But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”
Have you ever met someone you considered a hero? Perhaps you’ve had the good fortune of crossing paths with an athlete, politician, or celebrity you’ve admired. Do you remember the excitement? Or, perhaps more realistically, do you remember the disappointment?
Maybe that person was rude to you. Maybe they were just too busy to give you the kind of attention you desired. Did you walk away from the encounter feeling like the person with whom you’d just interacted didn’t possess an ounce of compassion?
Well, you’re not alone. Consider the individuals we read about in today’s Gospel accounts.
The scribes and disciples in today’s story weren’t interacting with a celebrity. Rather, they were talking to God in the flesh and the Savior of the world. So naturally they received the utmost attention of the Messiah and a surpassingly compassionate response, right? Not exactly.
It’s my contention that Jesus was indeed compassionate. In fact, He was more compassionate than anyone ever was or ever will be. So, in light of what Jesus says to these people, how can we substantiate this claim?
First, let’s look at the transparency and authenticity with which Jesus addressed these men. He told them directly that He was homeless. Now by this we don’t mean Jesus “slept on the streets.” In fact, we have record of Him staying in others’ houses.
Instead, Jesus said, “If you want to follow Me you must hold lightly to the things of this world, up to and including where you live.”
Not only that, Jesus had the nerve to tell one man not to attend his father’s funeral! If your Bible has footnotes, you already know the man’s father may not have even been dead yet. In fact, he might have just been asking to go back and receive his inheritance. Either way, Jesus said no!
In Luke’s account, Jesus goes on to tell another man that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. All of this is an affront to our individualistic nature and thus we might be tempted to view it as uncompassionate.
So how can we claim that Jesus was being more compassionate than any human could ever be? In short, it’s because Jesus told the truth.
You’ve probably heard this illustration before, but consider the role of a doctor and you as his patient. If he comes to the realization that you have cancer and he doesn’t deal honestly with you about that diagnosis, he’s not only mean, but he’s also in direct opposition to the ethical standards of his profession.
How much more so is the Creator of the universe and the One with whose image you are stamped? Jesus’ compassion shines clearly through His willingness to deal truthfully with those who seek after Him.
The bottom line for us is that following Jesus is no trivial matter. Many of us were led to believe that accepting Jesus in our hearts or praying a prayer when we were seven years old basically settled the matter between Jesus and us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before we move forward, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Salvation is a gift from God that we do NOTHING to earn or deserve (see Ephesians 2:8-9). God transfers us from light to darkness in an instant when we trust in the saving work of Christ (see Romans 10:9-10, Colossians 1:13-14).
Discipleship, however, is another matter. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He’s honest with us about the cost. He tells us we may not have a steady home. He warns us that precious relationships might be altered. And yes, He often calls us to leave behind vocations or pastimes that are so ingrained in our identity.
As we consider the gift of our salvation, let us not forget the Savior’s call to leave everything behind to follow Him.
- Is it possible that you’re stuck just on the other side of salvation? Have you neglected the call to actually follow Jesus wherever He may lead you?
- As you pursue the journey of discipleship, what things might Jesus be calling you to leave behind?
- If you’ve been following Jesus as a disciple for a while, how are you investing in the lives of other Christians to help them undertake the journey of discipleship?