Scripture records, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea…and He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Matt. 4:18-20, NASB)
I have often wondered how their father reacted to losing two primary partners in the family fishing business on the same day – suddenly, unexpectedly, out of nowhere.
“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ and he got up and followed Him.” (Matt 9:9, NASB)
Matthew – or Levi, son of Alphaeus – surely left a good bit of unfinished business behind when he stood up and walked away.
I have wrestled with the question and wondered both sides of this issue: What in the world did Jesus see in these particular men? And what in the world did each of these men see in Jesus, not having the full revelation of Scripture, as we do, and Scripture itself making no mention that any of His Disciples were looking for Him, waiting for Him, seeking Him.
Perhaps that question is phrased poorly, and should be – what in heaven did Jesus see in them….and what, in heaven, did they see in Him? The first question is easier to answer….Jesus saw the potential for heaven to be in them….just as He does, with us, when He calls.
The second question is more difficult to answer, for not everyone Jesus invited to follow Him did so: in Luke 9:59, Jesus extends the invitation and He is answered, “…permit me first to go and bury my father.” In Luke 9:61, another invitation is given, and He is told, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” In Luke 18:22, Jesus advises the rich young man to “sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor,” followed by the invitation, “come, follow Me.”
Jesus’ responses to these first two examples are of interest to me. To the man who needed to bury his father, Jesus said, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60, NASB) To the second, Jesus responded quite differently. He said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (v. 62)
Two seemingly similar situations…two totally different reactions from Jesus. The New Century Bible translates verses 60 and 62 this way: “Let the people who are dead bury their own dead. You must go and tell about the kingdom of God.” (v. 60) And, “Anyone who begins to plow a field but keeps looking back is of no use in the kingdom of God.” (v. 62)
My opinion, here…is that Jesus spoke of destiny to each of them. My own interpretation of verse 60 is, ‘Hey, that burial-business can be done by others, and that binding responsibility has now passed away from your life – so go, go and tell everyone, everywhere, about the kingdom of God, for you are now free and unfettered to be a persuasive witness.’
Beware the I-will-but-first’s that you hear in this life…..it was surely a red-flag statement when it came to Jesus’ ears…and it remains one. I believe it reveals a heart in turmoil. A life bearing the dynamic of opposites wrestling towards a yet-undetermined outcome.
My personal wording of Jesus’ response in verse 62 is, “You have already been working the soil and planting the seeds of the kingdom – don’t you want to step in to what you’ve been talking about? I’m right here, right now, willing to help you along; if you won’t move in the direction I’m going…how can we be partners?”
Although that reflects a personal interpretation, it’s a pertinent question that collaborates with the concept of otherwise being “no use in the kingdom of God.” If someone can’t decide if he’s looking forward or looking backwards….it is reminiscent of James’ warning about being double-minded….if you lack wisdom, ask it from God, “Who gives to all generously and without reproach,” asking in faith “without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind…being a double-minded man…” (James 1:5,6,8, NASB)
I suggest, then, that the man’s inner turmoil, the reason he continued to “look back” is because he doubted the direction he was going…the past and its comforts, its familiarity appeared rock-solid, while moving forward required faith. Required trust. Required living in that state of dependence on Him…instead of dependence on the plow, which the man controlled.
Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. ” (Philippians 3:13-14, NCV)
Back to Heidi Baker and a desire for God’s favor in our lives: it doesn’t always come in neat, cleanly-wrapped packages or in immediate ways…but to those who persist in looking backwards or to the past….it often won’t come at all…
*Birthing the Miraculous,” Heidi Baker