Finding “True” Sweetness, Love!

“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22, NIV)

Get your priorities straight before it’s too late …

Let’s go back and review Matthew 8:18-22 one more time.

This time, we look at the man who is not quick to follow, but slow. He’s preoccupied with other matters. Jesus is not sympathetic or encouraging. Jesus sounds like he’s saying, “This is it, pal. It’s now or never. Forget your family and come with me; get your priorities straight (before it’s too late)!”

What do you think? If you were filming this scene, what would you tell the actor playing Jesus to do? (That’s a good question to ask ourselves when we are trying to mine the scriptures). What facial expressions, tone of voice, attitude should the actor convey?

Clearly the Bible speaks of urgency…

“Today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6). And sincerity; “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 6). But is that the heart of what is happening here?

In essence then, this slow man was saying, “I have prior commitments that are important and I have to honor them, as long as they take.” Even more surprising then that Jesus dispenses with these excuses. So much for “Honor thy father and thy mother,” we might think.

Others would say this is Jesus pointing out that the “good is often the enemy of the best,” or “we are blinded best by good intentions.” True! But if we factor in Jesus being both wise and kind, we might also hear him saying to us:

“You have many choices, many opportunities to serve. Many of those activities do not require my help, my guidance – just good human behavior on your part. Consider instead that I’m trying to lead you to something beyond that; beyond being normal and respectable. Let the dead, the spiritually dead or disinterested, do what is normal, what is typical ‘good’ behavior(s). You are capable of something else; come and see! See what following me really means. To do that, you will have to say ‘no’ to a lot; including a lot of ‘good’ things. Are you ready for that? Is that what you want?”

Jesus knows that we will not stay the course…

… if we follow him for principally selfish or hidden motives. Mixed motives he can tolerate; that we want to get something out of following him is obvious. Jesus uses that to appeal to people! He knows we are hungry, angry, lonely and tired! Of course that motivates us to follow him. But when we are self-deceived, we will bail when the journey fails to meet our true expectations. He is trying to give the blind sight here, to take the mud out of our eyes.

This is the “great physician” trying to give us enough information to make an informed decision about our treatment plan. This is the carpenter telling us that a strong foundation costs a lot more than a shoddy one. This is the drill sergeant letting us know that our decisions can affect an entire platoon; that lives may be at stake. So we better be as sure as we can be that we want in.

One last movie analogy…

… this time from The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring. You recall that once Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin get the ring to Rivendell, they believe their mission is complete. Then in the circle of diverse heroes they hear what the real goal is and they watch as the gathered stars debate taking it on.

No one steps forward.

No one buckles up. Then, in a dramatic moment, Frodo (and Sam, of course) step forward. Then the others commit. Finally, Merry and Pippin, with no more true awareness of the danger awaiting them than we sense in our own lives, commit to this band of brothers.

Their motivation? Love for Frodo!

Was that enough? Yes! Because it was based in something true. That may be what the Lord is looking for… not one universal motivation (a hunger for God, a thirst for righteousness, a hatred of injustice or evil, a compassion for the lost and so on), but at least one true one. That is enough.

Lord, help us follow you truly.

For now, consider these questions:

  • What would Jesus say to me?
  • How different do I want to be? What’s holding me back?
  • Where am I too slow to respond (because I’m trapped or enamored with something or someone else; including duty or moral goodness itself)?
  • In the midst of all your mixed motives, can you find one true one that spurs you on to follow Jesus with abandon?

Peace,

Bill

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