Luke 9:57


In introduction, note that the passage in St. Luke has by some been regarded, on account of its very different place and apparent connection, as not the parallel of the present passage. On the other hand, it can scarcely be a mere duplicate or even a replica. Under any circumstances, if not the parallel, it certainly is a parallel, and the very equivalent, when allowance is made for the addition supplied by St. Luke. In fact, the absence of the third position from St. Matthew's account may possibly find explanation (explanation confessedly somewhat asked for) for any who hold, with some of the best of critics, that we may not improbably have here, in the three persons described, the anonymous biographies in so far as this incident goes of Judas Iscariot, St. Thomas, and St. Matthew himself. Notice -

I. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF DISCRIMINATING FIDELITY; NOT DISGUISING, NOT FLATTERING, THE CHARACTER OF HIS OWN SERVICE, If any one, whether more or less savouring of the things that be of Judas Iscariot, seeks to enter the service of Christ and the kingdom of heaven, he shall not do so untaught as to the service, unwarned as to the conditions of it; he is plainly, faithfully, and most impressively told of these. Remark on the perfection for effectiveness of the warning here given, in its naturalness and simplicity (ver. 20), and of the touching, exquisite pathos of the last of the three clauses. Remark also on the inevitable dangers of times of apparent prosperity and popular impression, as well those that flourish in dispositions of the sanguine and enthusiastic type. Discriminate between the man who offers himself, as "moved by the Holy Ghost," and the way in which he offers himself, and the boastful volunteer, whether of the nature here Portrayed, or of that of the misguided zeal of Peter.

II. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF CLEAREST VISION IN THE MATTER OF THE RELATIVE WORTH OF THE HEAVENLY CALL, AND ANY AND EVERY EARTHLY CALL; THE HEAVENLY RELATIONSHIP, AND ANY AND EVERY EARTHLY RELATIONSHIP; AND OF UNBROKEN SINGLENESS OF DEVOTION, AND LOYALTY INCORRUPT TO THE HIGHER. Remark here OH the expression (ver. 21), "another of his disciples," as finding its explanation from St. Luke (Luke 9:59), where we learn that Jesus had just called him, and that he was therefore his disciple. Illustrate from other clear deliverances of Jesus Christ that there is not to be imagined here for a moment any depreciation of the sacredness and the worth of human affections, but rather exaltation of the Divine affection (which must be ever the one determinating and turning-point of human character and hope and eternal outlook). Show how, in this instance, all this was yet more illuminated by the grace and kindness and inspiriting nature of the further commission, "But go thou and preach the kingdom of God."

III. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF THE UN-LOOKING BACK, THE UN-MISGIVING, THE UN-TURNING, AND THE "WITHOUT-REPENTANCE" WHEN HIGH DUTY, WHEN THE MORE THAN HEROIC HEIGHTS OF PRESENT SELF-SACRIFICE, WHEN HOLY EFFORT AND HEAVEN, ARE THE GOAL IN FRONT. Dwell lovingly on the undoubted dependence (equally extraordinary and glorious in its essential nature) of true Christian work, on an exact, a clear, a steadfast eye, and a heart thereupon perfect to follow its outlook. How much so-called Christian work withers like untimely birth itself by reason of carelessness, mixed motive, and lack of supremely dominating affection! - B.









Lord, I will follow Thee.
We have here, in connection, the story of three inquirers who came in turn to Christ.

I. THE PROVIDENTIAL CONDITIONS OF THE NEW LIFE ARE ABSOLUTELY EXCLUSIVE (vers. 57, 58). The bold proffers of this scribe were met by the pathetic announcement of what their acceptance involved afterwards.

1. Our Lord's earthly career was hard and lonely.

2. Christ's followers were forewarned that they must fare entirely with Him (Matthew 10:24; John 5:18, 19).

3. Henceforth, therefore, believers were to consider themselves shut up to the lot they had accepted. We have a right to expect all solaces, defences, and sustenances in Christ; but we must rely upon Him for them. Honours and human praises, emoluments and ease, are excluded.

II. THE SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS OF THE NEW LIFE ARE ABSOLUTELY EXCLUSIVE (vers. 59, 60). We are told in Matthew's Gospel that this man was already instructed to some extent; he was one of Jesus' "disciples." The duty was accepted; only a mere human wish was interposed.

1. The Bible employs the tenderest names for its illustrations of relationship between believers and God. "Thy Maker is thy husband."

2. The purpose of this use of terms seems to be to show that all lower relationships are overridden by the higher.

3. Our Saviour Himself set the fine example of this surrender. More affectionate or devoted child there never lived; but He began to draw aside from all home entanglements as He reached the conscious nearness of His public work.

III. THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES OF THE NEW LIFE ARE ABSOLUTELY EXCLUSIVE (vers. 61, 62). We cannot help imagining there must have been some deft allusion here to Elisha's history in this reply of our Lord (1 Kings 19:20). Elisha desired the same privilege, not as an excuse for delay, but only as a tender duty of respect to those who loved him at home. He was actually at the plough when he was called by the casting of Elijah's mantle upon his shoulders.

1. Gospel experience is generous. It supplies room for all; but those who reject the offer must be left behind.

2. Gospel experience is indivisible. Philosophically speaking, it is impossible for any man to love two things supremely: "No man can serve two masters; ye cannot serve God and Mammon." That old familiar call, "My son, give Me thine heart," means the whole heart. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (1 Chronicles 12:33; Psalm 12:2).

3. Gospel experience is uncompromising. All attempts to combine religion with worldliness are injurious (2 Kings 5:18). Naaman asks the privilege of going into the house of Rimmon with a show of devotion so as to keep his place at court.

4. Gospel experience is immortal. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." This part of our nature is what projects itself forward beyond the confines of time.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. FOLLOWING JESUS AS SEEN IN HIS CHARACTER FOR OBEDIENCE.

1. His obedience was prompt.

2. His obedience was characterized by inflexibility of purpose.

3. His obedience was characterized by perfect self-abnegation.

II. FOLLOWING JESUS AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE SPIRIT HE MANIFESTED (vers. 52-56).

III. FOLLOWING JESUS AS ILLUSTRATED IN WHAT HE REQUIRES OF HIS DISCIPLES.

1. He requires that spirit of holy heroism which will cheerfully endure all hardship and opposition for His sake.

2. He requires implicit and prompt obedience.

3. He insists upon the absolute supremacy of His will.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Self-examination is wise and well when we try ourselves by tests divinely appointed, and not by ideals of moods and feelings which we conjure up ourselves. Scripture is fertile in tests for self-examination of the right sort. Three kinds of spurious disciples. See whether you are like either of them.

I. THE DISCIPLE UNREADY FOR SELF-DENIAL. The merely impulsive follower must learn that to be ranged in the company of real disciples means glad share in the Lord's woe as well as weal. Do we follow our Lord out of such definite and principled yielding of ourselves to Him that we will go where He leads?

II. THE DISCIPLE ENTANGLED. Christ can accept no second place. He must reign. His kingdom involves our entire and self-consecrating submission. Have we made obedience to Jesus the structural principle of our lives?

III. THE DISCIPLE IRRESOLUTE. Not ready definitely and at once to set out on the Christian march: there are other things, farewells, &c., which must be first attended to. The emphasis is on that word "first." Perhaps, when these things which ought to be second have been first done, the man may follow. Plainly, he is doubtfully balancing. He is at cross-purposes, has not organized his life under one masterful principle.

(W. Hoyt, D. D.)

We may dismiss the old conceit that sought to identify these three persons with three apostles, Judas, Thomas, Matthew. It is hardly credible that these apostles, already named as apostles in this Gospel, would be now introduced here as "a certain man," "another," "another." They would have been mentioned by name, surely, if they had been meant in person. "A certain scribe," "another of His disciples," "another"; this is all recorded of them in the Gospels — not enough to identify the individuals, but sufficient to accentuate the cases. One of them, the last of the three, seems to have been shaping for discipleship for some time, and was now making full prefer of it. These men differed apparently in their dispositions. The first seems bold and impulsive, as his loud avowal would show — "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." The second looks modest and thoughtful, as the piety he expresses toward his father would indicate — "Lord, I will follow Thee, but suffer me first to go and bury my father." The third appears cautious and calculating; so we infer from his desire to smooth things first with his relations — "Lord, I will follow Thee; but suffer me first to go bid them farewell that are at home at my house." Again: These persons differed very evidently, in their gospel ideas. They all recognized the Messianic mission of Jesus, but diverged in their thought of its character and aim. The first regarded Him as the Christ certainly, but, like many more, imagined that it was a temporal kingdom, with temporal attendings, that he was aiming at, and that it would be well to be with Him in this aim of His, the direct way to the things of this life; hence his gushing proffer, "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." The second also regarded Him as the Christ, but perceived His aim to be rather a reign of "spirit and truth" than of might, and, spiritualized as he was, and waiting with the few for "the consolation of Israel," he would assuredly follow this Son of David when his dying father should be buried and the way all clear; hence also his sincere but delaying request, "Lord, I will follow Thee; but suffer me first to go and bury my father." The third, like the others, regarded Jesus as the Messiah, and with the second perceived the spirituality of His aim, and felt drawn into sympathy with Him in His spiritual gospel, a follower in heart of His blessed Person. But the flesh shrank where the spirit was willing in him; he would rather not break with his family if he could but go and settle matters with them so as to stand well in their eyes while yet he followed Jesus; hence also his true but somewhat trimming proffer, "Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell that are at home at my house." Farther: These men differed, as may be gathered from their sentiments, in the risks they ran of coming short in discipleship — the chief point in the narrative. The first was, without doubt, on his way to serious disappointment; the second was, without perceiving it, asking for a dangerous delay; and the third was, though not very conscious of it, attempting a compromise that would surely prove disastrous.

