A sermon based on Luke 9:51-62
Sunday, June 26, 2016 – Pentecost 6C
What do you think of when you hear the word, "committed"? Do you think of the professional athlete who does whatever it takes to be the very best—working out twice a day, practicing hours on end, eating only the right foods and never touching alcohol or even sugar? Or maybe you think of the owner of a small company, who pours his heart and soul into making his business a success, spending his time, his energy, his own money to make it thrive. Or maybe you think of a husband who is completely devoted to his wife, or a wife who is completely devoted to her husband. They gladly serve each other and sacrifice for each other because they understand what it is to be committed.
Or… in a different context, that word, "committed," means something entirely different. If you were standing outside the mental institution ready to be fitted in a strait jacket and ushered into your own private padded cell, you'd think differently about being committed. The teen about to enter juvenile detention or the criminal entering prison might think differently about being committed.
This morning in our sermon text our Savior speaks to us about being committed. Though we should be totally committed to serving him who made us and loves us and provides for all we need, too often we're committed only to ourselves. And we deserve to be committed to hell for such selfishness. But we thank God that our Savior was totally committed to saving us from such a fate. And now, because of all he's done for us, we are totally committed to him. Our text for this morning is from Luke 9:51-62…
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."
58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
59 He said to another man, "Follow me."
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
I. We Ought to Be Committed to Hell
We should be committed to God, totally committed, 100%. After all, look at all he's done for us. He's made us. He's blessed us with food and homes, with family, and friends, with toys and joys in this life and even more in the life to come! He's been totally committed to us and to bringing eternal blessings to us.
We should be committed to God, totally committed, 100%. But too often, we refuse to show hospitality to Jesus. We'll let him into our town, but do we welcome him into our homes? Do we read his Word and listen to him? Do we invite him to be a part of our conversations? Or do we treat him like the Samaritan villagers—"the people there did not welcome him"? We're often too committed to our own pursuits to give Jesus the time of day.
Or, maybe, just as bad, we say we welcome Jesus, we promise to follow him, and pretend that we're eager to do it, but… when following him looks hard, when it's inconvenient, when it might cost us something, when being that committed to Jesus seems crazy, we look for excuses. "I'll follow you Jesus… someday. Just not now. Right now I have to focus on work, on my home, on my kids. Maybe someday I'll have time to read your Word, to follow you, to serve you, but not right now. There are other more pressing things in life than you." And we're too committed to ourselves to be that committed to Jesus.
How sad that we so often break the vows we made at our confirmations—to be totally committed to Jesus, to be faithful to him even to the point of death, to daily take up our cross and follow him. Like the cheating spouse, we break our vows to God and show how uncommitted we really are to him.
Now, if you were committed to some cause that was sure to fail, let's say, inventing the world's first concrete life preserver, people would say you were crazy—that you need to be committed. Well, to live selfishly, only for ourselves, ignoring the reality of a life after death, ignoring the God who loves us and cares for us more than the most committed spouse ever could—well, that's more crazy than concrete life preservers. And for acting that crazy every day, we deserve to be committed, not just to a padded cell, but to a fiery hell. We deserve to be committed to an eternity of misery, strait-jacketed by our own ever growing, all-consuming, selfish, commitment to only ourselves.
We ought to be committed to hell. But… we won't be because Jesus was totally committed to serving us. He was totally committed to saving us.
James and John were appalled at how horribly the Samaritans treated Jesus in refusing any hospitality to Jesus. They knew they deserved punishment for acting so crazy! And they were ready to call down fire from heaven to destroy them.
But notice Jesus response. He didn't agree and then sit back to watch a repeat of Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead he rebuked them, that is, James and John! And he made it clear that he didn't come to destroy crazy sinners, but to rescue them. And he was totally committed to that cause.
Jesus knew that there wasn't much time left, that, "the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven…" His ascension was coming soon. But first… came the cross. So Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem.
Literally, the Greek says, he "set his face to Jerusalem." He wouldn't look to the right or to the left, he wouldn't turn aside, but would fix his gaze on his goal and remain undeterred. And he did that knowing full well what would happen to him there; that he would be tortured, killed, and endure hell on a cross. How committed he was to us—even when the way was rough, even when the time was inconvenient, always looking straight ahead to his goal!
