We have finally come to the last command in the Youth stage, or the Build level of disciple-making. Availability is crucial to the mission of Jesus; no matter how gifted someone is, or knowledgeable of the Scripture, or talented, or popular… they cannot be used of God if they are not available.
The purpose for today is to encourage believers to respond to the call to follow Christ in being trained in evangelism without looking for the perfect alibi, excuse, or reason why they cannot serve. God wants wholehearted volunteers, rather than those who are reluctant, delaying, defensive, or putting it off. Availability is more rare than ability. The worker shortage in the church is not because the church is not full of capable people. It is because the church is full of people who are unwilling to rearrange their schedule around eternal values.
Something else we see in this lesson: Jesus continues to develop another generation of disciples (at the Youth stage or Build level) at the same time he was pouring into the lives of the Twelve (at the Adult stage or Equip level). Volunteers may drop off with excuses, but we must continue to recruit others along the way. After the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:9) Jesus appointed 72 volunteers (Luke 10:1 – there are 72 according to the NIV and NLT, the NASB indicates 70). Perhaps the 72 workers were recruited by the Twelve when they went out two by two (6 [3 groups of 2] X 12 = 72). The first thing Jesus teaches these new recruits is to pray for more workers for the harvest field (Luke 10:2).
Background: Jesus’ ministry turns toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) and on the way he is rejected by the Samaritans as he was passing through (Luke 9:52-56). James and John wanted to call down fire on them (Luke 9:54) but Jesus uses this as an opportunity to reinforce his ministry and mission (Luke 9:56). Three would-be followers approach Jesus but he is steady on the fact that his followers cannot waiver concerning service in the kingdom.
Here are the commands at this point: FOLLOW Me & ALLOW (Matthew 8:22), FOLLOW & ALLOW, GO & PROCLAIM (Luke 9:59-60). We see this outside of the gospels (Acts 13:5, 15:36-41, 2 Timothy 4:10-11).
- What was your favorite excuse for not doing something?
- How does Jesus respond to the excuses of these three men (Luke 9:57, 59, 61)?
- Of these excuses, which might you be tempted to use (comfort, social obligation, family concerns)?
Read Luke 9:57-62, 14:16-24
1. How would you define availability? Perhaps, “Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am called to serve” versus self-contentedness (Philippians 2:3-4, 20-21). Availability does not mean that you have lots of time on your hands; it requires managing your schedule and saying “no” to some good things so you can do what is best. Our two passages today mention many people who gave Jesus a bunch of excuses.
2. How do we know this passage is a call to serve and not a call to discipleship (Matthew 8:21, Luke 9:62, 10:1-2)? The three men in Matthew’s story were already disciples (Matthew 8:21). The word for “another” implies that the scribe (Matthew 8:19) and the man who wanted to bury his father are both already followers of Jesus. Each of these people were invited to be trained in evangelism and to work in the harvest field. The plow was a symbol of work. When they gave excuses for their unavailability, Jesus recruited 70 others for the work (Luke 10:1).
3. How did Peter and John display availability (Matthew 4:19-20)? They immediately left their nets (Matthew 4:20, Mark 1:18, Luke 5:11).
4. What name might you give these three unnamed disciples?
Mr. Too Quick (Luke 9:57-58)
- How does Matthew describe Mr. Too Quick (Matthew 8:19-20, Luke 9:57-58)? Matthew identifies him as a scribe (Matthew 8:19) and a disciple (Matthew 8:21). Scribes were highly educated authorities of the Jewish Law and closely associated with the Pharisees.
- What do you think was Mr. Too Quick’s motive for volunteering to serve (Luke 9:58)? His motive may have been popularity or fame. As an OT scholar he probably thought that by accompanying Jesus on his mission, he would share in the glory or fame of his kingdom. Jesus used the term, “Son of Man” to identify himself with the predictions of Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus connects his physical relationship to David and Abraham as their heir to the throne, so the term refers to the union of God and man in the One who would be the king of Israel. Mr. Too Quick had the right person, but the wrong timing (1 Peter 1:11), and motive.
- Why does Jesus make references to holes and nests (Luke 9:58)? Wild animals have a place to lay their head at night, safe from natural enemies, but not so with Jesus. They would be homeless; no home and no throne.
Mr. Too Slow (Luke 59-60)
- What did Mr. Too Slow want to do before following Jesus (Luke 9:59)? He wanted to take care of his father’s funeral. Burial was a religious duty that took precedence over studying the Law, temple services, killing the Passover sacrifice, and circumcision. Priest were not allowed to touch a dead body but could if it was a near relative (Leviticus 21:1-3). It was scandalous if left undone.
- Jesus’ response seems insensitive but it establishes the priority of proclaiming the gospel (Luke 9:60). If proclamation of the gospel is not done, it should be scandalous to the believer.
- What was even more scandalous, the father was likely not even dead. The phrase used was common in the middle east that emphasizes a son’s responsibility to help his father in the family business until he passed on, and handled his final affairs. It could have been a long time of delay if the father was still young and healthy. Mr. Too Slow was motivated by materialism.
- What did Jesus mean by “allow the dead to bury their dead” (Luke 9:60, Matthew 8:22)? It was a proverbial figure of speech meaning, “let the world take care of the things of the world.” Basically, spiritually dead people (Luke 15:24, 32, John 5:25, Romans 6:13, Ephesians 2:1, 5:14) make great morticians. They are capable of performing these tasks, but YOU go and do that which only a believer can do, share the gospel.
- What did Jesus command this man to do (Luke 59-60)? FOLLOW, ALLOW, GO, and PROCLAIM are aorist tense which indicates urgency, leave now. The present tense indicates that we keep on proclaiming.
Mr. Too Easy (Luke 9:61-62)
- What did Mr. Too Easy want to do before putting his hand to the plow (Luke 9:61)? He wanted to say good-bye to those at home. This seems harmless enough but it appears this guy did not have the strength to break away from loved ones; being too emotionally tied to family relationships. Consider what Elisha did when Elijah met him (1 Kings 19:19-21). I hope you noticed a significant difference between Elisha and Mr. Too Easy. There was no turning back for Elisha whereas Mr. Too Easy may have been persuaded to not follow and serve Jesus.
- This idea is supported by the phrase “to say good-bye,” which signifies “to set apart or assign, as a solder to his post.” It carries the idea of deployment, sent out with orders. He was looking for his orders and last instructions from his family rather than Jesus.
- Notice the words in “Lord, first, me” (Luke 9:61). “I will follow you, but first permit me” – It could be he is really saying, “I will follow you, but first me.” There can never be “me first” when it comes to following and serving Jesus; there are no “buts.”
5. What kind of people are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)? This is certainly a word picture in the NT, a farmer who wants straight rows continues to look ahead. The text literally says, “looking at the things behind.” “Not fit” would indicate “well-placed, suited for, adapted to,” which could indicate an inconsiderate impulse, conflicted duties, or a divided mind. Jesus wants total commitment, not just adding him to an already complicated and full life. The NIV adds the word “service” in the kingdom of God, but the word is not in the Greek NT.
6. Did Luke record the outcome of these conversations (Luke 10:1)? It may be that these three did not respond positively to Jesus’ invitation, so he recruited 70 “others.”
7. How can we increase the number of laborers in God’s harvest field (Luke 10:2)? Prayer in the key.
8. What do you think about this quote from Chuck Swindoll?
Anyone who sets out to serve Christ can be sure that many escape routes will appear so that you can relinquish your responsibilities. Voices will call out to you to cut inches off the cross. Twelve legions of angels stand ready to deliver you from the path of sacrificial service.
9. How do you determine God’s call for service in your life?
10. How has this command impacted your soul; your mind [thoughts], will [decisions], and emotions [feelings]?
[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]