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. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then 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, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 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 a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Wow, Jesus is already starting to look towards His death and prepare Himself for it, and we still have 15 chapters to go! He is so preoccupied with it, in fact, that the Samaritans turn Him away. (Which is another big stumbling block for those poor disciples, did you notice?) And it is often when Jesus is looking toward death that He gives some of His most difficult commands. “You will have no true home if you follow Me.” “You cannot wait to get your family affairs in order if you follow Me.” “No, you cannot even look back at the life you’ve left behind!”
That’s the hardest one for me, personally, when He tells the man that he can’t even say goodbye to His family. It was so hard to comprehend that I decided to look a little bit more into it. Because I had learned once before that the man asking to bury his father was actually waiting for his father to die to collect his inheritance. Maybe there is something like that going on in this case, too, I thought. Sure enough, a brief internet search assures me that it’s more complicated. This man doesn’t want to just go home and kiss his mother goodbye. He wants to go and settle his affairs, maybe even discuss the decision to follow Jesus with friends and family. He’s not talking about half an hour, he’s talking about a few weeks, maybe longer. Even so, it’s hard to imagine myself literally dropping everything to follow Jesus. Bills unpaid, boss un-notified, no forwarding address for a worrying mother. It’s the kind of thing you think about people doing when they’re afraid of the mafia, not when they’re following Jesus.
But Jesus’s point is that you can’t follow God when your eyes are set on the world. When God calls you to do something, He doesn’t want you to wait for the “right time.” Imagine if Noah had done that, and then not finished the ark in time! God’s time is the right time, but if you’re too busy worrying about your own time, you might not see it.