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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Following Jesus Comes First

Robert Barron - Following Jesus Comes First

Robert Barron - Following Jesus Comes First

Peace be with you. Friends, I'm going to be blunt with you. The Gospel for today is really tough. It's really challenging. But I love how it cuts right to the heart of the kind of ethical implications of the Gospel. Now you'll see what I mean as I go on here. I think one of the great temptations today is to make Jesus just one more option on the great smorgasbord of religious options.

So there's this prophet, there's this teacher, there's this guru, there's Jesus, there's this philosopher. I take a little bit from here a little bit from there. That might be our postmodern culture; it ain't the Bible. It ain't the New Testament. There's something of a "be all, end all" quality about Jesus, something of an either/or. Precisely because the claim he makes about himself: not one teacher among many but the one who speaks and acts in the very person of the God of Israel. Therefore, when it comes to Jesus, as he says, "You're either with me or you're against me. You either gather with me or you scatter".

Now, what follows from this everybody, this is the ethical principle, what follows from this is what I call the principle of detachment and clarification of motives. What I mean is if Jesus is unambiguously the center of your life, he's it, then everything else has to find its place in relation to him. Everything else has to revolve around him and be subordinated to him. The danger is when any worldly good, and I mean any worldly good, takes the central place that Jesus alone should have, then the spiritual life gets off kilter.

Now, once you see this principle, first of all, you'll see it in every spiritual teacher, up and down the centuries, from ancient times to the modern period. Everyone makes that point. But you also see it again and again and again in the Gospels. We sinners need to hear over and over again, "Jesus alone is central". Everything else falls away. That's the principle. Now watch it in this very compact Gospel account, how it plays itself out. So we hear that Jesus and his disciples are passing through Samaria.

Now this was dangerous for Jews. It was like in between Galilee in the North, Judea in the South. They could go around it, that's one option that a lot of Jews took, but Jesus from time to time goes right through Samaria. It's a quicker route, but more dangerous because the Jews and Samaritans didn't get along. What do they find as these Jews make their way is the Samaritans are inhospitable to them. They're hostile to them. They insult them. Well we've all been there, I suppose, when people are insulting us because of our tribe or our racial identity or ethnic background. And so understandably, James and John, beautifully called the "sons of thunder" in the Gospels, they must have been kind of fiery personalities, they turn to Jesus and say, "Shouldn't we just call down fire from heaven on these people"?

Well, they're taking a legitimate worldly good, which is their own kind of ethnic and racial identity. And it is good. It is an important thing. But they're making it so central that they're ignoring Jesus and his teaching, which is why the Lord turns to them, we hear, only to rebuke them. What's the point? Jesus and his teaching on nonviolence, love of enemies, that comes first. And whatever good there is in my ethnic and racial and tribal identity has to come second. If I allow the ethnic and tribal identity to be so central that Jesus and his teaching are marginalized, something has gone off the rails. Think about that now, everybody, as you gauge your reactions to things.

What do you get really upset about? What makes you like a son of thunder? You want to call down fire from heaven on people. Are your priorities, perhaps, a little off kilter? Now he continues the journey. What do we hear? As they make their way a man approaches the Lord and he says, "I will follow you wherever you go". Okay, that's good. That's a very good expression of discipleship. "I will follow after you, Lord, wherever you go". But then Jesus makes this kind of laconic remark: "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head". We say, "Okay, why did he say that to this man"? Well, this man who, he's saying the right thing, "Lord, I'll follow you wherever you go. I'm with you. You are what matter to me".

Well, Jesus reminds him, "If you follow me, that might mean you will not be living a comfortable life. It might mean you'll have no place to stay. It might mean you're living outside. It might mean the people reject you. Even the birds of the air and foxes have a place to stay. But the Son of Man, following the will of his Father alone, is not living a comfortable life". Now once again, is a comfortable life a good thing? Yeah, of course. We all strive to live a comfortable life, to be housed and fed and sufficiently warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Yeah, we all want a comfortable life. Nothing wrong with that. But if living a comfortable life becomes more important than following Jesus, then something's gone off kilter. Then I've lost my way spiritually.