(J. Chalmers, M. A.)

We are further informed by Matthew 8:19, that this man was a scribe, consequently a man of education, and of considerable respectability and social importance.

1. His avowal of attachment was unsolicited. To most men this would probably have increased the value of his decision. This spontaneous offer must be the dictate of a sincere and honest heart. But lie who knows what is in man penetrated all the disguises and subtle reserves within, and discerned the real bias, the ulterior motives, and mean and mercenary views of this adventurer. There was no conscious need of the Saviour in him; no previous work of the word of Christ upon his heart. The true disciples of Christ are attached to Him by obligations of everlasting gratitude: they have been recipients from Him of the greatest blessings God can bestow and man receive. But this man makes no profession of love.

2. Yet his profession was extensive — "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." He seems to anticipate some inconvenience, to be prepared for some self-denial, to look at the probability of danger, and to form some estimate of the cost involved. But then it was his own estimate, and altogether erroneous. It was well for him that he was not exposed to the fury of that boisterous night. That very first lesson would have shown that the scribe was ignorant of the principles of the doctrine of Christ.

3. Yet his plans were all laid; he did not solicit any delay. He was ready to step into the boat, to go anywhere — as he thought, and to do anything, when the Saviour put before him the picture of His own abject condition — "Foxes have holes," &c. Disappointed and vexed that his overtures of service should not be immediately and respectfully accepted, chagrined that he should have stooped to one whose circumstances were so indigent, all the bright prospects that he had cherished in the mind's eye are dispelled, and he retires, teaching us that those who indulge carnal views of a Christian life have "neither part nor lot in the matter." What an opportunity he for ever lost of entertaining the King of kings! "Not where to lay Thy head! My house is Thine; eat at my table; sleep on my bed." And if the gracious Saviour had declined the invitation, He would have accepted the heart from which it came. In some direction or other this miserable scribe was related to the large family of By-ends, who think "to make a gain of godliness"; for it is certain that the Friend of Sinners never did, and never will, reject the approaches of one humble, genuine candidate for His favour.

(W. G. Lewis.)

this world: —

1. The time. In Matthew 8:19, it is when Christ had a mind to retire, and had declared His purpose to go into the desert; in Luke, when He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. Both may agree; the one more immediately, the other more remotely; first to the desert, then to Jerusalem.

2. Here is a resolution professed: "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." Where take notice —(1) Of the ready forwardness of the scribe. He was not called by Christ, but offered himself of his own accord.(2) Observe the largeness of the offer, and unboundedness of it, "whithersoever"; as indeed it is our duty to follow Christ through thick and thin.

3. Christ's answer and reply: "And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." By the tenor of Christ's answer, you may know what ails him, and on what foot he limped; for this is spoken either by way of preparation to enable him to keep his resolution, or rather by way of probation, to try the truth and strength of it; whether it were sincere and sound; yea or nay: us the young man was tried (Mark 10:21). So here, we hear no more of this scribe; our Lord knew how to discover hypocrites. Two things were defective in this resolution.(1) It was sudden and rash, not weighing the difficulties. They that rashly leap into a profession, usually fall back at the first trial. Therefore we must sit down and count the charges (Luke 14:28).(2) There was a carnal aim in it. He minded his own profit and honour; therefore Christ in effect telleth him, "You had best consider what you do, for following of Me will be far from advancing any temporal interest of yours." "He did not discourage a willing follower, but discover a worldly hypocrite," saith Chrysologus. The doctrine we learn from hence is this: —They that will sincerely follow Christ, must not look for any great matters in the world, but rather prepare themselves to run all hazards with Him. This is evident —

1. From Christ's own example; and the same mind should be in all His followers: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:16). Our estranging of our hearts from the world is an evidence of our conformity to Christ. Christ passed through the world to sanctify it as a place of service; but His constant residence was not here, to fix it as a place of rest; and all that are Christ's are alike affected. We pass through as strangers, but are not at home as inhabitants or dwellers; and if we have little of the world's favour, it is enough if any degree of service for God.

