of the Kingdom and miss the Words of the Kingdom. It is possible to see the miracle and miss the message. It is possible to see the sign of the works and fail to count the cost of the words.

That is exactly what happens in our text today. Sandwiched between the stories of the miracles, we have a reminder of the message. The wonderful works of Jesus serve as a parenthesis around the difficult words of Jesus. Hidden here between these works seen, observed, and understood with the head, we are reminded that they are nothing, they are vain, they are useless unless we perceive and receive His words in our hearts.

In verse 19, “A scribe came up…” The scribes were no friends of Jesus. Far from supporting Him they sought repeatedly to trap and trick Him. Their tongues were sharp like serpents, their fangs filled with vilest venom. Trickery was their intent. Deception was their method. The scribes were experts in the Law, always seeking to use the Law against the Lord. But they did not comprehend, they could not fathom, that He could not be tricked by the Law, for He Himself was the author, the keeper, the fulfiller of the Law.

The usual practice in Scripture was for a scribe to come to the Savior with a question, disguised as a trap. They sought to lure the Lord with their disingenuous questions. But this man is different. This scribe does not come with a question, but rather a declaration. The scribes were typically teachers, and not followers, so there is something very particular about the story for our consideration.

  1. A Careless Declaration.

Having viewed the miracles of Jesus, the wonderous works of Jesus, this scribe comes with a careless declaration. “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” For a scribe to address Jesus as “teacher,” or “Rabbi,” is interesting in itself. Again, these were teachers, not students. They were leaders, not followers.

The response of the Rabbi was revealing. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” On the surface, this seems an odd response. On the surface, it seems like a scribe is submitting his life to following Christ, but Christ gives an out of the blue seeming statement.

“Foxes have holes (a home), birds have nests (a home), but I have nowhere to call my home.” Wherein lies the connection? Whatsoever is the relationship?

Jesus looked beyond the statement of the scribe, all the way down to his heart. Jesus glanced over the careless declaration, with a careful declaration intended to expose the scribe’s heart. Jesus is peeling away the veneer of carelessness to expose a heart overcome by callousness.

Jesus knew something that we see every day. It is a practice that is repeated in real time in the life of every church today. There are many people today that make a strong profession of faith without ever possessing a strong commitment to follow.

Knowing his heart, Jesus knew that this man, this scribe talked a big talk, but was unwilling to walk a big walk. He knew that this scribe was full of words, but empty of works. He knew that this scribe would not do the very thing he declared.

It happens all the time! It happens on the pages of our news, and to the people in our pews. There are careless declarations of faith without ever seeing careful demonstrations of faith.

I remember years ago, Miley Cyrus filled the cover of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. My girls were much younger, and Miley’s music was much cleaner, and she was their Hannah Montana hero.

My girls were entirely enamored with her, though I’m sure they’d deny it today. “Look daddy, Hannah is a Christian.”

In 2007, Cyrus referred to her church “the greatest source of strength” and recited Ephesians 6:10-11 as her favorite passage in the Bible, which says,  “Finally, my brother, come close to the Lord for if you put on the full armor of God you can stand against the walls of a devil.” She stated how she was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church, and that Sunday School and church were the source of her growth.

This is what I said to my girls. “Words are easy. Walking with Jesus is a long, difficult road. Her fruit will reveal her faith. Watch her over the long haul.”

In 2014, she said she had outgrown the Bible.

In 2015 speaking about Noah’s Ark, “”That’s ****** insane,” she told the magazine. “We’ve outgrown that fairy tale, like we’ve outgrown ****** Santa and the tooth fairy.”

Oct 2016, “I think I am the first gender-neutral person I ever met.”

In 2017 she said, “No one has ever smoked as much pot as I have.”

Listen, I could add a dozen more illustrations, but it would be difficult to make them church-appropriate.

Today, Miley says she’s sober, but my question is, “Is she saved.”

It is easy to make a strong profession of faith without ever possessing a strong commitment to follow.

Jesus saw this. Jesus knew this. He was always telling would-be followers, “Count the cost.” And that is what He is doing to this scribe. He knew the scribe was eager to announce his allegiance, but he had not counted the cost.

  • Christianity is not a label you wear.
  • It is not a religion you dabble in.
  • It is not a game that you play.
  • It is not a banner you wave.
  • It is not a connection to appease your conscience.
  • It is surrendering all that you are to become all that Christ wants you to be.

The words of Jesus cut through the careless declaration of the scribe. Jesus calls him to count the cost! Foxes and birds have homes but I don’t. I am homeless.

Jesus uses the example of homelessness to reveal the careless declaration of the scribe. It was a little thing, but it was obviously too big a thing because we never he another word from this scribe.

He makes his careless declaration and then he completely disappears. Friends, we have seen this happen in our own church. It breaks my heart. I say this with compassion and not condemnation, for I am greatly grieved.

