Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Reasons (not) to follow Jesus
As I mentioned in a previous study—Luke Chapter 9 is the pinnacle of Luke’s gospel. Everything leading up to Chapter 9 involves identifying who Jesus is—specifically, is He the promised Messiah? Everything from that point forward is about Jesus as the Messiah fulfilling His mission of first dying for the sins of the world, then creating a new kingdom of believers here on earth and preparing a place for those citizens of heaven in His dimension.
In the final verses of Chapter 9 we see Jesus begin the long march to the cross to accomplish step 1 of that plan. He is determined. Nothing can stop Him. On the way we meet people who say they want to follow Jesus where He’s going, but don’t really. Each has an excuse—the same type of excuses that we must overcome to decide if we will be determined to follow Jesus.
Verse 51 begins the third major section of the gospel—which goes all the way through Chapter 19, verse 27. The other two so far are the preparation for ministry (Luke 1:1 – 4:13, The Galilean Ministry (Luke 4:14 – 9:50), and finally the ministry and death, burial, resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28 – 24:53).
What we notice here is that no longer is Jesus introducing Himself and what His kingdom is about—He is now “determined” to go to Jerusalem, not just to attend a feast, but to be rejected and executed. The word “determined” literally means “to fix your face” which was a Hebrew term for firmness of purpose despite the dangers that lie ahead.
Luke says that the “days were coming to a close”. The Greek word here is fascinating. It’s sumpleroo and it means to be swamped with water—like a ship going down. Jesus is masterminding His own death—manipulating events, people, settings, motivations—from the lowliest peasant to the highest government or religious leader. Eventually there will no escaping the water—no amount of bailing will save the ship—and that’s just how Jesus wants it.
Do you sometimes feel like events are surrounding you and that you’re going to drown in them? Know that, in the hands of the master manipulator, even the worst looking situation can be used for God’s kingdom, if we look to how we can glorify Him and further His kingdom (even if we get hurt in the process).
So now we move to the five big impediments to following Jesus:
52 – 53 Not willing to agree with or support the gospel
Samaria was the capital of Northern Israel (founded after the nation split in two during the reign of King Rehoboam) and populated by people who had been imported by Assyrians in 726 B.C. They were mostly foreigners who took on the religion of Northern Israel, which was the cult of Jeroboam. They believed that God should be worshipped in Mt. Gerizim, not in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews and Jews would travel out of their way to go around Samaria. It’s interesting that Jesus does not do that, but wants to go stay in a Samaritan village on his way from Galilee south to Jerusalem.
Some of his disciples go ahead and try to make a room reservation but when the folks in that village learned He was on His way to Jerusalem they refused.
So we come to the first objection, the first excuse or reason not to follow Jesus and that is to disagree with the gospel altogether. The Samaritans claimed to worship Yahweh, but they didn’t accept that God came to the Jews and made His capital Jerusalem, where His Messiah would arrive.
Jesus proclaimed the error of the Samaritans when He met the woman at the well:
John 4:22 “You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.”
For us we need to consider that you can’t just make up your own deal with God. Today we love to create our own flavor of the gospel, excising the parts that make us uncomfortable and pulling out parts we like and focusing on them. Often times this involves the “God is love” part without the “you are sinners and must repent” part.
Take Jesus at His word, and the gospel for what it is.
54 – 56 Letting rejection sidetrack you
I’m sure the rejection in Samaria steamed the disciples, some of whom had just seen Him glorified. I wonder if James and John were the ones who went ahead. They were known as the “sons of thunder” which I presume suggests they had unresolved anger issues.
Knowing Jesus’ power, they inquire as to whether they should go all nuclear on the village like Elijah did in 2 Kings 1:9-16 when King Ahaziah wanted to capture the prophet and sent 50 soldiers to arrest him. Elijah called down fire from heaven and they were toast.
Jesus’ response is interesting. Instead of getting mad at rejection, He simply moved on to another village.
For us I think there are two aspects of this to consider. If you are not yet a disciple of Jesus, you may let other’s opposition taint your opinion of the gospel and Jesus. I would warn against that. Make up your own mind and listen to what Jesus says, not what others say about Him.
If you are already a disciple, if you encounter opposition to you or the gospel, don’t wish Hell on them, simply move on—but perhaps pray for them instead of wanting God to judge them.
57 – 58 Not willing to repent and turn your back on this age’s values
The timing of these next three incidents is in question. In Matthew’s gospel (Matt 8:18-22) they occur in Galilee as Jesus is about to cross the sea to leave a large crowd. Luke seems to include them here because it matches the theme of not being willing to follow the Messiah in His determination to go to Jerusalem. Remember: the gospels are theme based, not necessarily chronological—they aren’t histories or biographies.
The man says he would follow Jesus anywhere, but Jesus replies to him that Jesus and His disciples have no place in this age to call “home”. Home for a Christian is anywhere the Master is. To follow Jesus means you have to turn your back on the values of this age, repent, and make Jesus your Lord—following Him as He calls you to a character that is less and less like that mirrored in this age.
59 – 60 Not willing to commit
So here Jesus calls another to follow, just as He said: (Rev. 3:20) “Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.”
This man answers that he needs to bury his father first. Now, he was not on his way to his dad’s funeral. The idea here is that he will answer Jesus summons when his obligations to his family have been met. This can be applied to many of us—we’ll get around to committing to Jesus after we’ve gotten married, had kids, have a great job with a big salary and have amassed wealth and power and prestige. In other words—when I’ve wrung all I can out of this age, then I’ll consider the next one.
Jesus tells him to let the dead bury their own dead. This isn’t hard-hearted. He’s saying that this age is dead and focusing on it is fruitless. Let this age deal with itself in its own way. We need to deal with Jesus in our lives in His way.
61 – 62 Not willing to make Jesus #1
This is the kind of person who wants it both ways. Unlike the previous person, they are willing to commit to Jesus—they just want to remain committed to this age as well. They want it both ways. The idea of looking behind you while plowing is that you can’t plow a straight line. If your loyalties are split, you will not be loyal to Jesus and you will not be able to follow Him fully.
This reminds me of Lot’s wife. When Lot and his wife and two daughters left Sodom, Genesis 19:26 says that Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. “Looked back” means to consider, gaze at. She wasn’t glancing over her shoulder, she was regretting her decision to leave and suffered the consequences for it.
There are many things in this age that tempt us to hold on to them—ostensibly as well as hold onto Jesus, but that’s a ruse.
Luke 16:13 “No household slave can be the slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t be slaves to both God and money.”
Letting go of this age and making Jesus number one doesn’t mean you become a pauper. It means to let His values become yours. So when it comes to money you realize that He owns all of it and you are a steward. You trust Him for what you need—but the ultimate decider on what happens with the money is His, nor yours.
It’s the same with everything—relationships, family, job, position, intellectual pursuits, athletic prowess, and physical beauty. It’s all done with an eye to doing it His way and bringing Him glory and credit.
So we’ve seen Jesus determine to go to Jerusalem and the cross. That’s where we need to go as well—to understand and assent to the gospel, which says humans are sinners by nature and in need of salvation which comes through repentance and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to pay for our sins and provide us eternal life.
- Don’t let opposition to the gospel sway our decision
- Be willing to repent and turn our backs on this age’s value system as what defines us
- Be wiling to commit to Jesus more than what this age offers
- Put Him in the number one place and not be double minded.