The New King James version of this verse says, “Lord, I will follow You, but first let me go and bury my father.” At times we too are very good at saying to the Lord, “Yes, but first…” as if our demands or desires really matter or will make a difference. In the culture of the time we know that it was the son’s responsibility to make the final arrangements for his father’s burial…which makes Jesus’ reply to him all the more shocking, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Jesus was saying to him, “Follow Me, not the world.” For anytime we answer the call of God with a “Yes, but…” we’ve taken our eyes off the eternal and onto the world. Our abiding fellowship with the Lord should then be about self-denial and self-restraint and a renouncing of the temporal.
This statement of Jesus’ is counterintuitive to our corrupt human nature. Our highest priority in life is to look out for number 1…ourselves, and not to cast all our material needs on Him, trusting He will take care of us. But Jesus didn’t say to take no thought about practical matters…that would be foolish. He rather said the controlling factor in our life was to be about our relationship with Him not amassing stuff. We are to focus on our relationship with God while being cautiously carefree about everything else. When Peter asked Jesus what there would be for them because they had left everything to follow Him, Jesus replied, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” By seeking God first and foremost in our life we receive the greatest gift possible – salvation – which far exceeds any earthly material thing we could ever obtain by ourselves.
When we allow our desires, appetites, and longings to overrule our wisdom and understanding… and when we rush into making choices that are good but not the best…two things happen. We compromise ourselves and settle for less than God’s best for us. Our choice may seem good enough, but it falls pathetically short of what God has for us. Proverbs 14:12 reminds of this when it reads, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” Anytime we compromise, we put in jeopardy our relationship with God…for anytime we settle for just good enough we’re risking the chance to miss His best and sin against Him. But God assures us in Isaiah 30:21 that He will help us make those best choices if we will but listen…”Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ”
Jesus is speaking here of oneness or unity…not only spiritually or invisible unity, but becoming perfectly one with the Lord that then becomes visible to the world. This oneness is found in Jeremiah 32:39-40 when God said, “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear Me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear Me, so that they will never turn away from Me.” In other words, by becoming united with Christ, our actions will be in line with our beliefs… which then, both will be in line with God’s commands. So the next time you’re going through a time of isolation and wondering why, your answer is explained here in John as to why you are where you are…that you may become one with the Father just as Jesus is one with Him.
The road to spiritual maturity…of realizing the aim, reason, and goal of our lives here on earth as Believers, is to simply glorify God in everything we do. Colossians 3:17 points this out as we read, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Glorifying God can’t then be just delegated to some tiny serving role you do once in a while at Church, or the volunteer work you do periodically… when you feel like it. No, both Scriptures show us that glorifying God needs to be instilled into everything we do…every word we speak, every action we perform, we must be doing it for His glory. This is summed up well by Peter when he wrote, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (I Peter 4:11)
There is great hope and reassurance in the promises of God in this passage. He not only promises us that He will rescue, protect, and deliver us from the tribulations that come into our lives…but He promises He will be with us in the middle of them. Too often when affliction, pain, and distress attacks, our minds become dulled by exhaustion, depression, and stress. And as our world becomes smaller and smaller with each anguish-filled day, it can become very easy to view God as some far off Deity watching in disinterest. But it tells us here that it’s quite the opposite…God is slogging through all the tears, anxiety, and cries of desperation right alongside us…suffering as we suffer…His compassion and mercy flowing out of Him for us.
I don’t know about you, but I worry about the silliest things! Especially at night… I’ll lie there, my anxiety ever increasing as I stress over really stupid things…things that I have absolutely no control over, but I think I do. Does all my worrying change anything? No! Is worrying wrong? You bet it is! Philippians 6:6-7 tells us to not worry about anything. But even deeper, worrying shows my faltering faith and unbelief that God can take care of all the details in my life…both big and small. In Matthew 13, The Parable of the Sower, Jesus warns us about worrying when He said, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the Word, but the worries of this life choke it out, making it unfruitful.” Worrying is a distraction…it takes my eyes off the Lord and onto the uncertainties of life of which I have no control over. So by not allowing myself to go down that path of anxious worry, I instead place my trust in God and the true One who can actually do something about it.
Developing Godly habits such as reading your Bible and praying are excellent things to do. But if you become too rigid in your scheduling of such things, God may throw a monkey wrench into your “sacred schedule” just to see what you’ll do. In other words, are you worshipping the habit or what the habit symbolizes? Say a close friend calls you very upset about a personal problem just as you’ve sat down with your Bible…do you change gears quickly, focusing on her with love, concern, and prayer…or do the unthinkable words come out of your mouth, “I can’t help you right now, it’s my quiet time with the Lord.” At that very moment, your habit has now become far more important than the hurting person God has placed across your path, and you are worshipping the habit rather than the reason to have the habit.
Paul uses here the illustration of our physical body and the Body of Christ – the Church – to show how through Jesus, we the Church Body are joined together, grow together, are held together, and are built up together. (Ephesians 4:16) I saw this on vivid display this morning as the ladies of our Church came together to study the Word. Just as our bodies are made up of not one part but of many…when the Body of Believers come together God can use each person’s gifts, talents, and passions to edify, encourage, exhort, and expound on the attributes of Jesus. What a joy it was to be part of… listening to the wisdom and sage advice from those whose walk with the Lord has been a rich, deep, and abiding journey.
Jacob’s journey of faith still had a long way to go. Earlier in this Chapter, God had made Himself known to Jacob, and in verses 13-15 God assured Jacob that he was in fact the promised carrier of both the seed and the Covenant of Abraham. God unconditionally vowed to Jacob his personal safety and blessing until Jacob would return to the Promised Land…but Jacob wanted to hedge his bets, so he bargained with God. Jacob’s vow here was entirely conditional. It was contingent on God holding up His end of the deal and subject to Jacob’s safe return…then and only then, Jacob would acknowledge God for Who He was, and his personal God. We can laugh at Jacob, but how many times have we ourselves “bargained” with God? “If You do this God, then will I do that.” is putting conditions on our faith and trust in God and not what He desires of us.