Committed to Following Jesus

By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2003
What does Luke 9:62 mean when it says “no one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God”?

Committed to Following Jesus

Question:

I have been doing a study in the Scriptures on “commitment” and came to this passage in Luke 9:62—”But Jesus said to him: ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God’.” I don’t understand the meaning of this verse, can you help me?

Answer:

Thanks for asking such a good question! This verse can be understood in the context of verses 57-62—all dealing with Jesus’ teaching on commitment and discipleship.

There are three elements to this passage:

  1. Verses 57 & 58: Before making a commitment to follow Jesus, make sure you count the cost.
  2. Verses 59 & 60: Do we allow other things—even good things—to get in the way of our commitment to Christ?
  3. Verses 61 & 62: Commitment and discipleship cannot mean that we have one foot “in the world” and one “in heaven.”

Let’s take a look at each of these in light of your question.

First of all, in verses 57 & 58, Jesus is asking each of us to count the cost of following Him. Are we willing to give up our agenda, our rights, our desires to follow Him? Loyalty to our favorite football or baseball team means that we are committed to supporting them through the good and bad times. Loyalty and commitment to Jesus means that we desire to become more and more like Him. We are willing to take up our cross “daily” and follow Him. It means that we are to put ourselves—mind, body and spirit—in His hands to do as He so desires.

We have some good friends who have been called to serve the Lord in Southern Africa. The calling on their lives has been confirmed in so many ways that they have sold their business and home to follow the Lord’s new direction in their lives. The Lord took me out of the church pastorate and placed me in a hospital setting for this “season of my life,” and I am truly enjoying the blessing of serving Him where He has “planted” me. Count the cost of serving Him! You will reap far more than you have sowed if you are willing to go and do it His way. Are you and I willing to follow Him wherever He sends us?

Secondly, in verses 59 & 60, Jesus called the man to come and follow Him, but the man said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus’ answer seems strange to us: “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” That sounds kind of harsh doesn’t it? Several commentaries suggest that man’s father probably wasn’t dead yet. The meaning here implies that we have a tendency to put off (or procrastinate) God’s call on our lives. I am firmly convinced that God’s calling and timing is always perfect! We will miss a lot of opportunities to heed God’s call on our lives if we continue to “put Him off” until a better day from our perspective. If we are not careful, we might miss His call all together! Jesus is not saying that taking care of our parents, children, etc., is unimportant, He is saying that our commitment must first be to Him—as we read in Matthew 6: 33: “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” It’s a matter of priorities in our lives, and Jesus wants to be number 1!

Finally, the verses you asked about—61 & 62. The farmers of Jesus’ day, and the farm­ers of today, would clearly understand Jesus’ words here—it must be explained to “city folks.” When a farmer plows a furrow in his field, he will pick out two objects ahead of him and beyond his field to focus on. One will be rather close and the second, further away. His goal is to keep these two objects lined up, and he will focus on them keeping one directly in front of the other. As long as he keeps them together while driving his tractor, he will plow a straight furrow. If he constantly looks back, he will take his eye off the distant objects and the furrow will not be straight.

If we intend to follow Jesus, we cannot continue to look back at our old way of life, and we will not follow Jesus’ call on our lives successfully. Our old patters of life can throw us off the course Jesus has set for us.

An old song help us to understand this concept. The first verse goes like this: “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before; Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; Forward into battle, see His banners go.” Notice that there is nothing in this song that speaks of marching or looking backward. If we are going to be committed to being followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot look backwards.

It’s as if Jesus is saying to us in these verses, “I will not accept a lukewarm discipleship.” Now we must make a decision on our commitment to Him.

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