Follow: Missed Opportunities
Sermon Summary
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go back in time and have the opportunity to literally follow Jesus when he lived on this earth? The more important question, however, is this: Would you have followed Him? God’s Word tells us some did and others did not. This series of messages begins with three examples of those who decided not to follow and looks at the reasons behind their rejection. One turned away when he learned of the cost to follow Jesus. A second man gave an excuse that sounded ligament until you dig a little deeper and discover he may have been dishonest. The third man wasn’t willing to cut the ties with his past life and embrace the new life of following Jesus. The missed opportunity to actually follow the Son of God while He was walking and teaching on this earth is huge. We’ve been given the same invitation to follow Jesus. While He is not walking physically on this earth anymore, He offers to lead us by His Holy Spirit if we are willing to follow!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to actually follow Jesus when He lived on this earth? Your thoughts?

Leader help. Before you deal with next three questions, read the text from Sunday. It will provide the basis for your discussion.

Luke 9:57  As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."
Luke 9:58  Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
Luke 9:59  He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Luke 9:60  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:61  Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
Luke 9:62  Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

2. The opportunity to literally follow Jesus would have been amazing, however, have you ever thought about the implications of what Jesus’ asked these guys to do? “Drop everything in your life and follow me!” Maybe some of these guys were just a part of the crowd of curiosity seekers and when Jesus confronted them with His invitation to become full-time disciples, they were caught off-guard. What would you have done?

3. Jesus’ response to the man who wanted to first bury his father seems at first glance to be insensitive and maybe even mean. However, after a deeper look at the culture and religious practices of the day, it is curious as to why this man was at this Jesus rally in the first place. If his dad had died and he was really committed to his duties as a Jewish son, he would been with his family on that day. Had you ever considered this and does this help you understand this difficult passage?

4. The truth is, Jesus has offered each of us the same invitation to follow Him on a daily basis. Do we sometimes find excuses for not being fully devoted disciples? What is it about Jesus’ invitation that we find difficult? Helpful hints: Cost, honesty, ties with the past.

One last thought. When you think about what you might have to give up to follow Jesus, think about what He gave up for you! Paul put it this way in Ephesians 5:1-2
Eph 5:1  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
Eph 5:2  and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Missed Opportunities

The opportunity to have that power in your life exist! The invitation to receive that power has been made to you. Today you may be confronted with this opportunity for the first time, or you may have known about the invitation for a long time, but for some reason you've not responded. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever missed a great opportunity and it never came back around again? Or have you ever missed a great opportunity and decided if it ever came back around you'd jump on it? Let me tell you about an opportunity I missed a couple of weeks ago.

Just before we went to Haiti this last trip, I decided to buy a Go Pro camera so I could capture what it's like to ride up the mountain in the back of a crowded tap tap and show some of the amazing scenery there. Then a few weeks ago, as a customer of Go Pro, I received an invitation.

"Go Pro is going public and you're invited…at our request, the underwriters of our initial public offering have reserved up to 1.5 % of the Class A common stock to be offered…at the initial public offering price."

I thought to myself, "I've never done anything with the stock market, but that's going to be a good one. I just might do that."
But I got busy, and I forgot about the invitation until I heard they had gone public and the stock was doing good. I went back to my invitation and I could still buy in. It went public on a Thursday and this was on Friday morning early before the markets opened. So I thought, "I'll try this." So I did. I put a whopping 250.00 in. Of course, the fine print said it could take up to three business days to process the purchase. So at the end of the day on Friday, the stock had risen even more, but my purchase was still being processed.
The stock continued its rise on Monday, but…my purchase was still being processed.
Same thing on Tuesday, but by the end of the day some people were cashing in on their profits and by that evening when my purchase finally went through, I had lost around $15.00.

So much for my foray into the stock market. Had I acted on that initial invitation, my purchase would have processed before the initial offering and my 250.00 would now be worth around 450.00. Boy have I wished I could go back in time to June 11th when I first got that invitaion! So I missed an opportunity to make a little money. But today we're going to talk about some folks who missed out on an opportunity way more important than making money. Let me ask you a question. If you could travel back in time to the days of Jesus, and you could actually meet Jesus Christ in person, how many of you would go for an adventure like that? I know I would and of course I would ask if I could take my new Go Pro camera so I could share it with the world on You Tube!

But here's the more important question. If you could go back in time, what would you do if Jesus confronted you with the words, "Follow Me"? What would you do? There were three folks in our passage of Scripture today, who literally heard these words. "Follow Me!"

Let's pray and ask God to teach us today through some ancient missed opportunities.

Luke 9:57-62

Father God, I pray You will anoint this message with Your precious Holy Spirit and that people will be drawn to You and Your truth. I know You have given us choices to make and as persons made in Your image, we have the God-given right to reject Your offer of salvation! We have the right to be separated from You,  not because You will it, but because we sometimes chose it! I know you're words "Follow Me" had heavy and even radical implications for those who considered accepting Your invitation. But I also know Your invitation is more than an opportunity of a lifetime, it is an opportunity of an eternity! Please Lord Jesus, let Your truth and glory over shadow Your servant this morning so people will see Your face, and hear Your voice, and receive Your invitation to Follow! In Jesus name!

