June 26, 2016

Rev. Mark Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; 1 Kings 19:14-21

Epistle Lesson; Galatians 5:1,


Sermon Text; Luke 9:51-62

The text or portion of scripture we will look at today is taken from Luke chapter nine, verses 51-62. We hear this in our Savior's name.

When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers ahead of Him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for Him. But the people did not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” To another He said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


All right! Let's suppose this is you standing right up here today.(Pastor Mark. We could reword this for the reader, something such as: All right! Let's suppose you are standing right up here, at the front of our church, today.) It is today. It is right now. And, let's imagine outside the doors, if you could make it outside those doors, you would be in Heaven! You would be in the presence of Jesus! You would be free from all of your sins. You would be free from all of your troubles, and all of your pain. You would be in nothing but absolute bliss for all eternity!

So your goal is to get from the front of our church, to outside those doors. But, there is only one way to get there. You cannot get there on your own. The only way you can get there is by following Jesus. Jesus is the only way to get there. He is the only One who can lead you there.

Now, it looks like a pretty broad path, and it looks like a pretty easy way to get from here to there. But, here is my question for you. What if Jesus would lead you through those doors, but not down the church isle, but on a difficult path? What if Jesus would lead so you would have to go under some pews, and get into some pretty humble positions? What if He led you so you had to climb over some pews, and got into some pretty high positions? What if He led you beside some people who were pretty hard to be around? Would you continue to follow Jesus, no matter what, as He leads you on that path to Heaven?

That is what today's text is really about. It is about,

“What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?”

“What does it consist of,

and why is it so important to be a follower of Jesus?”
As you look at today's scripture reading, we discover Jesus had left His Home in Heaven. Think about what He had done! He left His Home in Heaven, and He was on a journey. His journey was to come down to this earth. Which He did. And now, our text says,

“He set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

So, Jesus is on this journey, and He has determined, absolutely, with total commitment, “I am going to Jerusalem”. Six months later, in Jerusalem, He was going to give up everything – everything He had - His life, His glory. He was going to die on the cross to pay for the sins of the world.

Having won the salvation of all people, then our text says it was about time for Him to be taken up. Having won salvation, then Jesus was on His way to Heaven. He ascended into Heaven forty days later, where He is now preparing a place for you. As He prepares a place for you, He is also with you, leading you on the way to Heaven.

So, here Jesus is, with His disciples. It is about six months before He is going to go to the cross. He is now headed right toward the cross. They are following Him. They are following toward Jerusalem, and they are following Him toward the cross. We are going to learn today two things.

       -Number one, what it doesn't mean to follow Jesus, and then,

       -number two, what it does mean to follow Jesus.

As they are following Jesus, they have an option on how to get to Jerusalem. They are in Galilee. They could go through an area called Samaria. But, there is a problem with Samaria. The Jews didn't like the Samaritans, and the Samaritans didn't like the Jews. So, most often, the Jews would travel around Samaria. They wouldn't even go through Samaria. However, Jesus, who certainly had no ill will in His heart at all for the Samaritans, is now taking His disciples through the region of Samaria, as the head for the cross.

Interestingly, the Bible says Jesus sent disciples ahead of Him, followers ahead of Him, to tell Samaritans in a certain village that Jesus was coming. This was probably a small, little village, and Jesus probably had a pretty sizable entourage with Him, since His disciples, and other followers were following Him. I remember one time I was at a McDonald's. I was sitting there with Sherri, and all of a sudden one of the workers say, “Oh no! Here comes a bus!” They knew this big bus load of people were going to come in, and they would have to take care of them all. So, Jesus, we assume sent His disciples ahead of Him to tell this Samaritan village, “There is this big entourage coming, and it is time to get ready, because they are going to need food and man other things.” However, when the disciples got there, the Samaritans in that town, when they heard Jesus was going to Jerusalem, rejected Jesus. They said, “We don't want Him”, because the Samaritans weren't allowed to go into Jerusalem. The people in Jerusalem hated the Samaritans. So, they rejected Jesus.

Now, I want you to see something interesting that happens at this point. There is a mistaken way in which we may have a tendency to think, “This is what it means to follow Jesus”. Two of Jesus' disciples, two of His closest disciples, James and John, were brothers. They had seen Jesus transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration. They had seen Him in His glory, and His power. These two brothers, as followers of Jesus, think to themselves, “I am a follower of Jesus. If Jesus is being rejected by people, then I need to defend Jesus at whatever the cost is”. So they said to Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from Heaven and consume them?”

These people were rejecting Jesus, and James and John thought to be a follower of Jesus means, “I am going to defend Jesus, even if it means somebody has to get hurt in the process”. The Bible says Jesus “rebuked them”. That means He told them they were sinning. Certainly, He called them to repentance.

