On our recent trip to the Bible lands, we visited the village of Capernaum, billed as “The Town of Jesus.” As we entered I snapped this picture of the statue of “Homeless Jesus” by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmaz.
The statue reminded me of this interaction Jesus had with a Scribe as he was about to leave this sea-coast town and go to the other side.
“Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go,” said the Scribe.
Jesus responded, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
This passage speaks to the issue of discipleship. Of counting the cost. Of paying the price required to follow Jesus.
I’ve joked about our current ministry that “We’re homeless.” We actually don’t have a home. Just a storage unit. And a P.O. Box. However, through homeway.com and airbnb.com we have plenty of comfortable places to “lay our head.” These sites have parameters so that you can weed out places that don’t have the amenities you require. I prefer a King-size bed but will settle for a Queen.
My wife wants to know about other amenities. Does it have a dishwasher? A washer and dryer? An iron? Plenty of kitchen appliances and utensils? An ice maker? What’s the location? The size? You get the picture.
Through the years of doing meeting work, I’ve been put up in all kinds of accommodations. A fold-up couch in the basement where everyone had access. Sharing the kids’ bedroom. Having a little bed where my feet hung off. A bedroom with zero closet space for my clothes. And sometimes a single bathroom you share with the family. You understand that’s just the way it is. And try to be gracious. Other times the accommodations are spacious and comfortable. Or maybe you enjoy the privacy of a hotel room.
Yet, when I read this passage and think of the park bench in Capernaum, it reminds me of how blessed I am. Jesus had no place to lay head. No home to call his own. No comfortable bed.
Jesus didn’t want followers to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and say, “I will follow you,” without considering what it meant.
At this point Jesus was popular. Large crowds were following. People were praising him. But soon the time would come when the tide of public opinion would turn against him. The road would be rough. The scribes and Pharisees would seek to kill him, not honor him. Some admirers would be secret disciples fearing the scorn of the Jewish leaders. The cross to bear would be heavy.
Following Jesus would exact a serious price to be paid. It would not be popular. It would lead to betrayal, denial, and arrest. It would end in a kangaroo court of a trial. And shameful execution. The disciples would be scattered. Fearful. And hiding. Wondering what was next.
And even after Jesus’ appearance following the resurrection and their sadness turns to gladness, the divine record tells about persecution, suffering, and martyrdom for following Jesus. Paul would later write that the apostles had been reviled, slandered and treated like “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things”(1 Cor 4:12-13).
Few of us have touched the hem of the proverbial garment when it comes to understanding sacrificial discipleship. Oh, yes, there will be challenges. Problems. Trials. People who will treat you unfairly and unkindly because you’re a Christian. There may be ridicule. Scorn. Slurs. We may be branded with a social stigma or even financial repercussions. Yet, at the end of the day, we probably have a place to lay our head.
Furthermore, as I walked passed the bronze statue lying on a park bench, I couldn’t help but think of my attitude toward the flesh and blood homeless today. How often have I been judgmental? Condescending? Inconsiderate? Unkind?
The Savior we follow, who had no place to lay his head, calls for us to have a heart for the hurting (Lk 10:32). To attend to the needs of the fatherless and the widow (Jas. 1:27). And to minister to “the least of these” (Matt 25:31-44). We can do better. I can do better.
Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Or the casual inquirer. Or the Sunday morning only attendee.
Discipleship demands my heart. My life. My all.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman