Veering off course ∙
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”
62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (also known as KAL007) was a scheduled Korean Air Lines flight from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska. On September 1, 1983, it was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor. Due to a navigational error made by the KAL crew, the airliner deviated from its original planned route, veered off course, and flew through prohibited Soviet airspace about the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission.
The Soviet Air Forces treated the unidentified aircraft as an intruding U.S. spy plane and destroyed it with air-to-air missiles. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed.
Veering off course, not following the planned or intended, route can lead to serious unintended consequences, even death.
In Luke 9:57-62, three wannabee disciples approach the Lord Jesus Christ seeking to follow him. One of them says, “I will follow you wherever you go” (Luke 9:57). He challenges each of them regarding the cost of following Him. It will not be easy or comfortable.
What does it mean to be a disciple? The idea is like being part of a team sport. It is one thing to be a spectator, it is another thing to be a participant. In order to be a team member, certain team requirements must be met. Rules followed, both on the field and off the field. If we violate the rules or do not meet the requirements, we are not fit to be part of the team.
But the Lord Jesus Christ is more than a coach, He is a King. There’s a big difference between being a child of the King and being a disciple of the King. The cost of following the Lord Jesus Christ closely and becoming a disciple is exceedingly high. Putting the Lord Jesus Christ ahead of home, family, and normal obligations is overwhelming and often painful.
The Lord Jesus Christ uses hyperbole to make His point. He is direct and blunt. The level of commitment appears unrealistic, even harsh. What is His point? Becoming a disciple and following the Lord Jesus Christ will cost many children of the King everything, including their own lives.
They may have nowhere to call home or even to sleep at night. They may not be able to take time off to bury their parents or even say goodbye to their families. In that way, they will be much like, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was not at home in this world. His disciples will not be either.
Could it be that meeting reasonable familial obligations are often excuses or delaying tactics for not following him? The same is true regarding social niceties and decorum. Discipleship involves the sacrifice of comfort and security, family ties, and familial affection. Even for the most casual observer, this is radical and over-the-top. Discipleship requires a single-minded unconditional commitment. Disciples cannot be double-minded. It is incumbent upon every child of the King to first count the cost.
REFLECT & PRAY
“The watchword of the kingdom is not ‘Backwards!’ but ‘Forwards’” (Barclay)!
Father I too frequently succumb to poor choices and suffer unintended consequences. Forgive me and restore me.
Here’s where it goes from being casual and objective to very personal, cutting, if not shocking.
Luke 9:62 No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
If you are from a big city, you may have no idea what the Lord Jesus Christ intends by this illustration. But if have ever tilled a garden or plowed a field, the significance is obvious. To till a plot of ground properly, you must fix your eyes firmly on an object straight ahead of you and consistently move in that direction. Looking away, even for a fraction of a second, can result in a slight, unintended deviation which results in veering off course.
“The image is graphic, for who can plow straight ahead toward a goal while looking back?” (NET notes). If this seems a bit harsh, it is. But there is a vast difference between entering the kingdom of God by faith, and walking with the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, day by day.
Using an illustration from a well-known, common everyday agricultural activity, The Lord Jesus Christ explains what is necessary to become a disciple. Being a disciple is different from being a child of the King. It involves demanding work, discipline, dedication, and focus. It is similar to plowing. The farmer who does not concentrate on plowing is not a fit farmer. Likewise, a disciple who allows life to distract them from their duties as a disciple is not fit to serve the King (Constable).
The Greek term translated fit is euthetos. Euthetos is literally “well-placed.” It has the sense of meeting adequate standards for purpose.
If we choose to enter into the kingdom of God and follow the King, we must be single-minded. Disciples cannot be double-minded. To be fit for the kingdom of God is to be able and qualified to serve under the King’s rule. “The kingdom has no room for those who look back when they are called to go forward” (Morris).
Unless we focus and purpose to do what is right, it is easy to miss the mark. We must not look back when are trying to go forward.
Regrettably, this is what happens to many children of the King. They decide to faithfully follow, but they do not follow through. Why? Because their hearts are stuck in the past. They are repeatedly looking backward. As they attempt to walk forward repeatedly regret their past lives or wistfully recall “the good old days.”
When we choose to enter into the kingdom of God, we become a child of the King. The kingdom of God is the realm in which the Lord Jesus Christ rules and reigns. He is the sovereign monarch and requires obedience and loyalty from His subjects. To serve Him, we must obey Him.
This passage is not about salvation, but service “The expression not ‘fit for the kingdom’ does not refer to salvation but to service. It is not at all a question of entrance into the kingdom but of service in the kingdom after entering it” (MacDonald).