Imagine that you are one of Jesus’s closest disciples. Which one doesn’t matter. But you’re one of the twelve, and you’ve given up everything to follow Jesus. You’ve given up your job, you’ve left your family behind, you’ve left all means of support, and you are now totally dependent upon Jesus and other believers to see you through. And in addition to these things, Jesus is constantly telling you, that this is how it should be to be a true follower of him. Indeed, the only way to follow him, is to leave everything behind and follow him.
But it isn’t that simple either. Because side by side with that, you are constantly faced with people who are half-hearted in their faith, who only pay lip service to the demands of Jesus, and who don’t take it seriously at all. They say the right words, but they don’t really mean them. And, what’s more, you are constantly meeting people who are telling you how stupid you are for giving up everything and devoting yourself totally to Jesus. That you’re some kind of religious nut, that you’ve got everything out of perspective, and that religion doesn’t have to be taken to such extremes.
Now imagine that you’re one of Jesus’ disciples. On the one hand, Jesus is telling you that you’ve done the right thing. And, indeed, what he demands means you need to go a whole lot further. But on the other hand, there are all these pressures to conform.
So, what do you do? Do you continue to follow Jesus in the full-on way he demands, or do you buckle to the pressure to conform to the expectations of others?
B. DON’T WORRY/BE WATCHFUL
Well, something like that was exactly what the disciples faced in this passage from Luke. Because the story shows the disciples in that kind of tension. The disciples were beginning to waiver, wondering if indeed they had done the right thing in leaving everything behind and dedicating themselves so totally to following Jesus. But Jesus was aware of what they were going through. So he took them aside, and not only gave them some words of encouragement but gave them some words of warning as well.
1. Earthly Possessions or Heavenly Treasure (32-34)
Now the dilemma the disciples faced was that they were only too conscious that their faith had made them vulnerable. Their total separation from the things they had previously known and loved, and their total dependence upon Jesus, meant that they now had to rely on someone else for their wellbeing. They’d left all the things they would have normally depended upon behind. And now all they had was a trust in this godly man they were following. But was that enough?
As a consequence Jesus’s response was directed to how they were feeling. He assured them they were doing the right thing, that they were not to be concerned about their situation, because whilst worldly things appeared to be things upon which one could depend, nothing could be further from the truth. And, further, he assured them, the Father wanted to give them the blessings of the kingdom. And he could only do that if they remained steadfast in their faith, and dependent upon him.
Indeed, Jesus responded, that rather than their current level of commitment being wrong or overboard or fanatical, their level of commitment was exactly what was required of every believer. And the new attitude that they should have to earthly possessions, should not only be to leave them physically behind, but to go further in terms of using them to help the poor. That was the implication of their new found faith.
Pursuing the spiritual life, as they had done, and a life devoted to the kind of things that couldn’t be stolen, couldn’t be corroded, and couldn’t be eaten by moths, was the very thing on which they should hold firm.
So, Jesus stated, the disciples had a choice: Yes, they could cave in, and return to their past ways. A past that was marked by their dependence upon their own possessions and the things they could do for themselves. A decision which could well mean a relatively quiet kind of life, a life where they weren’t required to rock the boat, and a life where they would be at peace with those who thought that religion was either unnecessary or a nasty disease. Or, alternatively, they could stand firm, and they could keep following Jesus wherever he took them.
Yes! It would be a life that wouldn’t be easy. It would be a life which involved many trials and much opposition. But if they pursued that spiritual path, their hearts and their affections would be directed in the right way. And, most importantly, their hearts would continue to be focused on God.
As far as Jesus was concerned, the two attitudes were mutually exclusive. You couldn’t have part of one and part of the other. Nor did Jesus say, “OK, I understand you’re all different, and you all need to fit somewhere between these two extremes.” No! He never said anything like that. What he said to his disciples was, “You either follow me full on, or you’re not really followers of me at all.”
And, consequently, in the tension that the disciples faced, in the wavering between following him, reverting to a previous lifestyle, or buckling under pressure to conform, Jesus’s message to them was simple, “You’ve done the right thing”.
2. Being Prepared/Unprepared for The Second Coming (35-40)
But having assured the disciples that they were on the right track, lest they still be tempted to revert to some sort of casual faith, Jesus then raised the discussion to a whole new level. A level where compromise between saying the right things and having one’s feet still entrenched in the material world was clearly not an option at all.
And he raised the discussion to what was required in terms of the need to prepare oneself for Judgement Day. And he told the disciples that they needed to prepare for Judgement Day in two ways:
Firstly, they needed to continue their spiritual journey. In other words, they shouldn’t look back, cave into pressures to conform, or think glowingly about the past with the temptation to return to the tried and true. No! They’d come this far and that was good. But what they needed to do now was to gather themselves and go on with the journey, no matter where that journey would take them.
