“Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'” — Luke 9:62
What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? What is discipleship? I will let you explore those truths for yourself this evening but there is something that I want to talk about in reference to discipleship and that is something that discipleship is not.
Now I am a very strong believer in context and while this verse refers to a plow and is a farming analogy, it has a much deeper meaning to it beyond the technique of how one is supposed to plow a field. In the verses leading up to verse 62 and the chapter shortly occurring a, Jesus is equipping, sending, and teaching those around him what it means to follow after him. In chapter nine just 39 verses before the one at the top of this blog Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Jesus is laying out a very strong argument for the fact that following after Him would not be easy. As a matter of fact Jesus never said that it would be easy. I will not go on the track of the prosperity gospel other that to say that one need not go past the first generation Christians to see that a Christian life is not all about health and wealth.
So what does the plow verse have to do with all of the take up your cross lingo and the whole process of discipleship? Well even after seeing Jesus carry out miracle after miracle, the disciples still do not understand the immense cost that they must pay to follow Christ and that cost is still there today. At the beginning of chapter 9 Jesus tells the disciples that they will be rejected but here at the end of the chapter he says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” The NET study bible has a great study note on this matter and it says, “Jesus warns that excessive concern for family ties (looks back) will make the kingdom a lesser priority, which is not appropriate for discipleship. The image is graphic, for who can plow straight ahead toward a goal while looking back? Discipleship cannot be double-minded.” Discipleship is many things but it cannot be double minded. How can one press toward a goal when they aren’t even looking at it? I want to contribute my own anecdote as a former football player and say that it is impossible for a runner to run for the touchdown if they are not looking at the end zone. Commentators always talk about someone who is a downhill runner mean they are focused on going forward rather than sideways in their pursuit of yardage.
Right after chapter nine ends, Jesus send out seventy-two to go ahead of him and the missionary verse, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” comes into effect. Discipleship is a single-minded mission. In order to see discipleship effectively working one’s mindset must be what is on the horizon and where one is heading. Gospel centered and forward driven. Single minded discipleship is what Jesus demands because, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”