In a Luke 9:51-62 Jesus said these words in response to a person who wanted to bury their father first before following Jesus. Talk about being put in your place by Jesus. BAM! To another who wanted to say goodbye to their family first Jesus comes down hard with the analogy of putting a hand to the plow and not looking back. Jesus taking no prisoners. Follow Me and don’t look back. Put up or shut up.
Is this the same Jesus who treasures little children, whose first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding, who was moved emotionally by the death of a close friend and raised him from the dead!?
Several years ago near the beginning of my work career I had a boss who I at first had a very difficult time working for. I was young, a bit arrogant in my skills, and a tad headstrong. This man was very arrogant, had a firm business compass, and no filter on his mouth. He would say things as they were whether it hurt your feelings or not. This was business and he saw no need to sugar coat.
What I came to appreciate was that he was candid. I grew under his tutelage. When I made a mistake he would point it out without any malicious intent. His only goal was to make us better. He made the whole team better. The one characteristic that he brought alongside his ability to be starkly candid was the ability to move on from a person’s mistake. He wouldn’t think twice about it after he gave his constructive criticism.
I did not realize this until I had time to reflect and had a few other bosses. I had men and women who were extremely passive aggressive. Praising you while taking you down. Disguising their contempt for your work with smiles while keeping a list of every mistake you ever made. At the “right” moment, they would heap this upon you and tear you down. These were extremely hard folks to please and obtain goals from so that you could meet their expectations. Many of them were also micromanagers.
Jesus is no micromanager. He also has this amazing ability to forgive and move on. His goals and expectations are crystal clear. But he will tell you what He is looking for in a very direct manner. Even if you don’t want to hear it.
As I read this gospel I can picture the faces of the people listening to Him. I picture slack jaw individuals who are left speechless looking at Jesus thinking, “Did He really just say that?” I picture that first boss and then I picture my immaturity and how I have come to appreciate that candor. How I learned from that type of candor. How that type of candor comes with other fantastic traits. Maturity has taught me to appreciate that traits work together to make us a whole person. If we can step back and look at the whole, we can develop an understanding in context that assists in our growth.
This gospel is hard to hear, hard to assimilate, hard to reconcile the human being we know as Jesus. But it woke me up in the same manner when we see Jesus get angry at vendors in a place of worship. I realize how immature spiritually I am. How much more I have to grow.
I have one more short vignette. I have a friend who has a hard time letting go and keeps looking back and thinking about his life. This seems to paralyze him when faced with difficult decisions. Ultimately, I believe it holds him back from finding his purpose and being happy. He doesn’t necessarily say “What if?” but he does analyze and then overthink. He doesn’t want to make a mistake.
Seen in this context which many people can relate to, Jesus’ words do not seem so harsh. Follow Me and don’t look back.