Sometimes it seems like Jesus was trying to bring people close to him. He would stay in an area for a while and would heal many people while also teaching them about the Kingdom of God.
Other times, it seemed like Jesus was intentionally trying to drive people away by saying difficult things and setting the bar for following him very high.
If we every wonder what Jesus expects of us as his followers, we should simply look to what his disciples said and what Jesus said to those who proposed to follow him. As Jesus explained that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, Peter got excited. He said, “We have left everything to follow you! What reward will there be for us?”
For the disciples, to follow Jesus meant that they had to leave their livelihoods behind. They had to leave behind any desires for wealth that they may have had. The riches of this world were no longer in reach for them because they found their treasure in their relationship with Jesus, the Messiah. They saw this as being more valuable than the riches that could be offered by the world.
But, of course, not everyone saw that yet. Jesus, in fact, was on his way to Jerusalem where he knew he would be handed over to the chief priests and put to death, and as he was going, people were coming to him looking to be part of his entourage, counted as one of his disciples. They needed to know, though, what that meant and Jesus, without hesitating, informed them:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”Luke 9:57-62
These men were eager to be near the One that they saw as being important, even as great, but they may not have realized that there would be a cost:
You’ll be leaving behind your home.
You’ll be leaving behind your family.
It may not work the way that you think it will work. You think you’re coming to follow me? No, you won’t be with me. Go speak of the Kingdom of God
You are leaving your old life behind.
Everything that you thought you knew from before is over. This is what it means to follow Jesus.
Now, is that just for that time? Is Jesus speaking just to those three men? Or is he also speaking to us? Could it be that Jesus is saying the same things to us today and we are not listening, or misunderstanding the cost to following Jesus? Are we in the church not listening to Jesus when he explains to us what it means to follow him, or do we just prefer the riches of the world or the comforts of our homes and family? Do we prefer, instead, our old life, yet say that we are followers of Christ?
Those were the questions that these would-be followers of Christ had to face, and they are the same questions that we must confront today.