And as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’” And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the road and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived. I Kings 13:20-25 ESV
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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 ESV
When Jesus was on his way to the cross, there were some people who said they would like to follow him. The first person said that he’d follow Jesus anywhere he went. Jesus told him that he needed to count the cost first. Following him wasn’t about glamor and glory, but it was hard and humble work. The second person asked if he could wait until after his father died before he followed Jesus. Jesus told him that a real follower of his doesn’t wait till a convenient time, but starts to follow right away. The third person wanted to go and say goodbye to his family, but Jesus told him that he needed to start following before he said goodbye. He knew that the family would talk him out of being his follower. Jesus’ words seem harsh, but they show a truth about the cost of following him. It means leaving everything that gets in the way and putting Jesus first.
The prophet who had disobeyed God and stopped for a meal in the northern kingdom heard very harsh words of judgment spoken to him by God. God spoke through the other prophet, even though he had lied and might not have been a true prophet. God sometimes speaks through unexpected people, and in this case the words were hard to hear. The southern man of God was going to be punished and not come home to where his family was buried, but die in the north where he had stopped when God had told him not to. God needed his prophet to stay true to him and obey him, and not let others turn him away from God’s way, or he wouldn’t be any good as a prophet of God.
As followers of Jesus and of God’s way, we too often turn aside and aren’t completely loyal to God. We don’t put Jesus first in our lives. There is no one who follows God’s ways perfectly, except for one person. Jesus completely obeyed his heavenly Father and followed where God called him to go. He knew that God’s way led to the cross, but he followed that way without turning aside because of his love for us. Jesus died on the cross to win forgiveness for us for the times we turn away from God. Jesus forgives our sins every day and gives us help and strength to follow him.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Help us to follow you always. Amen.