ARE YOU A FAN OR A FOLLOWER OF JESUS?
“No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
A group of Christians were holding a Prayer Meeting in Russia, when such a thing was forbidden. Suddenly the door was broken down by the boot of a soldier, who came into the room, faced the group, with a machine gun in hand, and asked “If there’s any one of you who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then get out now, while you have a chance.” There was a rush for the door. The soldier then closed the door, and stood in front of the remainder of the group, with machine gun in hand. He looked around the room, as the people were beginning to think that their end had come. Then he smiled, and said ‘Actually, I believe in Jesus too, and you’re better off without those others!’
In today’s gospel Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He knows that this is the journey that will take him to his suffering and death. He also knew that this is the way that would lead to life, which is why he dares others to follow him. He said to his disciples, “If any one wishes to be my disciple, he must take up his cross and follow me.” There is a cost to discipleship. One has to be ready to let go of everything that is dear to follow the master. His followers are then to abandon any seeming security, to prefer nothing to the work for the life of the kingdom. They are to journey onward with resolution, not looking back at what they have left behind. Do we follow him on our terms? “I will follow you but first let me finish what I am doing at the moment.” “Lord, I will follow you but I have to take care of my other commitments and personal needs!” “Lord, I want to follow you but my family needs me at the moment. I’ll come as soon as I’m free!” We may feel we have good and valid reasons for not following the Lord now, but nothing is good enough; there is only one way, and we have to make our choice for or against him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran theologian, wrote a series of reflections on the Sermon on the Mount entitled, The Cost of Discipleship, in which he maintained that discipleship requires that we make a fundamental decision to follow Jesus and to accept the consequences of that decision. His own religious convictions led him to stand up to the tyranny of Nazi Germany and to participate in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The plot was uncovered, Bonhoeffer was apprehended, and the ultimate “cost” of discipleship was exacted of him: he was hanged by the Nazis on April 9, 1945. While discipleship might force some people to decide between life and death, few of us will be asked to pay that ultimate price. But today’s Gospel challenges us to live in a certain way, imitating the prophetic vocation of Jesus.
Then again, most people continually rehearse their past over and over again. Why did Jesus say, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” It means that those people never leave their past behind. Someone hurt you 20 years ago, but you have not moved on; you have not forgiven the person and you keep bearing grudges. Without forgiveness, we will remain in the pass. Without forgiveness, there is no future for us. We have a God of the future. That is why he wants any of his disciples to allow bygone be bygone. We must let go of those things that keep us defensive, small and attacking others. In the second reading, Paul says that, “For freedom Christ has set us free, so stand firm and do not submit to the yoke of slavery.” Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ? A follower leaves everything and follows him whole and entire. So, which one are you?
Fr. Charles Chidiebere Mmaduekwe