Hunkered Down Devotion

Luke 9:57-62 (Voice)
57 Farther along on the road, a man volunteered to become a disciple.
Volunteer: I’ll follow You to any destination.
Jesus: 58 Foxes are at home in their burrows. Birds are at home in their nests. But the Son of Man has no home. 59 You (to another person)—I want you to follow Me!
Another Volunteer: I’d be glad to, Teacher, but let me first attend to my father’s funeral.
Jesus: 60 Let the dead bury their dead. I’m giving you a different calling—to go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
A Third Volunteer: 61 I’ll come, Jesus. I’ll follow You. But just let me first run home to say good-bye to my family.
Jesus: 62 Listen, if your hand is on the plow but your eyes are looking backward, then you’re not fit for the kingdom of God.

In the world of Jesus’ day, there were few if any responsibilities for a son than to honor his parents.  The highest and most important demonstration of that responsibility would happen at their burial.  Living up to this expectation was not a question, as to not due so would certainly result in shame.  Beyond shame, it would also lead to being shunned by the rest of the family and losing honor – an incredibly important currency in ancient times – in the local community in a way that would last potentially the rest of the son’s life.    

Do to all of this, it is highly unlikely that a son in this situation would be out and about, taking time to a teacher, even one as wonderful as Jesus.  This is why it’s helpful for us to know that some scholars note that that phrase, literally ‘I must first bury my father’,  often functioned as a polite was of asking to delay an action until the father dies.  

This was not used only in situations where the father’s death was imminent but could even cover a matter of years in some cases.  There is also a possibility that he is referring to an actual burial, but not the initial burial, but rather the tradition observed at the time of reburying the bones of a loved one, one year after their death (a common custom in 1st century Palestine with uncertain origins and meaning).  

Either way, the man is asking Jesus for a potentially lengthy delay.  Having said that, given the circumstances, and what was at stake, it is hard to argue that the requests are unreasonable.  And yet, this is exactly what Jesus asks.  To underline the point, Jesus says ‘if your hand is on the plow but your eyes are looking backward, then you’re not fit for the kingdom of God.’

Jesus’ point here is that to look forward, to be focused straight ahead is to be fixated on God’s call on our lives.  The obvious implication is that these other things that compete for our time and attention are things that ‘turn our eyes’ away from the kingdom of God.  What isn’t implied is that these other things, like our families, are bad or wrong.

Instead, what Jesus is reminding us that God asks something of us.  God wants to be first.  God calls us to turn our eyes to him, to focus on him and walk with him towards the life and purposes that have been set out for us from the beginning of time.  There will always be other things – good, important things – to do, but God calls us to turn our eyes first to him and to the work of his kingdom.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer:  Lord, help us turn our eyes to you and your kingdom, so that we might be and do all that you have called us to.  Amen.

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