Focal Passage: Luke 9:57-62
How would you define a disciple of Jesus?
For many, a good Christian is someone who has been baptized, attends church, and is a good neighbor. Is this all that it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Today’s focal passage in Luke deals with the true cost of discipleship.
Eduard Schweizer places the focal passage within the context of Jesus’ sense of his imminent death (9:51) and the urgency of sending out those who are to proclaim the Kingdom of God (10:9; The Good News According to Luke, John Knox, 1984, 172).
Moreover, this passage comes between the rejection to show hospitality toward Jesus and his disciples by a Samaritan village (9:53) and the acceptance and joy displayed by the seventy disciples who return from a successful preaching touring where they have gone village-by-village (10:17).
It is within this context of urgency that the call to follow Jesus as a single-focused disciple is being made.
It is this radical call to discipleship that even convinced the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who rejected much of the New Testament, of the authenticity of this passage (Darrell L. Block, Luke 9:51-24:53, Baker, 1996, 975).
Our passage is easily divided into three sections that deal with three potential disciples. All are challenged by Jesus to think outside of the box. The nature of radial obedience is highlighted again and again.
Charles H. Talbert calls the three who each have a dialogue with Jesus “disciples-to-be” (Reading Luke, Smyth & Helwys, 2002, 125). From each dialogue a truth about discipleship is uncovered.
The first dialogue highlights a “spontaneous, enthusiastic offer of unconditioned allegiance” (Joseph A Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX, Anchor, 1981, 834). “Jesus’ sobering answer drives home the gravity of discipleship … he (Jesus) lives the life of a homeless wanderer … even the animals are better off ” (Fitzmyer, 834).
A proverbial-type phrase is used: Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests…” Is one ready to follow Jesus although these may be conditions in which he is called to live?
The second dialogue is initiated by Jesus who simply says, “Follow me” (7:29).
The request for delay is met with an unusually harsh rebuke by Jesus and a second proverbial-type saying: “Let the dead bury their own dead.”
The third dialogue is initiated by an individual who seeks to follow Jesus but asks for leave to say goodbye to his family. With proverb in hand, Jesus again harshly rebukes the would-be disciple.
Talbert states that “these three dialogues…call for an absolute detachment from property and family and for a single-minded devotion to Jesus that perseveres to the end” (Reading Luke, 125).