In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Are you looking for Jesus? Are you looking in the right places, and for the right Lord? Even Elijah had to be taught and catechized by God.
Elijah knew that following the Lord was a lonely way. It seemed as if he were the last believer in the whole country! So the Lord God made Himself present for Elijah. In the great wind? In the earthquake that followed? In the fire? No. In the spoken word.
Are you looking for Jesus? Jesus comes to you in the same way as He came to Elijah. He is the Word made flesh, and comes to you in the preaching and teaching of His Word! And so the lord delivered His message to Elijah – a message of Law for unbelief and of Gospel for those in the faith – news that some 7,000 believers remained in the Old Testament Church, and that God was calling Elisha as His next prophet.
“I will follow You,” the man says. But nothing more is said when Jesus tells him of His humble life. “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say farewell to those at my home,” says another. Funny. When Elisha asked to go home and say “Farewell” to his parents, Elijah thought it was no big deal. Jesus, on the other hand, seems to call Elisha to mind, but says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Yet here is the difference. Elisha was given the faith and desire to serve. He was simply bidding farewell to his believing parents. The man who approaches Jesus in today’s Gospel lacks true faith and the resulting trust and commitment.
And what about the “harsh” words Jesus has for the man wanting to bury his father. Doesn’t that seem a bit unreasonable? But here is the “clincher.” He doesn’t say that his father has died. He is saying to Jesus, “Just be patient, Jesus. Someday, after my father has died, I will come and follow You.” But wait…there’s more. When Jesus talks here of the dead burying the dead, He is not being mean or impossible. This father was spiritually dead – he did not have faith in Christ. So Jesus is saying to let the unbelievers take care of unbelievers, and come and follow Him.
Are you looking for Jesus? These people in today’s Gospel thought they were. But when push came to shove, they backed off, and cowered away from following Jesus. They discovered a cost and decided it was not worth it.
Not one instance is recorded when a person came to Jesus and said: “I will follow You,” and they actually succeeded in being a disciple. They loved and trusted themselves. They showed a concern about unbelieving friends and family – not for their conversion, but for their complacent living. They placed confidence in their own commitment to the Lord, and had their priorities and used their strength and words in all the wrong places.
We are reminded all the time: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Jesus calls. He draws us in faith.
The two youth gatherings that our young people will attend this summer rejoice in this. Both have selected themes that emphasize this work of God. The senior high youth will attend the National Youth Gathering, entitled: We Believe. They will celebrate the faith that God has blessed them with. Our junior high kids will attend Higher Things, with the theme: Given. This too, is rejoicing in the faith God gives and the Sacraments and Gospel He gives to nourish that faith!
It is only when the Lord reaches out through His Holy Gifts that people are given faith and able to follow Him. This morning we witnessed our dear Lord call Neve to faith. And last week, we rejoiced with Spencer. Jesus rescued and delivered these children, coming in the still small voice of His Name, spoken with baptismal water. The Holy Spirit just brought them to Jesus, and today gathers Neve into Christ’s Church.
You have been baptized and given faith, just like these children. You are drawn to following Jesus. God has shown you the cost, and on your own, you would shy away too. But the Holy Spirit preserves you in the faith and keeps you in Christ.
Are you looking for Jesus? No matter how hard you have looked, no matter how much time and energy you have spent, no matter what you have done to mess up your priorities, Jesus looks for you. He calls you. He baptized you. And you follow Him in receiving His Gospel and Holy Supper.
Are you looking for Jesus? The Good News to treasure is this: Jesus is looking for you! And He has found you! He keeps finding you and giving you the still, small voice of His Word, calling you to faith and nurturing you in that faith until He finds you face to face forever. Amen.