Moving Forward Not Backward|“Example of Focus”
51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:51-62
So much of Jesus’ life and ministry, hinges on what we see in Luke 9:51, which says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up,” That is, returned to heaven. This is after his death, burial, resurrection, ascension that he ultimately would be taken back up to heaven where he had come from as God. “He,” Jesus, “set his face to go toward Jerusalem.”
For Jesus, this is that day. That day is the day when you stake your claim, “This is who I am, this is where I’m going, and this is what I’m doing. I’m resolute in this decision. I cannot be dissuaded. I am committed to see this through to completion.”
And he is going to Jerusalem, and this is for the purpose of his crucifixion. This is Jesus, setting his eyes ultimately toward the cross, where he would go to atone for the sins of the world, dying in our place for our sins as our Savior and God.
Today we’ll see one people group, the Samaritans, and then three individuals, and how they respond and react to Jesus.
So the first thing we learn is there’s a group called the Samaritans, and they have their tribe before Jesus, and it has to be Jesus before tribe.
Luke 9:52 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
Now let me explain to you Samaria. These people were kind of Jews. They had intermarried with pagans, and they established their own temple, their own Bible, their own religion, their own theology, and their own pastors. And the Jews didn’t know what to do with these people, so what would happen is, as God’s people journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem, they would just walk around Samaria.
And so Jesus doesn’t walk around Samaria, he walks through Samaria, and he sends messengers ahead of him, and here’s why. A lot of these towns are very small, dozens, hundreds of people. And Jesus is with quite a large entourage. It’s him, plus the twelve plus the seventy plus, and been able to find him and come along for the ride. So you’re looking at, I don’t know, eighty, a hundred plus people. And if you’re a village of forty or sixty people, you don’t have a Hotel.
So messengers would be sent in advance, “Hey, Jesus is coming. There are a lot of us. Do you guys have any food to eat or place to sleep, or is there a way we could purchase supplies and take care of the ministry team around Jesus, the apostles (kind of like his pastors), the seventy (kind of like his deacons)?” They’d say, “No, we can’t accommodate that many.” “Okay, then we need to roll into the next town, and we need to figure out where we’re going to lodge, and how we’re going to feed people, and make preparations.”
So they roll into Samaria, “Jesus is coming and here’s what’s going on.” And the Samaritans said, “You know what? We really don’t want Jesus, because if he’s determined to go to Jerusalem, that mean he’s not going to validate our tribe.” See, the Samaritan people were a religious group, a political group, a racial group, a cultural group, a social group. They were a tribe. They were like people who, today, have all of their life and identity wrapped up in some tribe or grouping.
They said, “Well, we’re willing to have Jesus, providing he joins our tribe. He needs to validate our theology. He needs to go to our temple. He needs to support our leaders. He needs to reinforce our theology. He can’t go to Jerusalem. That would show the world that Jerusalem, and not Samaria, is where God wants to begin his redemptive work. That would show that their interpretation of the Bible is right and ours is wrong. Rather than repenting, we’ll reject Jesus.” And what they do is they put their tribe above Jesus. They’re willing to have Jesus, providing he will support them, and he won’t.
Let me ask you, what is your tribe? Who’s your group? What’s your identity?
And the truth is this is how a lot of people work. They want Jesus in their tribe on their terms, and he comes and says, “No, I’m God. You don’t tell me to follow you, I tell you to follow me. I don’t join your team, you join mine.” You say, “I like Jesus, and I’m totally fine with him, providing he does what I tell him, providing he supports what I already believe.”
But what if Jesus doesn’t support your political party, your cause?
This is why even religions like to try and stick Jesus on their team.
And when this message gets to the Samaritans, they’re like, “He’s going to Jerusalem, and he wants us to follow him? We have a totally different agenda and ideology. Jesus can either submit to us or leave.” They lose the blessing of enjoying friendship, fellowship with Jesus.
Some of you have done that. You say, “I’m fine with Jesus, as long as he doesn’t act like he’s God, Lord, in charge.”
Please don’t do that. The Samaritans did. God came to earth, walked through Samaria, the place where nobody else wanted to go. He extended a hand of friendship, and they rejected it.
So two of his disciples decide, “Let’s call fire down from heaven,”
Now I’ll tell you what I like about this, these guys don’t lack confidence. They just think, “We can just call down fire from heaven,” which that’s sort of a big assumption. They don’t even tell Jesus, “Hey, we think you should call down fire from heaven.”
