“To another [Jesus] 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’” (Luke 9:59-60).
As Jesus’ popularity increased, people began wanting to follow Him. The Gospel of Luke records three instances where Jesus spoke with three different people about the opportunity to follow Him and what that would mean for them.
The first person took the initiative, coming to Jesus and declaring that he would follow Him wherever He led. Jesus, however, knew better than that. He informed the man that this was not an easy life. “‘Foxes have holes,’” He said, “‘and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (9:58). In other words, following Jesus would mean being homeless. There would be little to no material comforts involved.
Jesus called the second person, inviting him to come follow Him. But this man had an excuse: he had to first bury his father. This likely does not mean that his father had just died; rather, he was asking if he could wait until his father died before following Jesus. He wanted to make sure everything was in order at home—and likely with his inheritance—before he followed Jesus. Jesus replied that the dead should bury their own dead. This living man’s concern should be spreading the news of the kingdom of God.
Finally, the third person declared that he would follow Jesus, if only he could first go and say goodbye to his loved ones. Jesus gave him a firm ultimatum: “‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (9:62). That is to say, this man’s heart could not be divided between Jesus and his home. If he wanted to follow Jesus, he would have to leave behind those whom he loved.
Jesus never recruited anyone on false pretenses. Whenever He called someone, or in the rarer cases when someone asked to join Him, He always told them exactly what would be required of them. Many times, following Jesus means we’ll have to give up everything that we love the most. “‘If anyone comes to me,’” Jesus stated, “‘and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple’” (Luke 14:26). Following Jesus is hard. But it’s what we’re all called to do.