And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus’ response was: Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. In Luke 9:60, Jesus adds, “but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
It doesn’t make sense that if the man’s father were dead that he would be there or that Jesus would discourage him from burying him. So this man’s problem is not that his father was dead and he had to bury him. He wanted to wait around until his father died. This is procrastination. He was delaying following Jesus and Jesus made it clear to him that the invitation to follow Him was to be accepted now not later. He told the man what to do–let the others bury his father when he died while he went out and preached the Gospel. Following Jesus and spreading the Good News without delay was what was expected of anyone who wanted to be a disciple of Christ.
In verse 61, Luke mentions another man who says, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” This man was kind of having one foot in and one foot out. He was like Lot’s wife. He was looking back. He was half-hearted in wanting to follow Jesus and that’s why Jesus said to him, that no one looking back is fit for the kingdom. You can’t plow a field in straight rows by looking back. You have to look ahead. You have to be steadfast. When you follow Jesus, your eyes have to be on Him and the mission He has called you for. You can’t be looking back and expect to serve God wholeheartedly. God wants all of you not part of you. He demands and deserves your full attention. We can’t take our eyes off of Jesus and expect things to go well. Remember when Peter was walking on the water? He was doing fine until he took his eyes off Jesus. That’s when he began to sink.
Just as the farmer keeps his eyes on the object ahead of him so that he is able to plow straight rows and do a good job of plowing, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we can do a good job of following His example and bringing others to Him. Think about it. People can’t follow us if we keep looking back. They are going to look back too or get confused. The disciples who decided to follow Jesus never looked back. James and John didn’t delay. They left the nets and their father in the boat and followed Him. Matthew didn’t delay. He left his job and followed Him. They realized that following Jesus and preaching the kingdom of God took precedence over family and livelihood. Their actions proved that they wanted to do this wholeheartedly–without any reservations. These are the kinds of disciples Jesus was and is looking for. People who are willing to put Him and the preaching of the Gospel first and not are looking over their shoulders.
No man, &c.–As ploughing requires an eye intent on the furrow to be made, and is marred the instant one turns about, so will they come short of salvation who prosecute the work of God with a distracted attention, a divided heart. Though the reference seems chiefly to ministers, the application is general. The expression “looking back” has a manifest reference to “Lot’s wife” ( Gen 19:26 ; and see on JF & B for Lu 17:32). It is not actual return to the world, but areluctance to break with it. (Also see on JF & B for Mt 8:21.)
(Source: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary on Luke 9)
What if the second man had returned home to bid farewell to his family and they persuaded him not to leave? The same Bible Commentators give the following illustration:
…those Hindu converts of our day who, when once persuaded to leave their spiritual fathers in order to “bid them farewell which are at home at their house,” very rarely return to them.
Today when you say to Jesus, “Lord, I will follow You” don’t let there be a “but”. Make up your mind to follow Him without delay or excuses. Don’t look back. Look to Him. Keep your eyes on Him. Put Him first in your life. Remember when you address Him as Lord, that means He is to be Lord of your life.