Take your Bibles and let's read together Luke 9:57-62

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Missed Opportunity #1

Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

So the first guy was actually a volunteer. This guy didn't wait for Jesus to say follow me. He had gotten caught up in all the excitement of the crowds who were following Jesus around to see what miracle He would do next and to hear what new things He would teach.

We know from Matthew's gospel this guy was a Scribe, and as such he was really into good teaching! He was an expert in God's Word. Evidently he had been following Jesus for some time, because Matthew actually calls him a disciple, not one of the twelve, but probably in the generic sense of the word. A disciple is one who follows a teacher! So this guy decided to take it to the next level. He didn't want to just be one of the crowd! He could see something in Jesus, and it was more than human greatness, it was supernatural! With this kind of power, he just knew this Jesus guy was a good bet. An investment in Jesus might just turn out to be a great thing. After all, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and if He set up an earthly kingdom when he got there, this guy wanted in! He might get to be the head Scribe in recording this new teaching.
But when Jesus told him the cost. The guy decided the risk outweighed the potential gain.

Luke 9:58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus made this statement on the heals of being rejected by the Samaritans. Listen to the verses just prior to our text. Luke 9:51-56...

Luke 9:51-56
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;
53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.
54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them ?”
55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them,
56 and they went to another village.

Even Jesus' main disciples had yet to understand Jesus' mission was to save people not destroy them. They too were under the impression Jesus was on a political mission. Just four verses earlier we read that ...

Luke 9:46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.

So the main disciples and this follower of the teacher were missing the point, and if we're not careful we could miss the point as well. Jesus was not just talking about the lack of physical home to lay His head at night. No! Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to take up a Cross not a throne, a crown of thorns, not of jewels. And no place to lay His head quite possibly was a glimpse into suffering He was about to endure for hours on the Cross where He would have no place to lay His head!

There are many who will follow Jesus as long as there are benefits, and blessings, but throw a Cross in there and the deals off. Jesus had already spoken to this issue just a few verses back in Luke 9:23-25.

Luke 9:23-25
23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

This "would be" volunteer, when faced with the cost, turned down an opportunity so much greater than anything or anyone on this earth could ever offer him. Forgiveness, inner peace, purpose for living, and hope for eternity. Jesus says to you today, "Follow Me!" Are you willing to sacrifice the mirage of worldly satisfaction to follow the One who knows you better than you know yourself?and wants to satisfy the spiritual thirst that  drives your search for meaning? Are you willing to sacrifice the mirage of worldly satisfaction to follow the One who  wants to satisfy the spiritual thirst that  drives your search for meaning in this life? Ok, let's look at our second individual who passed on the opportunity of a lifetime. Jesus is looking for followers who are willing to count the cost, and who realize the opportunity He is offering is worth the price!

Missed Opportunity #2

Luke 9:59-60
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Ouch! When people read this it kind of slaps them in the face. How insensitive of Jesus, how uncaring, I mean it almost seems mean! That is until you do a little meditation and a little background study on the text. Jesus simply called the guys bluff! This guy's response was not truthful. Back in Jesus' day, when a person died they were usually buried the same day! What was this guy doing out there in the crowd. One of the most sacred responsibilities of a Jewish son was to make sure his father received a proper burial when he died. So why wasn't he there already taking care of business? And even if his dad had not yet died, according to Jewish law, taking care of one's dying father was to be a priority. Why was this young man not at his father's side?
Jesus called his bluff. And then Jesus spoke something that many have questioned the meaning. "Let the dead bury their own dead…" Again this sounds so harsh, but Jesus is trying to get these people to quit playing games with God! Let's look at an incident in Matthew's gospel and I think you'll see what I'm talking about.

Matthew 15:1-9
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,
2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’
5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’
6 he is not to ‘honor his father’ ’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. ’ ”

Jesus doesn't just want followers. He wants true disciples! He doesn't want lip service, He wants a relationship with people whose hearts are sold out to the relationship!
So Jesus was't telling this "would be" disciple to disrespect his parents. He was calling his religious bluff.

Jesus put it this way in John's gospel…

John 4:23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Jesus had asked this second opportunity seeker to follow Him, but the guy missed the opportunity because of his dishonesty. And do you know what job Jesus offered to this guy if he would follow Him truthfully. He was called to preach!! It's right there in the text...

Luke 9:60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Wow, what a privilege this guy missed out on. What a difference he could have made in the lives others. But he missed the opportunity and privilege of a lifetime because he wasn't honest and may have been following Jesus only for the personal advantages he could gain. And by the way, “let the dead bury their own dead” was a reference to the spiritually dead condition the nation of Israel had slipped into.