Jesus says, essentially, this: “It’s not time.” Right, there is a season, a time for condemnation, but this is a season and time for salvation. Jesus is saying, “Look, I’m going to Jerusalem. I’m going to die on a cross. I’m going to suffer. I’m going to atone for sin. You guys can come back to Samaria,
See, as long as you’re alive, there’s a chance, and yeah, the Samaritans blew their opportunity. They didn’t have a right sense of urgency, but Jesus is not to be dissuaded.
As he’s continuing his journey, we then see three people come up and have very interesting conversations with Jesus, and like the Samaritans, each has this error of putting someone or something ahead of Jesus, and they’re happy to have Jesus provided he’s in second place. As long as he’s not first priority, as long as he’s not first treasure, first love, first commitment, he’s welcome to be somewhere in the list of priorities, but not in front.
And so we see this with a man who has comfort before Jesus. And the truth is, it’s always Jesus before comfort.
Luke 9:57–58, 57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Before you sign up to follow me, let’s make it clear that it’s not going to be easy. I’m a homeless guy whose flat broke, going to get crucified. You ready to sign up to follow me wherever I go?
See, some of you, you live under this myth that if you walk with Jesus, everything’s going to be great. However, it’s not always great in the since that its easy but God gives you the peace, strength and grace you need to walk with Him.
Secondly, another man comes to him, and his issue is that he has security before Jesus, and it’s always Jesus before security.
Luke 9:59–60, 59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
Now these next two guys, they’re going to use the same language. They’re both going to say, “Jesus, I want follow you, but first, let me do this.” What they’re saying is, “Jesus, I want following you to be my second priority.
So what is going on here? Well, let me give you some cultural background that I think the original hearers would have understood the context in a way that we don’t.
In that day, it was very much expected of children to honor their mother and father, based upon the Ten Commandments’ exhortation to do so. And as your parents got older, you’re supposed to look after and care for them. And as they were dying, you were definitely supposed to be there for them. And when they died, there were very strict and orchestrated procedures by which you were to prepare their funeral and their burial, certain music and meals and gatherings and clothing and wailers; and this is a big event. This encompasses the family. This takes days. The whole neighborhood, the whole village is invited. This is a very big deal.
And what I can infer from that is that when he says, “Jesus, I totally want to follow you, but first, let me go bury my dad,” number one, his dad’s not dead or even dying. If his dad were dying, where would he be? With his dad. If his dad were dead, where would he be? At the funeral, overseeing the affairs of the family. Or asking Jesus to heal him.
And for that man, I believe, it is security over Jesus. He wants the approval of his family, and he wants his inheritance more than Jesus. And it has to be Jesus above security.
How about you? See, some of you are like that, you’re like, “I will totally, wholeheartedly, passionately follow Jesus once I’m out of college. And I would ask you, what security is more important for you than Jesus?
Lastly, another guy comes to him, and he wants to have the past in front of Jesus, and it is always Jesus before our past.
Luke 9:61–62, 61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Now, in this instance, this man says to Jesus, I want to go home, and I want to talk to my family, and I want to let them know.”
Jesus knows this man’s heart. We’ve seen repeatedly that Jesus knew their thoughts or Jesus knew their heart. He knows what’s going on.
He knows if this guy goes back, he’s never; he’s never going to move forward.
See, some of you are like that, you’re like, “Oh, but before I go forward, I want to go back.” You know, “I want to go back to the frat and finish off my year. I want to go back to my buddies and go do stupid things and drink some more. I want to go back to my old lifestyle. I want to go back to sleeping with those people. I want to go back to those proclivities, back to that spiritual—I want to go back for a little bit, hang out in that lifestyle and, yeah, then I’m going to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus.” “No, don’t go back, you’ll never go forward.”
But Jesus is our Example
Jesus has got his hand on the plow. He’s got his face set toward Jerusalem, that’s what we read, and he is just pressing forward to the cross. He’s not looking back. He’s not saying, “Boy, I remember when my life was easier. I remember when I didn’t get criticized. I remember before I started preaching and teaching publicly and casting out demons, boy, the good ole days.” He doesn’t look back at all. It’s forward to the cross.
And Jesus plows his row in a straight line, and he picks up this analogy and he says, “Your life is like a field, and God has apportioned to you a row to plow. And you need to put your hand on the plow, and you need to set your eyes toward the New Jerusalem that will be coming down out of heaven,” the one the ascended Jesus is preparing for us right now. And just like he plowed a straight line right into Jerusalem, we need to plow a straight line right into the New Jerusalem, and not be looking back.
Eyes forward, hands on the plow, feet always moving, working hard, doing our best till we see him face-to-face. And what he says is, “If you don’t do that, you’ll take your hand off the plow. You’ll stop plowing or you’ll look back.” What he says is, “You can’t plow a straight row looking back, you can’t.” It’s a great analogy.