2. From the nature of His kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:3, 6). It is not a kingdom of pomp, but a kingdom of patience. Here we suffer with Christ, hereafter we reign with Him. The comforts are not earthly, or the good things of this world, but heavenly — the good things of the world to come. This was the scribe's mistake.

3. From the spirit of Christ. His spirit is given us to draw us off from this world to that which is to come (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Use 1. Is information.(1) With what thoughts we should take up the stricter profession of Christianity — namely, with expectations of the cross. Christ will try us, and the world will hate us; therefore let us not flatter ourselves with an easy passage to heaven.(2) It informeth us what fools they are that take up religion upon a carnal design of ease and plenty, and will follow Christ to grow rich in the world.(3) It informs us what an unlikely design they have in hand who would bring the world and Christ fairly to agree, or reconcile their worldly advantages and the profession of the gospel. And when they cannot frame the world and their conveniences to the gospel, do fashion the gospel to the world, and the carnal courses of it.

Use 2. Is instruction. When you come to enter into covenant with Christ, consider —(1) Christ knoweth what motives do induce you: "He needeth not that any should testify of man, for He knoweth what is in man" (John 2:25).(2) If the heart be false in making the covenant, it will never hold good. An error in the first concoction will never be mended in the second (Deuteronomy 5:29).(3) That Christ cannot but take it ill that we are so delicate and tender Of our interests, and so impatient under the cross, when He endured so willingly such great things for our sakes.(4) If you be not dead to the things of the world, you are not acquainted with the virtue and power of Christ's cross, and have not a true sense of Christianity, cannot glory in it as the most excellent profession in the world (Galatians 6:14).(5) We are gainers by Christ if we part with all the world for His sake (Mark 10:29, 30); therefore no loss should seem too great in obeying His will. Certainly a man cannot be a loser by God.(6) All worldly things were confiscated by the Fall, and we can have no spiritual right to them till we receive a new grant by Jesus Christ, who is the heir of all things (1 Corinthians 3:23).

(T. Manton, D. D.)

This man was in his proffer animated by the hope of temporal good with Jesus. Far back in his mind was the thought of the restored kingdom of David under this his Messianic Son, and of a name and a place and no small honour therein by His side; and the glowing thought produces the loud but ill-calculating profession, "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." Could the Lord Jesus receive such mistaken profession as this? Would He allow this man to become His disciple from so spurious a motive, and under so erroneous an expectation? Did not the man need a word of warning to save him from the disappointment he was positively courting, and to set him right as to what he might reckon on in the kingdom he was seeking to enter? Yes, the man needed such a word, and gets it, plain and direct and strong: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." As if He would say, "You would follow because you expect worldly good with Me. You are mistaken; for worldly good I reject for Myself, and promise not to My followers. Poor and despised and rejected I am among men; and so will My followers be for long time to come. If you receive My Word and abide in it, then shall you be My disciple indeed; and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free. But, as to other things, count the cost; reproach will be your lot with Me rather than honour; poverty will be your burden with Me instead of wealth; you must suffer with Me if you would reign with Me." In this way did the Lord Jesus strip this man of his worldly notion in seeking to follow Him and throw him back from all worldly consideration on to spiritual conviction if he would be His disciple. And in similar way does He ever seek to check in seekers all worldly motive for following Him — and many there are in every age who need such checking as to their profession of the name of Christ. One man thinks it will advance his worldly prospect if he become a Christian; another thinks it will gain him reputation and a character in life; another thinks it will open to him a wider sphere of acquaintances and friends; and so, without any particular conviction as to their need of Christ as their Saviour, they join themselves to Him people and call themselves by His name. But it is unworthy motive this in every form of it. It is the desire of the multitude of whom He said, "Ye seek Me because ye did eat of the loaves," and He declines now as He declined then to be followed on any such terms. He will have you follow Him for Himself, because of His grace, and not for any worldly advantage, if you are to be with Him in the gospel; and He sends you back into your hearts with the summary check, "The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head," to see if you will take your lot with Him without reserve. He leaves you no choice, friend, but unreserved surrender if you would be His.

(J. Chalmers, M. A.)

There are words here that seem harsh. Stern they may be; harsh they cannot be.

I. THEY ARE DISCRIMINATING, which harsh words never are. No one was more regardful of individual differences than Christ.

II. THEY ARE DISCRIMINATING, SO FAR AS WE CAN SEE, IN THIS WAY: The second case stands on a different footing from the first and third. In two respects.