But, that is not what it means to follow Jesus. Certainly, to follow Jesus,

we do defend His Word,

but we speak the Word in love.

It does not mean we wish hurt, or harm on anyone, no matter who they are, and no matter how they may reject Jesus.

Now, as followers of Jesus, we are going to run into plenty of people, and see many circumstances where people may blatantly reject Jesus. We may see it on bumper stickers. We may see it with whole groups of people who say terrible things about Jesus, and reject Him in terrible ways. Our sinful nature's heart thinks to defend Jesus means, “Man, I wish God would nuke those people” or,“I wish He would cause the person with that bumper sticker to have a car accident, so they would get what was really coming to them.”

That is not what it means to follow Jesus.

Jesus did not want those Samaritans to have fire come down, and consume them. How come? He loved those Samaritans. He loved them so much that He was on His way to the cross to purchase them, to totally commit Himself, and to give everything to pay for their sins.

To be a follower of Jesus means

we love others,

as Jesus loved others.

And, we love the lost, no matter how they reject Jesus, and what they say about Jesus. Our heart is a heart that says, like Jesus,

“I love the lost”.

Then, Jesus goes on, and explains what it does mean, what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He really wants us all to consider the cost involved in being a follower of Jesus.

As you follow Jesus, you are really following Jesus' cross. His cross is where our sins are forgiven. They are paid for. That is where our our salvation is found, on the cross. That is the most important thing to us, because that is the only thing that can get us to Heaven.

(As you follow Jesus, I am going to let this cross be, because really we are following Jesus' cross. His cross is where our sins are forgiven. They are paid for. That is where our salvation is found, on the cross. That is the most important thing to us, because that is the only thing that can get us to Heaven.)

As we follow Jesus in this life, number one, He wants us to consider what the impact may be on our personal possessions. A man came up to Jesus, as He was on His way. The man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus said to that man, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man (talking about Himself) has nowhere to lay His head.”

What Jesus was implying was this. Following Jesus may truly, truly impact your possessions. As we go through this life, the Lord has blessed each of us here with many possessions. Just imagine listing them all out. Your clothes, your shoes, your house, your car, your bike, your X-box, your computers, your sports' equipment, your entertainment and recreational equipment, our bank accounts, and our retirement accounts, you name it . All of those things the Lord has blessed us with. As we follow Jesus, Jesus is telling us that following Him may require loosing some of those things. The question is,

“Is it worth it?”

I will give you a real life example. A couple years ago, if you lived in the town of Mosel, the city of Mosel, in Irac, and you were found to be a Christian, there would have been a “Nun”, the Arabic letter “Nun”, put across your door. It looks like a smiley face, with a single eye. When that mark was put on your door, it stood for “Nazarene”. You were a follower of the Nazarene, a follower of Jesus. Anybody who had that mark on their house, had two options. One option was you leave. You get out of here. You give up your home, and get out of the city. Or, you become a Muslim. A lot of people had to make the choice. Now, what is more important? Following Jesus, or my home? Many, many of them followed Jesus, and left their homes behind.

You may be called on to make sacrifices like that in your life, as you follow Jesus. Some of them may be big sacrifices. Some of them may be hard sacrifices. You may find yourself in a job where you are asked to compromise your faith in one way, or another. At that point, you have to make the decision. “Do I follow Jesus? What if I lose my job, and then I lose my paycheck? I won't have my home, anymore, and I will be on the street. Do I follow Jesus, or are my earthly possessions more important than He is?”

As you follow Jesus, certainly we joyfully, and generously, want to give of our first fruits, our gifts in offerings to the Lord. But, that impacts our other possessions, doesn't it? It may impact the kind of car you can buy, or the kind of house you live in. But, Jesus says that to follow Him may mean, it may mean giving up all of your earthly possessions.

Is it worth it?

Secondly, Jesus saw another man, and Jesus said to this young man (Or, maybe it wasn't a young man. He might have been an older man, I don't know), but He said, “Follow me.” The reason I said, “Young man” is because the man said to Jesus, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

To which Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

Now, that sounds like a hard thing for Him to say. Most Bible commentators believe, Jesus knowing this young man's circumstances, this young man's father probably was not dead, yet. Maybe he was going to live another year, or five years, or ten years. So, this young man was saying, “Jesus, first, before following you, let me take care of my dad, and take care of those things, and then when that is done, then I will come and follow you.”

Following Jesus may impact your dear, dear, earthly relationships. It may even mean, giving up those dear earthly relationships. You know, in some parts of the world, if you grow up in some Hindu parts of the world, or some Muslim parts of the world, and you become a follower of Jesus, you can be totally, totally disowned by your family for the rest of your life.

Is it worth it?

