In 1964 there arose a confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. A group of Gurkhas from Nepal were asked if they would be willing to jump from transport planes into combat if needed. Since they had never been trained as paratroopers, the Gurkhas had the right to refuse.
While usually very agreeable, they first refused. However, the next day, they reconsidered and told the British officer who had asked them that they would jump under these conditions: The ground was marshy or reasonably soft with no rocky outcrops and they wanted the plane to fly as slowly as possible at no more that 100 feet high.
The Gurkhas were assured that all these conditions could be met, but with one exception. To jump from only 100 feet was impossible, because the parachutes would not open in time from that height.
Surprisingly the Gurkhas responded, “Oh, will we be wearing parachutes? You didn’t mention parachutes before. In that case we’ll jump anywhere with parachutes!”
The Gurkhases were committed. Committed to the point of jumping out of an airplane without a parachute! Christ has called His followers to a similar kind of commitment. Luke records Jesus’ interaction with three men that speak of the issue of commitment.
“Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, 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.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:57-62)
Here Jesus points out three challenges that may keep us from following Him.
(1) The uncounted cost.
Jesus wants only those who are truly converted. He says the way is not easy. Sometimes there is no rest for your weary head. There is a price to be paid.
The cost may literally be financial. Jesus asks us to be good givers. Not just to the work of His church (2 Cor 9:7), but willing to share our resources with others (1 Tim. 6:18). Unselfishly working to acquire resources “to give to those who have need” (Eph 4:28).
The cost may require us to give up opportunities to make money that would compromise our values, hurt our influence, or demand too much of our time, energy and effort that distracts from our discipleship.
(2) The unburied corpse.
Like the man in the text, some claim interest in following Jesus, but are preoccupied with earthly concerns. The illustration seems almost shocking. The man’s request seems reasonable. But Jesus’ response calls for commitment. Now!
“Let the dead bury their own dead.” In other words let the spiritually dead attend to this matter. You’re called to preach.
Commitment calls for us to leave behind what may seem to be reasonable from an earthly viewpoint. Understand it is an illustration. But it illustrates a level of loyalty to the Lord that is unsurpassed. Unprecedented. And unequaled.
(3) The unforsaken circle.
Finally, returning home to say “goodbye” before leaving for an extended trip doesn’t seem out of line. Yet, Jesus’ call is paramount. Immediate. Urgent. He demands severing relationships that will impede our progress or hinder our Christian walk. Following Christ comes before family or friends.
These three challenging illustrations by Christ highlight the importance of commitment to His cause. Commitment has to do with dedication. Devotion. And loyalty. Commitment requires persistence. Patience. And prioritizing. Commitment demands self-sacrifice. Self discipline. And self-improvement.
Art Turock was right when he wrote, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
Christ calls for commitment. Will you answer the challenge? Will I?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman