Looking Backward

By Emily Hylden

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 9:51-62

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to prepare for his arrival, 53 but they did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 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.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 And Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”


Our passage begins with Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem.” It’s a turning point in the story of this gospel, a shift in the way Jesus is revealing his work. Jesus spends the rest of the book focused on his journey toward the cross; he has set his face and his feet toward this one goal; he leads his disciples in the direction of this goal, too.

One would-be disciple declares that he’d follow Jesus wherever he went. Jesus turns to him and frankly responds, “If you follow me, you will have no home, the comforts and familiarity you hold dear will be stripped away. You will have less routine and normalcy than a fox or a bird.”

Jesus calls to another and urges him, “Follow me.” The man equivocates, “Sure, but first I have these prior commitments I absolutely must see through. I am so glad to come, once these conditions are met.” Jesus questions the priorities this man has — what this would-be disciple’s face is set toward — and what this man’s ultimate goal might be.

Finally, a third one says, “Oh yes, I’ll be so glad to come and follow you, once I fulfill my expectations first. Once I do the things I have in mind. I can follow you, in my own time, on my schedule. We can negotiate this, for sure.”

Cringe. Do we negotiate with God? Do we cling to the things that are precious to us, do we lay them down but then pick them right up again, looking backward with our hand on the plow?

The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.

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Today we pray for:

St. David’s (Radnor) Church, Wayne, Pennsylvania
The Diocese of Natal – The Anglican Church of Southern Africa


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