Weekly Bible Devotional
“You Were Made for a Miracle: Miracles Come with a Cost”
March 8, 2020
Scripture for Sunday: Luke 9:57-62
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 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.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home. 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Notes on the Text:
In our Bible story from Luke 9, Jesus is focused on heading to Jerusalem. This was the culmination of his ministry. There was no turning back at this point. He knew of the great resistance he was going to face there and knew about the importance of being grounded and committed to the mission. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus encountered three would-be disciples/followers. But their level of commitment was not up to what was needed for the task ahead. The first one was eager and wanted to follow, but the potential risk for him was too high. Jesus was not trying to scare this enthusiastic man away. He was simply trying to describe the reality of the cost of following him into Jerusalem. He wanted him to think twice before joining the movement. Even the wild animals have some comforts which the followers of Jesus don’t. The path of Jesus is that of downward mobility and most people would rather not go there because it seems like a great threat to one’s security. Earlier in the chapter which we covered last week, we heard about the training Jesus had for disciples by sending them out to the villages while being completely reliant on others. They had a firsthand experience of what it meant to be powerless. This reminds me of the nonviolence training of the Civil Rights activists. Before facing the great resistance, the activists had to go through a rigorous training in order to tame their instincts for violence and fear. This would-be disciple didn’t have the advantage of such training to transform his need for power and for security.
The second man Jesus encountered on the road had potential. Jesus directly invited him to follow him. But the man had an important duty. He had to go and bury his father, and, in that culture, that would have taken days of mourning and rituals. This was and still is a big deal for any of us. Imagine if you had to make the choice between taking care of your family or following Jesus! Even Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, seemed to be more understanding than Jesus. In Genesis 50:6, when Joseph asked for time off to go bury his father, Pharaoh granted it. Yet, Jesus seemed to not allow for such an excuse. There was no room on the journey to Jerusalem for delays to take care of personal obligations.
The third man Jesus encountered on the road also wanted to follow Jesus, but he wanted some time to say goodbye to his family. Again, we may think, “another reasonable request.” Saying goodbye in that culture would have been an elaborate affair that would have caused a major delay. Jesus didn’t have time for that in light of the urgency of the situation at hand.
In all three cases, Jesus seemed to be a little too demanding of these would-be followers. Writer and preacher Fred Craddock summarized Jesus’ responses this way, “One who has set his face like a firm stone to go to Jerusalem has no bargains to offer.” Jesus knew about all the excuses and distractions of life and wanted disciples who were willing to commit their whole beings to the mission at hand.
I think the deeper meaning of these three encounters is about what Jesus understood about our tendency to avoid doing the hard work of letting go of our comforts and securities. He knew that at first people were eager to follow him but were not deep enough in their letting go of power to fully follow him. Churches are sometimes guilty of sugarcoating or ignoring the demands of discipleship. We could get caught up in believing that religion is just a side activity, much like a hobby, that makes us feel better or be better in society. We make excuses for not taking the time and energy for contemplative prayer, worship, and sacrificial service. Sometimes we don’t even take the teachings of Jesus about powerlessness and radical love seriously enough. We don’t let God in on our cultural predispositions toward violence, hate, fear, and greed. Therefore, we often miss out on the best part of following Jesus. This is like trying to run a marathon by going to the gym once a week or giving up bad food for a day or two a month. Then we wonder why things are not being transformed in our lives. Spiritual maturity and depth do not come from living by the values of the culture around us and then sprinkling some faith on our lives.
Living into the powerlessness which we talked about last week where miracles abound, comes at a cost. It changes our priorities, schedules, relationships, and how we use our resources. We have to go into extreme discomfort (way outside of our comfort zones) before we can release the illusions of our lives. It takes a lot of courage to pause and to look deeply at one’s life and assumptions.
So how do we let go of the things that seem to get in the way of our ability to live as followers of the way of life? In the Christian tradition, prayer is the discipline that helps us to let go of the demands and fears of our ego. The deeper our prayer life is, the more joy we find in life, even when the circumstances might be tough or scary. Contemplative prayer is not about attaining great spiritual powers. It is instead about learning to release the things that hinder our souls from growing and flourishing.
Wherever you are on the path, know that God is with you. What is important to remember is that this is not about some spiritual hierarchy. This is not about earning God’s love. It is instead about learning to enjoy God’s loving presence. Miracles abound when we are able to live out of that sense of abundance and love. We just need to show up and trust that the challenges of letting go of the values and ways of the world will ultimately be for our greater healing. Pray that God may give you the courage to move beyond the distractions, the excuses, and the fears that hold you back from embracing the great miracle of your life in the way of Christ.
“When I need to do something scary” Prayer by Arianne Lehn:
I know I need to take
this courageous next step,
but the vulnerability paralyzes me.
The status quo is unsustainable,
yet I grasp for its hollow promises of
safety and stability.
If I don’t do the thing I know I must,
my soul will shrivel.
But if I do?
Thick insecurities cloak me, God,
with questions I’m afraid to answer:
Who am I to think I can do this?
Who am I to speak up and out?
Who am I to say you’ve directed me
out of the boat and onto these waves?
My fear of others thwarts me, God,
with sinister scoffs and prickly judgment.
What if they don’t believe me?
What if they judge me?
What if they think I’m ridiculous,
or arrogant, or selfish?
What if I fail?
What if I’m a fool?
Fatalism is my forte.
You promise, God, you’re the Great I AM –
the one who will be with me
as I face this scary step,
and the next one after that.
You’ll patiently prod
as I restlessly doubt.
you’re simply inviting me
to say yes to this first step.
Dissipate the power of
my “who am I’s” as I hear your voice,
my “what if they’s” as I see your face,
my “what if I’s” as I feel your hand.
Make my feet follow my breath, God –
exhaling what was needed before,
inhaling what’s asked of me now.
Keep me walking forward,
courageous albeit shaky.
Give me trust and faithfulness
as my guardrails.
Here we go.