Again, think of (look, I'm a sinner, I'll include myself here) how often the preoccupation with living a comfortable life is paramount. And if it's suggested to me, I'll be honest, hey, following the Lord might mean that your life's going to get a little more difficult. Well, it's hard. It's hard. In the course of my life, I've had to move a number of times. Never easy, never easy. When you have at least for a time no place to lay your head, for a time you feel kind of alone and disconnected. But if the Lord's calling you to that, okay, you've got to follow him wherever he goes and leave to the side concerns about comfort. How about this now, as he continues his journey. To still another would-be disciple, Jesus himself says, "Follow me".

Well yeah, that's it. He's the Lord, not one teacher among many; he's the Lord. And what he says to each one of us is just that: "Follow me. Come after me". And the man says, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father". Well, if you're operating with people today and you're inviting them to do something, to come to this or that, or let's say you've invited someone to give a talk and you really need them to come but at the last minute they call and say, "I'm sorry, but my dad died and I need to go to his funeral".

Well, what would you say? I mean, of course you'd say, "Well, yes, I fully understand. Of course, of course. Bury your father". It's such a basic moral obligation, your love for your family. But Jesus doesn't say that, does he? He says, "Follow me". And the guy says, "Oh yeah, I will Lord. I will follow you. But just one little thing. Can I at least bury my father who's died"? What does Jesus say? Not, "Oh, I get it. Oh, sure, of course". "Let the dead bury their dead". You say, "Oh my goodness". If some religious figure said that to you today, like you admired them and they said, "Yes, be my follower," and you say, "I want to bury my father," and they said, "Let the dead bury their dead," I bet you'd be pretty put off and you'd think, "Who is this guy"?

What's going on? Remember our principle that's animating this entire Gospel. Nothing wrong with the family. I mean, Jesus came from a very family-centric culture. He's not militating against family relationships. But what he's saying, everybody listen, in the most dramatic way possible, is, "Following me is more important than even this highest of values". You say, "My ethnic group, my physical comfort". But now, "My family. The people who are nearest and dearest to me". Following Jesus is more important than your family concerns. Are you getting a little bit nervous as you listen to this? I am. And that's okay. I think that's good. That means we're actually hearing the power of these words.

If following Jesus is just a matter of, "Oh, yeah, interesting moral teacher, and I'll try to do the best I can to do what he says," you haven't gotten it. You haven't gotten what discipleship is about. How about one last one? So this final figure comes up. "I will follow you, Lord". Okay, that's great. He's your Lord, he gets it. And "I'll follow you," great. That's okay. "But first let me say farewell to my family at home". Well, I mean, again, reasonable enough. Let's say someone wants to join a religious order and they say, "I'm going to join your order. But just one thing I ask, Father, could I just say goodbye to my family before I join"? I mean, who would say no to that? Well, Jesus does. "No one who sets his hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God".

Yeah, even for the moment to say goodbye to my family. But see, what's of paramount importance is setting your hand to the plow. And if you're looking behind at anything, your ethnic identity, at your family, at your comfort, at anything, you're not fit for the kingdom of God. You see, everybody, it's extraordinary here. There's kind of a scouring going on. He's scouring away the various attachments we have that are keeping us from doing his will. Again, now read Ignatius of Loyola, read Augustine, read any of the great spiritual masters. Again and again they make this point.

Now, with all that in mind, remember how this Gospel ends. Where is he going? So he is kind of making his way through Samaria, he's making his way, and all these various people come up to him and he engages them. Where's he going? He's going to Jerusalem, to the cross. Look at the cross. Imagine now, in your mind's eye, Jesus on the cross. How much wealth does he have? None. How much personal comfort does he have? None. Is his nation, is his people coming to defend him? No. He's disconnected from them. Power? He's got none of it. Honor? Reputation? He's stripped of all of that.

I mean, he's humiliated in the most dramatic way you can be. But what is he doing on that cross? The will of his Father. Scouring away all that could possibly distract from that great "unum necessarium," the one thing necessary. What's happening, everybody, as he's making his way through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem, is he's challenging all of his would-be disciples, and that means you and me. "Can you let go of even these great and beautiful goods? Can you make all of those secondary and make me the absolute Lord and center of your life? Are you going to set your hand to the plow or always be looking back"? There's an either/or quality to Jesus, and there's an either/or quality to Christian discipleship. And God bless you.
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