And secondly, they needed to be prepared for that journey to be even tougher that what they’d already experienced. A journey where the pressures that they’d faced to return to their old lives—to stop being so religious and to compromise their faith—would be even stronger than what they had already faced.
And to really press the point home, Jesus told them a story about some servants whose master had gone to a wedding feast (and in those days wedding feasts could go one for several days). As a consequence, there would be an expected delay before the servants would see their master again. Nevertheless the servants still needed to be ready, awake, and alert at all times for their master’s return. And if they could do that, then when the master returned, he would reward them for their faithfulness.
In other words, what Jesus was saying was that, only those who remained faithful in this life, and kept themselves in a constant state of readiness . . . Well, only those people in the end, at his second coming, would be rewarded, and invited to join in the heavenly banquet. However, those who weren’t ready when the second coming came . . . Well, those people who don’t make proper use of the time available, will be excluded from the meal, and indeed excluded from the kingdom of God itself.
With the pressures that the disciples faced to conform, or to revert to their previous lifestyles, Jesus’s message was that not only should the disciples not buckle under pressure—to revert to their former lives and to water down their faith—but they needed to pursue their faith even further. Indeed, they needed to prepare themselves for the coming of the Son of Man, when they would have to account for themselves come Judgement Day.
Of course, Jesus’s calls on his disciples were demanding, very demanding. And one could easily ask, “Why did Jesus demand such a strong response?”
Well, the answer is simple, Jesus was looking for genuine commitment, with the implication that anything less is not a commitment at all. In other words for Jesus, there is no room for any half-hearted responses.
The disciples may have given up everything—and were probably seen as ultra-religious or even fanatics by many people—and yet Jesus didn’t see them as being fanatical at all. On the contrary he encouraged them to pursue the path they were taking much further.
And of course, this is where we came in. Because it’s very easy to think, “Yes, that was OK for the disciples back then, but the world’s changed, people have moved on.” But whilst to some extent that is true, the world has changed, the call to discipleship that the disciples faced, is just same as the call which we all face today. And that means that just as the disciples had choices to make between following Jesus or living a more normal lifestyle, so do we. And, just as the early disciples didn’t find the Christian walk easy, neither will we.
1. Earthly Possessions or Heavenly Treasure
After all, we all face temptations to buckle under pressure.
We face the pressure to depend upon the things that we know and the things that we really don’t want to leave behind, to cave in to the demands of others, particularly regarding our own stand on the Christian faith. We may face pressure from our own family and friends, discouraging us from going to church and encouraging us to water down our faith and to compromise our stand. And that’s because some people may see us as being too religious, too fanatical.
But side by side with that, we also have the ongoing demands of Jesus to be totally committed as far as our own discipleship is concerned.
These are the choices the original disciples faced. And these are the choices that we face too.
2. Being Prepared/Unprepared for the Second Coming
And, hand in hand with that, we have the perspective of the Second Coming to consider as well. Because, we may live in the temporary period when the master is absent—the short time (in God’s eyes) between the Ascension of Jesus and his Second Coming—but what we do with that time is very important.
So, we have choices in that regard too. And we need to ask ourselves, not just, “Have we adopted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour,” but, “Are we going on with our faith? Are we preparing ourselves now for Jesus’ second coming? If he came back in ten years’ time, next week, or even today, would we be ready? And would we be invited to join in the meal with him or will we be taken totally by surprise? Will we be prepared? Or will not be prepared at all, and consequently excluded from the banquet and excluded from the presence of God himself.”
The Christian faith is an interesting faith, because as far as Jesus was concerned, there was no room for compromise. You either believed or you didn’t. You either took on all the implications that the faith entailed, or you didn’t. And, in the end, at the second coming, come Judgement Day, you were either ready or you weren’t. You were either in or out, there was no other alternative.
And if that was true for the disciples of Jesus’ day, then that is equally true for us today too.
Being a Christian, living the life that Jesus demands, is not easy. And if anyone tells you that it is, then they probably haven’t really got a clue about what it’s all about. It wasn’t easy for the original disciples and it consequently won’t be easy for us either. And that is, because, being a true Christian requires a devotion to God that is uncompromising, a devotion that many people would see as fanatical. As a consequence, any true believer will be guaranteed to face hard choices regarding their lives and their faith.
The two choices involve:
Firstly, getting material possessions and heavenly treasures into perspective. Where the pursuit of spiritual treasures, and dependence upon God counts as everything. And where material possessions, and relying on our own abilities, are considered as nought.
And, secondly, it involves the fortitude to stand up, be counted, and to continue in the faith. In involves being ready at all times for the second coming of the Son of Man, with the coming of Judgement Day itself.
Now, we know what choices the disciples were given. History also tells us what choices they made. But what choices have we made? And are we prepared to continue to make the hard choices of faith in the days to come?
Posted: 24th March 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis