If you are close to my age, you might remember a baseball player named Robin Yount. Besides being a two-time MVP and one of the greatest Brewers of all time, Robin Yount was known as a player who always gave 100% effort. It didn’t matter if it was routine ground ball to the shortstop or a ball hit into the corner for a double, he always gave maximum effort. He never did anything on the field half way.
In the Gospel lesson for the sixth Sunday after Pentecost, our Lord asks the same of us. As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:51-62
Jesus gave 100% to complete the mission his Father sent him to do, and he expects his followers to do the same. He isn’t looking for 50%, 75% or even 95%. He is looking for total commitment as we follow him in our lives and in our ministries. It isn’t acceptable to go through the motions or to be spiritually lazy.
Jesus uses some pictures from daily life to describe this total commitment. At first these words might sound harsh, even unreasonable. What does Jesus mean, I can’t first bury my father and then I will follow him? The point is not about burying a father, but that we can find all kinds of excuses to not take up our cross and follow Jesus. Jesus wants to make it very clear that we can’t serve God and the world at the same time.
It is good to want to be present at the death bed of a loved one. It is good to love your family and show them you love them. It is good to have hobbies, to take time off, and to enjoy vacation. It is good to enjoy the life God has given to you. But when we put the “good things” of this life before Jesus we get in trouble. Having a job is good. Earning a living is good. What is not so good is working every Sunday so we can’t make it to church. Activities for our kids are good, but it is not good is when our days and nights are so full that we have no time left for Jesus.
Speaking of good, we can be so good at making excuses. Haven’t we heard the excuses from people on why they can’t serve at church? Haven’t we heard the long list of excuses why a person can’t make it to church every week or come to Bible Study or afford to give their children a Christian education? I need my “me” time. I need my down time! I need my Sunday's off. I will follow Jesus more when I get more settled, when I finish school, when I get this promotion. Then I will have more time and more energy and more commitment for Jesus.
Are these legitimate reasons of nothing more than excuses? Are we letting the things of this world interfere with the one thing needful? Are we listening to our Savior’s call to follow him, or are we all talk and no action when we say we love him? Are we all talk and no action when we say that there is no one more important to us and that we will forsake anyone or anything to follow him? Before we answer those questions, we need to remember what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We need to ask for God’s forgiveness and for the strength to follow Jesus 100%.