August 27, 2011

Hard Sayings XVI: Put Your Hand to The Plough

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

I've chosen to address this passage briefly because it is actually a follow-up of Hard Sayings XV: Let The Zombies Bury The Dead since it is immediately after the passage addressed in that post Luke 9:60. This is the third saying in a series of three right at the end of Luke chapter 9 that address the cost of being Jesus' disciple and the rigorousness of that demand. Whereas the first two are also found in Matthew 18:19-22, this one is only found here in Luke.

This imagery is directly reminecent of Elijah and Elisha. When Elijah called and summoned Elisha to come with him he was in the field plowing. When Elijah put his cloak upon Elisha, Elisha asked to say goodbye to his parents as he knew he would not come back that way.

"So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?" And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him. ~1 Kings 19:19-21

Where Elijah as a human deemed this acceptable since he himself was only a man, Jesus as God with a better understanding of what the Kingdom is deems the request too much and says so. To follow Jesus requires one to virtually sever one's self from the world (flesh). A person literally needs to die to self. The person must sever his new self from the old self. There can be no compromise with the world at the risk of loosing everything you might have gained in Christ.

When addressing this as a form of symbolic action we must realize that a man ploughing a field must devote all of his attention to keeping his animals walking forward and keeping the furrow in a straight line. Otherwise the rows will be all over the place crossing over one another. If a farmer turns around all bets are off. In Jesus' discipleship there is no "multi-tasking". He knows that any additional tasks one takes on are a distraction to the main task of planting seeds in fertile soil-preaching the Kingdom...preaching the Gospel.

We are called to complete devotion and all the requirements of this demand. We can give Jesus nothing less than everything we have to give. We are to make ourselves living sacrifices (Romans 12). Here Jesus speaks of the one that is willing to look back, the one that still has one foot in the past in their old life-a sinful life. Meanwhile, because they are not paying attention they could potentially be messing up the future life too. You cannot live in the past and in the present or future at the same time. It causes a conflict of interest. Nostalgia can be and often is deadly because it keeps us locked in the past. We never do see what happens to these men. Jesus rejected none of them but did put stringent demands on them. We must never enter into something that requires everything we have without first measuring the cost. In this case we must deny all we know. Like Jesus we must stay focused on our purpose in this life. Jesus focused on His task with absolute perfection and stayed perfectly obedient to the Father. He didn't do what He wanted but rather will of the Father.

Yes, the demands are great but the reward is greater still. The loss of the reward is permanent and amounts to separation from God for eternity. When seen in this perspective and the possiblity of loosing Jesus forever, the demands do not seem so extreme.

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12

"Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” ~John 14:21

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave. ~John 14:28-31


Anonymous said...

This is my first visit to the sight. Thank you for what you are sharing. I'll be back.

Andy Pierson said...

Welcome. Anytime. :)

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