It almost sounds like Jesus is trying to discourage people from following him, doesn’t it? And yet, of course, we know that he came to invite everyone to follow him, so we know he doesn’t want to turn anyone away.
So what’s going on?
There’s a theme in Luke’s gospel that comes into play here, I think. The paragraph we’re studying tomorrow is at the beginning of a part of Luke that is often called The Travel Narrative or The Travelogue (Luke 9:51-19:27). This extended look at Jesus’ ministry begins with this note: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51, emp. added).
Luke wants it to be clear that Jesus’ mission was always to go to Jerusalem to fulfill his purpose that had been foretold by the prophets: to die on the cross in our place. And throughout this journey to Jerusalem, Jesus periodically stops and speaks quite frankly to the crowd, many of whom were perhaps just following him out of curiosity or out of the hope that they might be the beneficiaries of another of his miracles.
But Jesus wants them to know that following him involves more than admiring him as a miracle-worker or just being one of many interested people lingering near the fringe. He’s going to Jerusalem to die, and identifying with him means being willing to go with him wherever it leads . . . even to persecution or death.
Discipleship is serious business. “I’ll follow you wherever you go,” one says. Will you really? Do you even know what you’re saying?, Jesus seems to ask.
“I’d like to follow you, but I’ve got some stuff I need to take care of first,” others say. Then you don’t understand the nature of the kingdom.
We’ll reflect on this tomorrow morning, Lord willing. What does it really mean to follow Jesus? In an age where people seem to pursue being comfortable more and more, perhaps Jesus’ words will challenge us to think more reflectively about what it means to follow Christ.