Scripture reading: Luke 9:57-62.
You must not be surprised by the statement, that while every disciple is a Christian, every Christian is not a disciple. A Christian is one who can say, “My sins are forgiven, my soul is saved, I have life in Christ, and a good hope for the everlasting world.” Yes, and by the grace of God, and through the blood of the atonement all the blessings of true Christianity are his. Now, a believer may readily accept all that, and yet remain indifferent to any response God expects from him. Many persons accept all that Heaven can give, and yet yield neither fruit nor flowers to God in return. A true disciple proposes to himself, “How best may I show my gratitude to God for the lavish bestowal of His grace upon me? I know what I shall do; I shall determine to give Him my love, my devotion, my life, my all.” Do you now see the difference? The acceptance of grace makes one a Christian, but a sense of responsibility makes one a disciple.
Now, in the Scripture reading suggested for this article, we have brought before us three would-be disciples of Christ.
I say “would-be” advisedly because, personally, I do not believe that any of them advanced one foot on the pathway of discipleship. To have light thrown upon the passage, it is well to remember that our Lord’s life was divided into three distinct sections: First, when He was immensely popular, when His Name was upon everybody’s lips, and His fame for the time publicized. Secondly, when, with this fame dwindling somewhat, our Lord was merely patronized and His presence merely tolerated, but nothing more. Last, when, for the sake of a better word, the Master was pauperized, when every body avoided Him, when “He was despised and rejected of men.” Now our narrative has to do with the first of these periods. When, to borrow from Bunyan, “Religion was in golden slippers and the temperature was at white heat.”
The populace became excited and enthused; crowds gathered around the Christ, and great was the tension. Stimulated by the enthusiasm of the gathering, the first young man burst forth, “Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” Carried away by the circumstances, knowing not the full import of what he said, he manifested a zeal not tempered by wisdom. Did he know where Jesus was going? Did he understand anything about Gabbatha and its mockery; Gethsemane and its agony; Golgotha and its excruciating pain? Did he realize that a roadway of anguish lay before the Master? It is obvious that he did not. Yet, Christ, with Divine wisdom, did not extinguish the flame of zeal, but set before him some of the demands in the program of discipleship. The Master that the disciple must follow, in contrast to the beast with its den for a shelter, and the bird with its roosting place on which to spend the night, had no place to lay down and rest His weary head. The statement of the Lord to the young man was so clear, there could not have been any disillusionment at some future date. The young man would never be able to say that he never had understood the price of discipleship to Christ. As the bare facts of the case were presented to him, he had to make the choice, and in a similar manner, so must we. We might well ask are we willing to go the way of privation and sacrifice with Christ? We do not read that this youth followed Jesus in the way.
In the second instance our Lord personally challenged the man, saying, “Follow Me.” The young man seemed willing enough, but his response casts a shadow over the entire proceedings, “Suffer me first.” Now the one who would put himself first can never become a disciple. “God first,” is the motto of all true discipleship. Is not the Lord Himself the leader in this matter; was not the whole directive of His life, God first? Prophetically He could say, “I have put the Lord always before Me.” Moreover, He said, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Mary was the object of His personal thought and care, yet He never permitted her to come between Himself and His Father God. Christ will brook no rival; He must be first and all other later.
To bury his father was a legitimate duty for the young man, but to minister the Word of Life must take precedence over duty to the dead. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).
The third would-be disciple is like the first; spontaneously he also cried out, “Lord, I will follow Thee.” Unfortunately, he also adds, “Let me first.” The same sad mistake was made as he felt the call of home. Let it ever be remembered that the call of Heaven is stronger and higher than any call of earth. Suppose that the Master had put a “Me first,” or a “My house,” before the will of God.
As a corrective the Lord uses the figure of a ploughman. Many a ploughman seeks to win the prize for the straightest furrow. How does he usually do this? He fixes his eye on an immovable object at the other end of the field, and aims his plough directly at it. God must become the immovable object in the life of a believer who would be a humble disciple of the Lord Jesus.
A courtier said to his royal master, “Give me a lesson for life.” “Take this tumbler of water,” said the king, “walk through the fair in the town. I shall send my executioner after you, and if you spill one drop, off will come your head.” The courtier obeyed, and on his return, the king asked, “Whom and what did you see at the fair?” “I saw no one; I saw nothing,” said the man. “Why?” asked his majesty. “Simply because my life was at stake, so I kept my eyes glued to that glass of water.” “That exactly is the lesson,” replied the king. “Your greatest task in life is concentration.”
As disciples we must make Christ the centre of our hearts affections, our motives, and our actions. Like Levi, we must arise and follow Him. “This one thing have I desired of the Lord,” said David. “One thing I do,” said Paul. If we are to be true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, one thing must characterize us, a love that expresses itself in loyalty to the Author and Finisher of faith.