Comparing different Christian Intentions
The following scripture presents a scenario where Jesus appears to act in a double-standard way. He responded differently to two men who sought to follow him:
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8: 16-22).
Why would Jesus discourage the request of one person to follow him, but command another man who did not even ask to follow him, to do so?
Luke 9 says that he commanded that second man to follow him. Luke records Jesus giving a command to the second person: “Come follow me!”
Again, why would Jesus discourage the request of one person to follow him, but command another man to follow him even though that man did not ask?
This story might shed some light on that question: The Dog and the OysterThere was once a Dog who was very fond of eggs. He visited the hen house very often and at last got so greedy that he would swallow the eggs whole. One day the Dog wandered down to the seashore. There he spied an Oyster. In a twinkling, the Oyster was resting in the Dog’s stomach, shell, and all. It pained the Dog a good deal, as you can guess. The dog in his newly found wisdom exclaimed: “I’ve learned that not all-round things are eggs,” he said groaning in pain (https://www.read.gov/aesop/103.html). The moral, things are not always what they seem!
Impure Christian intentions
In the same way, not all Christians are followers of Christ. Don’t be fooled, not everyone who comes to church comes to follow Jesus. Not everyone in the crowd is a disciple. Some people are like Judas, they are Christian only if they are holding the money bag.
When you return to Jesus’ response to the teacher-of-the-law, you will notice he seemed to discourage that man from following him: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Meaning, I have no mansion, no condo, not even a 2×4 hut; so, why follow me. In essence, you have no material benefit in me. I have no corner office in Buckhead and definitely, no beachfront property in Saint Lucia or Jamaica, no chateau in Panama City or Cancun. Jesus implies that this man’s motive for following was materialistic by nature.
We know that because he was a pharisee – a teacher of the law. And here is what Jesus had to say about those people: Matt. 23: 18, You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ The pharisees thought that people had a bigger responsibility bringing their money to the altar than they had bringing their heart.
In verse 19: “You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” They were more interested in the gold on the altar than the holiness of the altar – They were more interested in form than substance. And Jesus knowing the intent of his heart said foxes have holes, birds have nest, but I have nothing to give you. Their attention was placed on gold, not God! So, you understand why Jesus disregarded the Pharisee’s request to follow. The teacher-of-the-law represents people who stick with God only when he provides what they want.
True disciples intend to believe and commit
The line that follows is an artiste questioning the reasons why we follow Jesus:
If you don’t give me what I want but you give me what I need Is that enough to Believe (Blessing Offor). If God’s plan does not fit your plan, are you still willing to follow?
The reason why Jesus responded differently to the men was based on those individuals’ intention.
Why did he command the second person to follow him as he discouraged the first?
That answer may lie in the title by which he addresses the second guy, disciple. One person labelled “Teacher-of -the-law”, the other was called ‘disciple’.
What does discipleship mean? One who follows – this man was already committed.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:22-25).
The ‘self’ mentioned in the last line above references the ‘spiritual self or soul.’ And the question of choosing the ‘whole world’ or your ‘soul’ is the determinant of discipleship. The second man was required to follow Jesus above taking on the serious cultural and civil responsibility of burying his father. Jesus used that as a metaphor to emphasize how discipleship trumps any other earthly onus or material desire. Our intention is also declared in the crosses we endure. In Jesus’ day there were other teachers and intellectuals. They had students and disciples, but nowhere were they expected to die following their masters. Yet, Jesus asked for full devotion of his disciples, even onto death – your body in exchange for your soul.
As our topic says “Christians, declare your intention,” there is a difference between Christians who follow the money, the praise, or the earthly material things; compared to those who follow for the heavenly kingdom and redemption of the soul. Between those two, what is your declaration?