(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus has finished his preaching in Galilee and begins the long journey to Jerusalem. He knows what he must do.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
Twice we hear that Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. What can we take this to mean? Even if Jesus does not know exactly what will happen when he gets to Jerusalem, he certainly knows that something bad is coming. Sin and evil in the world are threatened by his goodness. Sin and evil are threatened by Love. Sin and evil work to increase our fear and distract us from our purpose. But Jesus is determined. Nothing changes his mind. He is firm in his purpose. He is here to do the will of God.
The disciples do not seem to get it, though, do they? When they see that some of the people in Samaria do not receive Jesus, offended perhaps that he does not turn away from his purpose to stay with them, James and John want to punish them. They want to use the power of God to burn and to destroy. Is this the will of God? Is this how to be a disciple? Is this how to build the Kingdom? Jesus is pretty clear. Nuh-uh. He keeps walking.
What does it mean then, to be a disciple? Jesus answers this question with three strange sentences.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
This person want to follow. This person desires to be a disciple. Great. But what does Jesus' response mean? Foxes go home at night to their holes. Birds of the air stop flying to rest in their nests—nests built in the shade of trees that have grown from teeny-tiny seeds, perhaps. But Jesus says, he himself has not a place to rest.
Surely, he sleeps?!
Surely, he stops to eat and drink?!
Or does Jesus mean that he does not rest from the work of the Kingdom of God? Perhaps he wants this person to know that doing the will of God is not a part-time job. Doing the will of God is a vocation. It is who Jesus is.
If we are going to be disciples, Jesus wants us to know what being a disciple means.
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Burying the dead is not a bad thing. In fact, it is prescribed by Jewish law. It is just and right. It is a good thing to do.
So is Jesus telling this person not to do something good?
Or perhaps instead Jesus is saying, being called by him is not a good thing—it is the best. At times in our lives, we will find that following Jesus means choosing between two things that are good. God calls us to the best. We will have to listen carefully to know which choice is the best, which one proclaims the Kingdom of God.
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Okay, so what does Jesus mean this time? Certainly, saying goodbye to family is not bad. Jesus responds by talking about ploughing a field. Many of us have never done this. Animals pull the heavy plough but someone has to have their hands on the plough so that they plough in a straight line. If the person looks over their shoulder, will the plough go in a straight line? It could veer all over the place! It could hurt someone! Ploughing requires focus. So does the work of the Kingdom.
When Jesus sets his face to do the will of God, he is focused because this work is the best. It is his vocation.
Jesus calls us into this work with him. Ploughing is so much easier when people work together. He lets us know what this work will mean. It will not mean burning and destroying those who are against us. But it will mean hard work. We will have to focus, but it will be rewarding because this is the best work. It becomes who we are. It is our vocation.