The Cost of Following Jesus
The Advice of Jesus’ Brothers (John 7:2-9)
It was getting close to the fall of the year and the time for the Feast of the Tabernacles was approaching. Jesus’ brothers came to him and suggested that it was time for Jesus to openly declare himself. They told him that he needed to go into Judea, the center of Judaism at that time so that his disciples there could see him. If you want to make yourself known, they said, you can’t do things in secret.
You might think that they have Jesus’ interest at heart, but notice the subtle flaw. “If you do these things ...” Jesus’ own brothers did not believe all the things which was being said about Jesus. John 7:5 confirms this lack of faith.
Jesus said it wasn’t time for the revelation of who he was, but it has always been their time. By this Jesus is saying they could go and announce themselves as they wished because there is nothing important at stake in their own declarations of themselves. People don’t hate them as they do Jesus. Worldly people hate Jesus because he exposes their evil (John 3:19; Ephesians 5:11-13). Thus Jesus remained in Galilee.
Jesus Leaves Galilee (Matthew 19:1; Luke 9:51-56; John 7:10)
Jesus did not say he would not go to the feast. He only said he wouldn’t go right then. After his brothers left, Jesus also set off for Jerusalem, but he did so quietly.
Luke tells us that it was time for events to take place which would eventually lead toward Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Only the end is mentioned because the other events would have to take place before the ascension was possible. Jesus knew what would result from his going to Jerusalem, but he was resolved to continue this course.
As they journeyed, some went ahead to reserve rooms for the travelers. But as they were traveling through Samaria, the people in one town refused to have Jesus and his disciples stay with them because he was heading to Jerusalem. Where we learned earlier that the Jews avoided dealing with the Samaritans (John 4:9), we know see that some Samaritans treated the Jews in the same manner.
Some in Samaria had accepted Jesus as the Messiah. But Samaritans thought the proper place for worship was in their territory. They probably would have been happy if the Messiah had come there to worship, but because he was set to go to Jerusalem, they rejected Jesus. Such often happens with people. They will accept a teaching only so long as it matches their beliefs.
When those sent in advance returned, James and John were particularly upset by this treatment of Jesus. “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" (Luke 9:54). They recalled how Elijah called fire down upon those who were sent to arrest him (II Kings 1:9-12).
But Jesus rebukes them, saying they don’t understand what they desired. People cannot be saved by taking vengeance on them for simply rejecting Jesus (Romans 12:17-21; I Peter 3:9). He reminded them that his purpose was to save the world (John 3:17). It is not that Jesus will not ultimately judge the world, but at this moment he is focused on saving as many as he can.
Rather than pressing the issue, Jesus moved on to another village. As he told the disciples earlier, there was too little time available to waste efforts on those who would reject him (Matthew 10:23).
The Cost of Following Jesus (Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 9:57-62)
A series of events illustrate that following Jesus cannot be seen casually or a matter of convenience. As they were going toward Jerusalem, a scribe told Jesus that he would follow Jesus where ever he went. But Jesus pointed that he had no particular place to call his own. Thus if the man was following him in hopes of profiting there was nothing material to gain from following Jesus.
Jesus tells another man, who was a disciple of his, to follow him. The man was willing, but asked that he first bury his father and then he would follow Jesus. There are two ways of looking at this request. One is that this man’s father just died and he desired to remain behind for the funeral. If this was the case, Jesus’s reply is that spreading the gospel is a more urgent matter and needs to be done while the opportunity is available. The second possibility is that the man’s father is old or in poor health and he wanted to remain behind until his father passed on. In this case, the man would be putting his family relationship before God (Matthew 10:37).
Jesus’ response to the man is to let the spiritually dead handle the burial of the physically dead. The teaching of the gospel is too important to delay.
A third man also said he would follow Jesus, but he wanted time to tell his family good bye. Of all the requests, this might appear to be the most reasonable, but from Jesus’ response we see that the man is not offering to follow with a full heart. Before he leaves he is already thinking about what he has left behind.
Using the illustration of plowing, Jesus points out that you cannot plow while looking over your shoulder looking were you have been. A farmer who attempts this will not have straight rows in which to plant. To plow properly you have to fix your eyes on where you are going. In the same way, to serve God well, we must fix our thoughts on our objective and not to think about what we are leaving behind. Peter talks about this same problem from a more worldly viewpoint in I Peter 4:1-3.