St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Lord’s Advice For His Workers

Sermon on Luke 9:57-62

Text: 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.”

Before you begin a task, you want to know certain things about it. How long is it going to take me? What will I be required to do? What are the benefits? These questions especially apply to a job. We want to learn as much about a job as we can before we say that we will do it. You and I have a job to do every day of our lives. We all serve the same person, and that is Jesus Christ. Before we serve, we should learn what Jesus requires of his workers. Let us today rededicate ourselves to the work of Jesus. Listen to THE LORD’S ADVICE FOR HIS WORKERS. He wants us to 1. Realize What This Will Cost, 2. Know What Must Come First, and 3. Always Look Ahead.

Our text begins as Jesus and his disciples were walking down a road. Suddenly, out of the blue, a man came up to Jesus and said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This man’s faith moved him to go to Jesus and pledge his life in service to the Lord. He was ready to start right now, following Jesus wherever he went. We would have to admire this man. He was convinced that Jesus was a great teacher. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit had even led him to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Whatever his faith, he did not just sit on it. He acted on it. He would follow Jesus wherever he went. No sacrifice was too great. Yes, you have to admire a person like that.

Yet, Jesus wanted this man to realize something. He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Note that Jesus did not refuse this man. Jesus did not say that the man could not follow him. However, Jesus did want the man to know what he was getting himself into. Those who would follow Jesus could not be concerned with a beautiful home, a big salary and earthly comforts. While Jesus was on the earth, he was constantly moving from place to place. He had no home to call his own. He had very little in the way of earthly possessions. Those who would follow him would experience the same sort of things. Jesus did not refuse the man’s offer, but he wanted him to carefully consider the cost of following Jesus.

So also, my friends, let us realize that following Jesus is not always glamorous. We want to follow Jesus. We want to do what is pleasing to him, and Jesus is happy to have us dedicate our lives to his service. However, he also wants us to realize what it may cost. It may mean giving up something we have become attached to. It may mean being passed over, because we want to do what Jesus wants us to do. It may mean fewer earthly possessions, because we refuse to lie or cheat to get ahead. Jesus asks us, ‘Are you willing to give up some of the comforts for a difficult task?’

At the time of our United States’ Civil War, we are told that many young men joined the army, as if going to war meant nothing more than taking part in parades and reviews and receiving medals and honor. Many of them received a rude awakening the first time they stepped out onto a battle field. All of the glamor was gone and the stark realities of the task lay before them. Jesus does not want the same thing to happen to us. He does not sugar coat the task at hand. He does not portray service to him as a cakewalk. He tells us very plainly that working for him means hard work. What will it cost us? It will cost us everything as we give ourselves completely to his work. We do not know if the first man followed Jesus to the end. We pray that we will remain faithful to him.

We now turn our attention to a second man. This time Jesus turned to him and said, “Follow me.” Jesus personally called this man to be a follower. This man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” This would seem to be a reasonable request. To show respect for the parent who had died would certainly seem to be in order. This man told Jesus that he would follow him, after he had buried his father.

However, Jesus could look into the heart of this man. He knew that the man was offering an excuse as to why he could not follow. Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Jesus told the man that those who were spiritually dead, those who had not come to faith, could take care of the burial. This call, however, was to be accepted immediately. He was to, at that moment, begin to tell others about Jesus. Jesus was teaching this man about the order of importance, what must come first. Serving the Lord required a wholehearted and undivided attention. This man was torn between his family and service to the Lord.

So Jesus also wants us to remember what must come first in our lives. Service to him is our whole life. He is to always receive the utmost attention. There are many things that will try to get in the way. Many times we feel torn between Christ and these things. For example, look in the family. There are times when people in our own families are doing something that is contrary to what God wants us to do. Now we’re faced with a situation. We do not want to hurt their feelings. ‘Perhaps, if I tell them, they will become angry with me.’ We might be tempted to keep quiet. Yet, Jesus reminds us, as he did this man, that service to him is to be of first importance. Everything else, including family, is to come after that. Yet, you say, ‘It is not easy to tell someone else that they are sinning.’ Remember, Jesus said it would not always be easy when he spoke with the first man. You may make someone angry if you tell them that they are sinning. Yet, that is the price you must bear, if you are going to be a follower. We do not go looking for trouble, but if we see sin, we must approach that person with it. As it says in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” What is the purpose? “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Let us serve the Lord wholeheartedly, with our undivided attention. This is what Jesus expects of his workers.

After Jesus finished speaking to this man, a third man came to Jesus and said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Another man came to Jesus and volunteered his services. There was, however, one matter he wanted to settle first. He wanted to go home and say good-by to his family. Again, this sounds like a reasonable enough request. We see Elijah allow Elisha to do the same thing in our Old Testament lesson. What could be wrong with this request?

Jesus could look into this man’s heart and he said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” If a person keeps looking all around as he plows, his furrows will be anything but straight. They will wander all over the field. If you want to plow a straight row, you must keep looking ahead. Jesus saw that, if this man went home, he might have been persuaded to not follow Jesus. His desire might have been diminished, if he returned home. This man was not ready to give himself to the work of the Lord. He kept looking back home. Other things were distracting him. He needed to look ahead.

Sometimes the devil will try to distract us from service to Jesus, as well. He puts all of those temptations along the way to entice us to give up following Jesus. Over here, he puts some easy money that could be gained, if we lie or cheat. Over there, he puts a situation where we hide our Christianity in order not to offend someone, or just to fit in. There are many distractions, but Jesus tells us to keep our eyes focused straight ahead. We put on the blinders of the Bible and keep looking to Jesus as our source of strength. If we allow ourselves to become distracted, Jesus says, we are not fit for service. May the Lord keep us focused on him as we serve him.

This morning, we have talked about the work of the Lord. We have seen that it is hard work. It will not always make us popular. It may mean having to give up something that the rest of the world says that we need. It is a self-sacrificing love. The rewards in this life may be few and far between. Why in the world, then, would anyone want to do this type of work for Jesus? Why would I put myself under this type of burden? These are legitimate questions. Remember, as we said earlier, before we begin a task, we want to thoroughly explore it and its implications. Why would anyone in their right mind put themselves through that sort of labor?

The reason is really quite simple and it is found on the cross and in the empty tomb. Jesus Christ suffered for all of my sins. He faced the torments of hell for me. He paid for every single one of my sins, even those times when I have not served God as I ought to have done. He died to wash away my sins and he rose from the dead to show his victory over sin, death and the devil. He won salvation for people. He further showed love for me by sending the Holy Spirit to create the faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior in my heart, which saves me. He has done everything for me. I ask him, ‘How can I thank you?’ He tells me, ‘Serve me.’ I gladly undergo the labor on this earth because I know that I am serving Jesus. When I think of all that Jesus has done for me, it is no longer hard work, but a labor of love.

I, also, work hard because I know of the retirement plan that God has waiting for his laborers. Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We will be fully at rest from all of our labors in heaven. If we must struggle now, we know that it will all be gone in heaven. We keep working toward that goal. We do not earn heaven by our work, for that has already been accomplished by Jesus. We will rest from all of our labors in heaven, and yet we will continue to serve our loving God for all eternity. Finally, we will be able to serve him without the taint of sin, as he deserves to be served. Meanwhile, we continue to serve him on this earth. Let us remember what it will cost, that it will not always be easy. Let us remember who is to come first in our lives and let us continue to keep our eyes focused straight ahead. The task will not always be easy, but, to borrow the old slogan from the Peace Corps, it will be “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” Amen.