1. The reply in the second case is more stern and uncompromising; because —

2. There was in this case a distinct call, The first and third were volunteers.

III. IT IS NOT TO BE SUPPOSED, THAT THOSE REJECTED THUS, IF REJECTED, WERE EXCLUDED. All are not chosen for such lonely work. He only gave some to be apostles. There are diversities of gifts. The many are called; the few are chosen. Man is called; men are chosen. Thank God, we all find our level sooner or later.

(P. T. Forsyth, M.A.)

I. From this passage we may naturally consider THE GREAT NUMBER WHO REGARD RELIGION AS SIMPLY A POETIC EMBELLISHMENT, AN AESTHETIC SPECIES OF ETHICS, AN ACCOMPLISHMENT. The New Testament idea of religion is no such thing as this. That idea is that religion is life itself. No man ever got religion; if he ever had any, he lived it. To follow Christ is not a mere polish of things that are substantial, valuable, and needful in this life: it is the reconstruction of the whole man upon a higher pattern.

II. THE IDEA IS CURRENT THAT RELIGION IS A LIMITATION AND RESTRICTION INSTEAD OF AN ENJOYMENT AND AN EXALTATION, that it is, therefore, to be put off as long as it is safe to put it off. You can begin to be a Christian instantly. But you cannot accomplish it instantly. The work is progressive; it is life-long; but when once entered upon heartily it is the sweetest, the noblest, and the best work with which life can concern itself.

III. From the passages read we may LEARN THE WAY IN WHICH MEN ARE ACCUSTOMED, WHEN FROM VARIOUS CONSIDERATIONS THEY ARE MOVED TO A CONSIDERATION OF HIGHER THINGS, TO TREAT THEIR ASPIRATIONS AND THEIR LUMINOUS HOURS. The two or three instances which are grouped together here, represent men that either are moved to follow, or are called to follow, the Christ-life; and the invitation is, in the second case, the same as if it had been an impulse proceeding from the party himself. You will observe, then, from the whole attitude of Christ, and from what we know of His nature, that He saw through the hollow pretences of these men. One wanted to follow Him with the expectation of loaves and fishes, and honours, and prerogatives. Another wanted to follow Him; but he wanted first to go home and bury his father. The inspiration was not strong enough to constitute a spring of action and of life. The guise of filial piety. Christ's reply — spiritualizing it was, "Let men that do not care for the kingdom of God perform the rites of sepulture; as for you, follow Me." And then, in the other case in which the man was willing to follow Christ, he wanted to go back and say "good-bye" to his father and mother, and brothers and sisters, before he went. This was almost frivolous; for the following of Christ could not be a separation from all that was dearest to him in this life. As it was then, so it is now. Mostly these alleged reasons of doubt, of occupation, of pleasure, and of bias are simple excuses. Men do not wish to enlarge their lives. They are content with smallness. Sin has beggared them. They not only are living upon penurious doles on the lower plane of life, but they are content to live so. I say to every one that has been wandering, and is wandering, and yet at times is haunted with longings, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you": but seek that first; seek it in earnest; seek it at once; seek it with all your heart; make it your life; and then life will be a thousandfold greater, fuller, and richer to you.

(H. W. Beecher.)

After the siege of Rome, in 1849, Garibaldi issued to his followers this appeal: "Soldiers, your efforts against overwhelming odds have been unavailing; I have nothing to offer you but hunger, thirst, hardship, and death; let all who love their country follow me." And hundreds of Italian youths did follow him, because they loved him and because they loved their country; and, therefore, they could endure trial with greater joy than any selfish pleasures could bestow.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

Reformation Anecdotes.
Richard Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh, became celebrated as an opponent of the shameless mendicant orders in the fourteenth century. During one of his visits to London he found the ecclesiastics warmly discussing the subject of the poverty of Jesus; and being asked to preach on the subject, he taught as follows: — "Jesus Christ, during His sojourn upon earth, was always a poor man; but He never practised begging as His own spontaneous choice. He never taught any one to beg. On the contrary, Jesus taught that no man should practise voluntary begging."

(Reformation Anecdotes.)

hardship: — When Felix Neff undertook the pastorate of the High Alps, a neat cottage was built for him at La Chalpe, one of the few pleasant spots in his vast parish. But his anxiety to reach all his scattered people was such, that two or three days in each month was all that he spent there. With a staff in his hand and a wallet on his back, he travelled from this starting-point twelve miles westward, sixty eastward, twenty southward, and thirty northward. While strength lasted, he did not allow himself a single day of repose, and never slept three successive nights in the same bed.

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