Key Texts: Matthew 8:19-22; Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 4:16-30; Luke 18:18-30; John 3:1-21.
Key Issues: There are a number of instances recorded in the gospels of people who came to Jesus and volunteered to become his followers. But, after an exchange with Jesus, they did not follow him. This lesson asks what lessons we may learn from such instances.
1. In the Gospels, there are quite a few instances where people almost became followers of Jesus. Notice the instances below:
a. In Matthew 8:19-20, , there is record of a “teacher of the law,” a well-educated individual, probably of at least modest means, coming and volunteering to follow Jesus “wherever he went.” This appears to be a rather impulsive and brash promise. Notice Jesus’s reply to him.
b. In Matthew 8, 21-22, there is record of an un-described person who comes. In this case, he made reference to wanting to go bury his father. This comment is interesting in light of the custom of those times to bury the dead the same day of their death. Some have suggested this answer might indicate indolence on the man’s part. Notice Jesus’ response to him.
c. In Mark 10:17-23 we have record of the best-known incident of one who came and nearly followed Jesus. This is the case commonly referred to as the Rich Young Ruler. This man came believing that he was in good spiritual condition, that he had kept all the laws necessary for salvation. Note the response of Jesus to him.
d. In John 3:1-21, there is the story of Nicodemus, the ruler who came to Jesus by night inquiring about him. At the point of the interview, Nicodemus did not follow Jesus, but there are traditions that after the crucifixion, he did become a follower. It is interesting that Jesus response to Nicodemus was different than his response to the others.
e. In Luke 4:16 and onward, we read of the mass rejection Jesus experienced when he went back to Nazareth.
2. A number of considerations emerge from these instances:
a. Why do you think these various people came to offer to become followers of Jesus? Perhaps they all had different reasons.
b. It is interesting that in two of the cases, Jesus spoke to them of the cost of being a follower of his, and that deterred them. In one case, Jesus focused on a key issue in the young man’s life that revealed that while he had kept the letter of the law, it had not reached all the way to his heart so as to change it. The prospect of having that happen turned the young man away.
c. In the case of Nicodemus, Jesus took the occasion to teach him about salvation. Certainly, Jesus sensed the inclinations in the hearts of all these people. That is why he treated them differently.
d. In the Nazareth incident, it is interesting to speculate on the effect of “herd” mentality. How much play do you think that had? How much affect does such a mentality have on people? How often do you think it causes people to do things far more drastic than if they had been alone? What lessons would you take from this instance?
e. What do you think could have been done to help the almost-but-not-quite crowd? What could be done today to help them?