Now listen. Jesus is not saying that you must be homeless to be holy. He words were specifically spoken to the scribe because Jesus knew the point of his weakness and unwillingness. This man loved his home on earth more than a home in heaven.

There was simply a roadblock in his life. There was a wall that he was unwilling to climb.  There was a possession he was unwilling to release. There was a cost he was unwilling to pay.

Friends, I am unwilling to sugarcoat the Gospel. I am unwilling to lapse into easy-believism. I am not here peddling a cheap god through a cheap gospel. I am not preaching easy words to lead you in an easy way. I am not preaching a plastic, off-the-shelf, imitation, knock-off, five-and-dime decision bought with the loose change in your pocket. I am preaching an all-out, all-in, nothing withheld, complete and total surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the extension of His rule over every area of your life! 

Following Jesus is more than praying a prayer, more than joining a church, more than speaking a word. It is a willingness to leave behind anything that gets between you and the Lord.

This scribe, who met Jesus at the Sea of Galilee wanted to be identified with Jesus. He wanted to be seen with the miracle worker. He wanted some excitement in his life. He wanted some prestige.

What he didn’t want was self-sacrifice and self-denial. Yet that is the very cost of being a disciple of Christ. “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

2. A Casual Disciple

There was a careless declaration made from the scribe. Now let us turn our attention to the casual disciple.

Verse 21 says, “Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’”

The Jews did not practice embalming like some of the people groups of their day. There was no attempt at preservation, so a dead body had to be buried quickly.

But I want you to see, this casual disciple was not seeking permission to bury a father who had already died. This was not some quick task to be performed. His father had not died. In fact, his father would have been very much alive! This was not a man mourning, weeping, wailing, over his lost father. Don’t for a minute think this man was a caring son. He was nothing more than a casual disciple.

There was no body. The coroner had not been called. There was no cold corpse, no freshly dug grave, no funeral to plan, no tears to shed. No, in fact the only thing that was dead was the heart of this casual disciple. His mouth was a grave, his heart was a corpse, his words an epitaph to his cold dead heart. There was no life-blood coursing through his veins, for he, though he acted alive was very much the walking dead.

This phrase, “let me first go and bury my father…” was a common Middle Eastern expression. It was a figure of speech. It referred to a son’s responsibility to help his father in the family business, until the father had died, and the son then received his inheritance.

“Burying my father” meant staying at home and carrying out the responsibilities of the family until his father died, and the son got everything. If he did not carry out these responsibilities, the son could be written out of the will and receive nothing at his father’s death.

This casual disciple was willing to follow Jesus as long as it didn’t cost him his inheritance. He wanted to follow Jesus after He had gained everything. He wanted his share. He wanted the spoils accumulated by his father. His greedy, grubby hands writhed together in gleeful anticipation of the glorious inheritance he would receive when his father was finally gone. He was looking for loot, not for the Lord. His treasure was on earth not in heaven. He would follow Jesus as long as it didn’t cost him anything.

3. A Costly Decision

Turn with me to Luke 9:61. This is a parallel account of our text today. Luke retells the same story, but adds a third would-be disciple.

Luke 9:61, “Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’”

As with the first two, this seems like a reasonable request. Let me say goodbye. Let me offer my farewells. Let me kiss the cheek of my beloved mother, and hug the neck of my old man. I will follow after all my farewells.

But Jesus knew this man was unwilling to make a costly decision. Jesus knew his heart was divided. His commitment was weak.

This would-be disciple was still tied to his mother’s apron string and unwilling to be nailed to a cross. This would-be disciple was still connected to his biological parents and unwilling to commit to his spiritual father.

And so, Jesus says to him, “No one who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Some scholars believe the Jesus’ words here were a paraphrase of an ancient proverb, written around 800 BC, by the Greek poet Hesiod. Hesiod wrote, “You can’t plow a straight furrow when looking backwards.”

The very essence of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a total turn from what is behind you towards the Cross that is before you. Repentance is the entrance to the Kingdom of God, and repentance is turning your back on your own Kingdom and turning towards the Kingdom of God.

This man’s head pointed forward, but his heart pointed backwards. He was divided. His heart was torn in two. I want to be part of God’s family wherein it conveniences me, but will not forsake my earthly family as it inconveniences me.

“I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. No turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back. No turning back.”

You cannot adequately follow Jesus if you are looking back to past loyalties and loved ones.

A disciple must let go, a disciple must leave behind. But this disciple was saying, “I will follow you, if you give me permission to say my goodbyes.”

  • The first man said, “I will give you everything as long as it costs me nothing.”
  • The second man said, “I will give you everything as long as I get everything.
  • The third man said, “I will give you everything as long as you give me something.

Jesus said, “If you would come after me, you must be willing to lay down all you possess, and only the cross profess, until all of heaven you possess.”

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