Here in America, sometimes there can the real temptation to say, “Jesus I will follow you, but first, first let me take care of my family. We have fun things to do on the weekend. We have events to go to. We have entertainment activities. We have sports. We have all these other things to do. I have a job to do, and I have to work two jobs to take care of all of these other things. First, Jesus, let me take care of all of those things. Then, once those are taken care of, I will come and follow you.”

Or, it could mean that family, sometimes, wants us to compromise our faith in Jesus. Then we have to make a choice. What is more important, following Jesus, and speaking the truth in love to my family members, even if it means that my loved ones might reject me? They might make fun of me. They might call me stupid. They might not want to spend time with me. What is more important?

Is it worth it?

Then a third said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

That sounds like a reasonable request, doesn't it? But again, Jesus knew this person's heart. And so, here is how Jesus responded. He said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

We don't put our hand to the plow anymore, but what if I was mowing your lawn, with my lawn mower, and while I mowed your lawn, I was looking this way(since the reader cannot see you, perhaps we could reword this something like: I was looking in the opposite direction the whole time.) the whole time. That lawn would not look very pretty, and it could be very problematic.

What if I were trying to follow Jesus, as He led me, but I was following Him this way(I cannot remember what you did here, but the reader needs words to describe your actions. Please change it to compliment your actions that day)? Do you think I would get where I wanted to go? This young man's heart, apparently, was not on following Jesus. He said he was a follower of Jesus, but he was looking back. There was something that was holding his heart, and it was more important to his heart than following Jesus.

There can be lots of things that compete for our hearts. It can be our family. It can be our job. It can be doing fun things with people. It can be having a good reputation. All of those things can compete with following Jesus. But, is it worth giving up all of those things, leaving all of those things behind to follow Jesus?

Is it worth it?

So, is it worth it, and why would you follow Jesus like that in the first place? You have probably all heard this story. Some years ago, there was a little, baby born. He was a little, baby, boy who was born with no ears. Of course, his parents were very concerned, so they talked to the doctor. The doctor did say it would effect his hearing, somewhat.

They asked him, “Can we ever get ears for him from a donor?”

The doctor said, “Yeah you can, but you have to wait, until he becomes mature, and is grown up. So, he will have to go through childhood with no ears.”

You can imagine how heart wrenching that was for Mom and Dad.

So, this little guy grew up with no ears. Sometimes he got made fun of at school. But, they got him through grade school, and high school.

It was then time for him to go to college. By this time he had matured, and the doctor said, “If we can find a donor, we can get ears for him.” Unfortunately, when it came time for him to go off to college, they still had not found a donor for him. So, he went off to college with no ears. His parents were very concerned about him getting made fun of, and people thinking he was weird. But, he went.

About two weeks later, his phone rang in his dorm room. He picked it up, and it was his dad. His dad said, “Son, you have to get home as soon as you can, because the doctors have found a donor for you, and there are some ears here, waiting for you!”

So, the young son got in his car, and got home as fast as he could. They performed the surgery, and he finally had ears! He looked in the mirror, and he had ears! And, he could hear better. It was fantastic.

About a year later, he got an terrible phone call from his dad. His dad says, “Son, I have some horrible news. Your mom was killed in a car accident. You have to come home for the funeral.”

So, the son came home for the funeral. He walked up to the casket, where his mom was, and as he was kissing his mom and crying, he brushed her hair back with his hands only to notice her ears were gone. He then realized she had sacrificed her own ears for him.

That is commitment. But, it is nothing compared to this(What is 'this'? Are you pointing to something? How should we reword this to make sense to the reader?) commitment. Think about what Jesus committed for you. Total commitment. Jesus gave up His ears, His eyes, His hands, His feet, His side, His heart, His soul. Jesus suffered Hell in eternity on the cross. All to purchase you. Not because you deserve it in any way whatsoever. Only because He is loving and gracious. He is our Salvation.

Whoever believes in Jesus

has eternal life.

He loves you so dearly. He has given you the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, and His Word, all because He wants you to be from here to Heaven. He wants you to get to Heaven.

We follow Jesus, not because we have to, not because we are forced to, but because we want to follow Him. We want to follow, wherever He leads. “Jesus, wherever You lead, that is where I want to follow. And Jesus, if You ask me to give up my home, my family, my money, my goods, whatever those may be, I want to stay focused on where You are taking me.” Where the Lord Jesus is taking us, makes everything on this earth pale in comparison to the joys He has waiting for us.

I really love the prayer that the church has called The Collects of the Day. I love The Collect of the Day we prayed earlier today. I am going to end this sermon by having us pray, understanding what Jesus has prepared for us, where He is leading us, and what He has done to make this possible for us. Let us pray,

O God,

You have prepared joys beyond understanding, for those who love you. Pour into our hearts such love for You that loving You above all things we may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives, and reigns with You, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


The Lord be with you, and bless you.