We ought to be committed to hell, but because he was so committed to us, we're rescued. We're totally forgiven by his committed sacrifice on the cross since he paid for every crazy, selfish, unfaithful, priority we've had. By his sacrifice our sins became his. His perfection became ours. Now we're embraced by God and loved by him with his totally committed love. Nothing can ever separate us from that love that God has for us. We're a part of his family and heaven itself is our eternal home.
And, now, a result of his committed love, we're totally committed to him…
II. We Ought to Be Committed to Jesus
And we can learn something about being totally committed to Jesus by the way Jesus responded to three men who said they were ready to follow Jesus. "I used to be indecisive… now I'm not so sure." That's how some of Jesus' disciples seemed to be. They wanted to follow Jesus, but weren't so sure they wanted to give up comfort or family for the cause. They weren't so sure they wanted to be that committed to him.
The first man, let's call him Homer, claimed to have total commitment to Jesus, that he was willing to follow him "wherever" he should go. But Jesus, who knew this man's heart, warned that he wouldn't be able to establish any roots or have a comfortable home. He would move constantly, from one place to another, if he really was more concerned about heavenly things than about earthly treasures.
Does such a commitment seem crazy to you? No! Not at all! We know that because of Jesus' great commitment to us, heaven is our real home (not the hell we deserve). And we know that we're only camping here on earth for a while—that these homes are temporal and fleeting. So we too are ready to uproot and go where Jesus would send us. But even if we stay put right here on the Kenai, the point is the same. We're not as concerned about having a beautiful home, a big salary, or earthly comforts, as we are about reaching out to save lost sinners. We are that committed to Jesus and our budgets and offerings reflect it—even at the expense of nice homes and nice things.
The second man, let's call him Junior, was invited by Jesus to follow him. And he said he would, just not yet. He first wanted to bury his father. Now, some have suggested that his father was still alive and this man was, in essence, saying, "In a few years I might follow you, Jesus. But right now I need to spend some time with dad. Someday, when there aren't more pressing concerns, then I'll follow you, Jesus." But even if the man's father was already dead, Jesus' point remains: "Which is more important to you—serving Christ in his kingdom? Or serving some earthly duty that needs our attention?"
Does such a commitment seem crazy to you? No! Not at all! We know that Jesus warned that following him might mean a breakup of the family. He told us, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37) And we also know that through his committed love to us we have God as our Father. We're a part of his family. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1) And in view of his committed love to us, we're totally committed to him, even above our earthly fathers or earthly families!
The third man, let's call him Farmer, wanted to follow Jesus. But he too had an excuse. First he wanted to say goodbye to his family. But Jesus told him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Jesus compared him to a man plowing in a field with a team of oxen. If he didn't look ahead to where he was going, but was constantly looking back to where he'd already been, he wouldn't be able to plow a straight furrow. For this man to serve Jesus properly, he needed to stop looking back—and that even meant leaving behind his family.
Does such a commitment seem crazy to you? No! Not at all! Of course Jesus doesn't expect us to be rude and unfriendly toward our family, but we do remember that the work of his Kingdom is first and foremost in our lives and comes above family, above friends, above comforts and conveniences, above everything! We have a total, complete, and crazy commitment to Jesus because of his total commitment to saving us. We ought to be totally committed to God, and we are—even when the way is rough, even when the time is inconvenient, always looking straight ahead to our goal!
Now, you can't read this account without some serious soul searching, asking, "What would Jesus say about my priorities? Would he be pleased? Or would he tell me that I'm not, 'fit for service in the kingdom of God' ?" But go home today and remember how totally committed Jesus was for you in resolutely setting out to Jerusalem and to the cross to forgive you for all of your misplaced priorities. Remember how totally committed he still is to you in loving you with a relentless love that will never go away or even fade. Then resolve again to honor him by making him "Number One" in your life. Look at your budget and your offerings, look at your schedule and how you spend your time, look at your home and your comforts, look at your family and your friends, look at your priorities and adjust them accordingly.
And when you do, others might think your commitment to Jesus is a bit extreme. They might even think you're a bit crazy and ought to be committed. But we know how committed Jesus was in rescuing us when we deserved to be committed to hell. And that moves us to be totally committed to him. Dear friends, we ought to be committed. And we are committed to God, totally committed, 100%, for Jesus' sake, amen.