Missed Opportunity #3

Luke 9:61-62
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I don't know how many of you have a garden or use a tractor or a tiller. But just as it was in the days of Jesus, if you are trying to plow a straight row, you don't look back to where you've been, you pick a spot on the horizon and you stay focused on that. Looking back is a sure way to get a crooked row! Again, on the surface, Jesus sounds so cruel and hard, but what Jesus wanted this man to understand and what He needed the crowd to understand is this. You cannot serve two masters. You have to choose. You either leave your old loyalties and priorities and take up your new mission in life or you keep your old life! If you decide to follow Jesus, but try to keep one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of Heaven you're going to be tormented. If nothing about your life changes, your activities, the crowd you hang out with, or the choices you make, if none of this changes once you decide to follow Jesus, your heart's not in it and you can't be a true disciple of Christ. Following Jesus requires change. Why? Because Jesus doesn't want people  to follow Him and just watch Him do the right things and serve others, and love others, and be willing to die for others, He wants followers who follow His example.

Followers who serve others, speak up for the broken, stand up for justice, and live their lives to make a difference in this world, and yes even willing to give their lives for the sake of the gospel! Some would say that's radical. Yes it is! It's radical in this world to live for something besides yourself! And by the way, I'm not saying, nor was Jesus saying when you become a Christ follower that you get mean and prideful with your former friends and act like you're better than them. I like to put it like this…
"I'm not better than anyone, I'm just better off, thanks to the amazing grace of Jesus!
Jesus wants you to pray for them and to love them, but you just can't continue to live like them. And if they're not willing to accept your new M.O. then they weren't true friends after all. Pray for them! And let's look at the historical context of Jesus' call to this man. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. On His way to fulfill His passion. To become the sacrificial Lamb of God. On His way to the Cross. Time was drawing closer day by day. This man simply didn't have the time to go back and spend months to tie up loose ends and decide if he really wanted to do this Jesus thing. Jesus had precious little time left to pour His life into His disciples and train them for the task of spreading the salvation message of Christ to the whole world.

Jesus needed people who were so committed that when comparing the love a disciple had for Christ with the love he had for his family, it would seem like he didn't even love his family. In fact this is what Jesus was talking about later when He said another very hard thing. Much closer to His crucifixion, the crowds were still following, but they still did not understand the commitment required to follow Jesus. Jesus knew that some of the crowd that followed would eventually become a part of the mob who would shout for his crucifixion.  

He had to get their attention. A little shock therapy might wake them. Here's what happened…Luke 14:25-27.

Luke 14:25-27
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus went on to tell the crowd the principles of counting the cost before you make a decision. Jesus wasn't saying people should literally hate their family. But Jesus was saying if it comes down to a choice between Jesus and family, you've got to be willing to choose. Jesus knew that many of these people in the crowd would face severe persecution from their families if they truly became disciples. After all, to accept Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah was going to put them at odds not only with their families, but with their culture, even the authorities.

If I could I would like to share something personal with you that relates to this. I'm so blessed that my Mom and Dad are still alive! They live in McComb, Mississippi. I love them so much. They are wonderful Christian people and have always been such supporters of my ministry. I don't get to see them very often. They know what I do and they understand. They know if they need me I'll come running. There's this beautiful hill in the woods by their house. It overlooks a a wooded valley and a small creek that are just beautiful! I was talking to my Dad as we walked the ridge, and I told him that was one of the most beautiful places on earth. He said, you're welcome to build you a log cabin right here! Wow! I would love to be able to see them every day. But he knows Debbie and I are where we're supposed to be and so do we. I said, "Dad, if I didn't really believe Jesus defeated death and the grave and we're going to have all eternity to hang out and fellowship and play our guitars, (he and my mom do blue grass gospel)...

I'd be working on that cabin today and you guys would have to put up with me every morning for coffee and eggs and bacon. He said "I know you're doing God's work son and your Mom and I are so proud of that!" Folks, I'm a blessed man, to have the fantastic privilege to proclaim God's Kingdom on a daily basis. The guys in our text could have done the same, but they missed a golden opportunity to touch the world. And let me tell you a little secret. When you give up something in this world for Christ, you don't have to wait till eternity to reap some of the blessings. Listen to these words Jesus would later speak to one of His disciples Peter, who Jay will preach about next week. Listen...

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God
30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

So here's the deal. Jesus ask for all or nothing when He says "follow me!" But along with that call, comes a vast array of promises. Promises to give you a hope and a future. Promises to never leave you or forsake you. Promises to give you an amazing purpose in life. Promises that if you've lost home, or family for the sake of the kingdom of God, you will not fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come, eternal life! Don't miss the opportunity of an eternal lifetime! Nothing you give up can compare to what you get when you follow Jesus!

Let's pray!!

"Lord, the three guys we talked about today weren't willing to pay the cost, weren't willing to be honest, and just couldn't cut the ties with their past to embrace the future you had for them. God, please help us not to make the same mistakes. Help us not to miss the absolutely fabulous opportunity to follow the greatest teacher, the greatest leader, the greatest Savior, who ever walked on this planet. Thank you for the invitation, I accept. I pray many others will follow suit. In Jesus name!"