As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Luke 9:57 | NIV (1984) | Other Versions | Context
At first glance this verse would seem to be a choice pick to be carved on a monument or hung on a frame – I will follow you wherever you go – what a declaration of faith and commitment! One of the core values of re-Ver(sing) Verses is to not use a verse to explain the entire Bible, but instead to use the entire Bible to explain a verse. In context, this verse teaches us a lot more than plain old faith and commitment. The key value here is perhaps that of passion – not new to many of us perhaps, we all have our times of spiritual passion – even if we often find ourselves unable to maintain it at a very high level. As great as the declaration was, Jesus’ response to him was very unencouraging – “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” [Luke 9:58]. I’m not going to focus on Jesus’ reaction, as it is a verse meant for another day, but you would expect a more spirited response, wouldn’t you? Essentially, Jesus was doubting him – really? Do you even know what you are saying? In this study, we will examine how plain passion without understanding the cost of God’s mission is not appreciated.
As a designer I’m a strong believer of passion. Technically, in our line of work, we need a lot of passion to go on. Our pay is lower than most others, we need an overwhelming amount of ideas and inspirations, we work through the nights and live, eat and sleep design. In worldly passion, you don’t have to understand anything, you just have to love it, you just have to live it, you just have to keep doing it. Not so for spiritual passion.
From the beginning of the book of Luke till Luke 9:50, Jesus was focused on his ministry in the province of Galilee. From 9:51 onwards, however, we see Jesus moving on to Jerusalem – As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem [Luke 9:51]. His trip to Jerusalem spanned 10 days, taking up a massive length of 10 chapters – After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem [Luke 19:28]. That’s essentially when he entered Jerusalem with a donkey, the event known as the Triumphal Entry, days before his crucifixion.
As they were walking along the road – According to the context in the book of Luke, Jesus and his disciples were passing through a Samaritan Village en route to Jerusalem. However, there’s a lot of question marks hanging over this ‘road’ exactly as if this is the same incident as the one recorded in the book of Matthew – [Matthew 8:18-22], then this would be much earlier in his ministry, while he was still at Capernaum, heading towards the sea side.
Out of the three men who wanted to follow him in Luke, 2 were mentioned with great similarity in Matthew 8’s passage. It is very likely that this was the same piece of history, and hence we’re unable to focus too much on where this had happened due to the possibilities. I will, however, in the context of this verse, assume the location to be Jesus passing through the Samaritan Village en route to Jerusalem, and it being close to the time of his crucifixion.
I will follow you wherever you go – This is a declaration of great passion, of great intent. You must love somebody immensely to be able to say this. You must have great faith in that person to be able to say this. It’s that kind of a line that we often hear in dramas – either from those epic war movies where a solider tells his general – ‘I will follow you wherever you go’; or in those cheesy romance flicks where a man meets his lover at the airport and tells her – ‘I will follow you wherever you go’. At first glance it is a very heartening verse, a verse that inspires more of us to do like the man did – to follow Jesus wherever he goes.
But there are a few problems with his declaration. Firstly, if we assume that this was Jesus heading towards Jerusalem already, then we’re talking about the last 2 weeks of his ministry – the last 2 weeks before his crucifixion. Essentially, Jesus was going to be crucified for the cross, and while he had been preaching it, nobody understood. They knew that he was heading to Jerusalem, but they understood not that it was for the sake of the crucifixion. Without knowing it, the man was essentially telling Jesus, I will follow you into Jerusalem, into death, into crucifixion.
Which Jesus pointed out that he wasn’t ready for. A man who thinks he was capable of anything but, lacking in spirit, he not only did not understand the ministry of Jesus, he also did not understand himself. Giving the man the benefit of doubt, I would like to think that he was a largely good and earnest disciple of Jesus – perhaps too eager, perhaps too rash in giving a promise of something so immense, of something that he did not understand.
Blind passion results to nothing – there is no room for blind passion in Christianity. I’m not saying your passion has to make sense, because Christian passion often isn’t seen as practical – like missionaries giving up high paying jobs in big cities to go to war-torn or 3rd world countries for the gospel. Passionate? Certainly. Practical? In the eyes of men, certainly not. But blind passion without understanding God’s mission will not result in anything productive. Instead, we should respond knowingly to God’s mission.
There are two other men in the same passage who served as perfect examples of what kinds of people were not suitable for God’s ministry. They’re all good case studies for us as we serve in our churches and in the Kingdom of God – and while I still firmly believe in passion, and I believe that a burning passion for God is necessary in order to serve, let us remember to keep our passion in check and not run wild with it. Let’s complement our passion with spiritual truths and knowledge, and direct our passions in the right way by listening to the will of God.