Would Be Disciples Who Won’t Be Disciples

Title: Would Be Disciples Who Won't Be Disciples

Bible Book: Luke 9 : 57-62

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Discipleship; Excuses



Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) explains, “In the measure in which you and I are Christians we are in direct opposition to all the maxims which rule the world and make it a world. What we believe to be precious it regards as of no account. What we believe to be fundamental truth it passes by as of little importance. Much which we feel to be wrong it regards as good. Our jewels are its tinsel, and its jewels are our tinsel. We and it stand in diametrical opposition in thought about God, about self, about duty, about life, about death, about the future; and that opposition goes right down to the bottom of things.”1

Jesus issues an invitation to discipleship in Luke 9:23, where we read: “Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” What does it mean to deny yourself?  A great scholar comes at the meaning in this way.  Peter once denied his Lord.  That is to say, he said of Jesus, “I do not know the man.”  To deny ourselves is to say, “I do not know myself.”  It is to ignore the very existence of oneself.  It is to treat the self as if it did not exist.  Usually we treat ourselves as if our self was far and away the most important thing in the world.  If we are to follow Jesus, we must forget that self exists.  The closer we get to the end of time the greater the emphasis will be on self.  2 Timothy 3:1-6 reads, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

Rev. J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), founder of the China Inland Mission, writes, “May GOD work in us, and we work out in daily life, not self-assertion but self-denial -- not ease and honour-seeking and right-maintaining, but right-abandoning and cross-taking -- and this for the glory of His own holy Name, and for the better forwarding of His interests, whether among His own people or among the unsaved!”2  Dr. A. T. Pierson (1837-1911) explains, “The word cross never in the Scripture occurs in the plural. There is but one cross-it is the cross of self abnegation.  To Christ the cross meant one thing, and nothing less-His sacrifice of Himself to save others.  And that is what it must mean to every disciple.”3 

Jesus interviews three would-be disciples.  With apologies and or appreciation to John Bunyan for his “Mr. Worldly Wiseman”, “Mr. Money-love”, and “Mr. Save-all”; to Charles Spurgeon for his “Mr. Facing-both-ways”, “Mr. Fair-Speech”, and “Mr. Two-tongues”; and to Dr. Mark Bailey for his “Mr. Hasty”, “Mr. Hesitant”, and “Mr. Homesick”4; allow me to introduce you to three would-be disciples who won’t be disciples.

I. Meet Mr. Willing-To, who was disabled by naivety.

Luke 9:57-58 reads, “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ 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.’”

Remember intelligent, educated people can be disabled by naivety.  Matthew 8:19 reads, “Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’”  Mr. Willing-To was a scribe.  How many who sing “I have decided to follow Jesus” are like Mr. Willing-To?  His primary problem is naivety, and he like Simon Peter thinks he is ready to go the limit.  A strong will is a disadvantage to a disciple.  To be unbroken is a hindrance.  Notice Jesus immediately turned him down with a telling statement about fox holes, bird nests, and no place to lay His head.  Jesus deals with each volunteer for discipleship according to their issue, here as in the case of a rich young man.  Mark 10:17-22 reads, “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.’ Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  Matthew 6:24 reads, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Dr. John F. Carson shares, “When [Sir Francis] Drake [1540-1596] and the captains of Queen Elizabeth's time went out into the streets of Plymouth to get sailors, they told these sailors frankly of the storms of the Pacific and of the fevers of Panama. They honored their Devonshire comrades too much to get them to sign under any false pretense. But they also pointed to the Spanish gold and treasure, the glory of the expedition, and all England ringing with their praise; and the men of Elizabeth's chivalric and adventurous times enlisted for the voyage. But Jesus told the men enlisting under Him that they would live and labor in the midst of foes, that they would be ill-treated publicly and that they would suffer hatred and opposition from their own families. ‘The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.’ He left nothing out of the program of opposition and trial. Unlike Admiral Drake he had no worldly reward to offer them, only the guardianship of God, and the glory of God's grace, and Heaven at the last. And the men to whom He spoke, with the full knowledge of all that was before them, took up their cross and followed Him.”5

Matthew 19:27-30 reads, “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

“Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” (Luke 9:23). Don’t be disabled by naivety.

II. Meet Mr. Waiting-For, who was distracted by necessity.

Luke 9:59-60 reads, “Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546) would warn him and us in the words of his great hymn titled, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”: “. . . let goods and kindred go. . . .”6  Mr. Waiting-For has one primary issue of properly relating to necessity.  Jesus encourages this prospective disciple to get out of the graveyard.  Jesus deals with each volunteer for discipleship according to their issue, here as in the case of Luke 14:25-33 reads, “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

Dr. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) explains, “We learn from this passage, that those who are thinking of following Christ should be warned to ‘count the cost’ This is a lesson which was intended for the multitudes who followed our Lord without thought and consideration, and was enforced by examples drawn from building and from war. It is a lesson which will be found useful in every age of the Church. It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten. To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to church, is cheap and easy work; but to hear Christ’s voice, and follow Christ, and believe in Christ, and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins, and our self-righteousness, and our ease, and our worldliness. All – all must be given up. We must fight an enemy, who comes against us with twenty thousand followers. We must build a tower in troublous times. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us thoroughly understand this. He bids us ‘count the cost.’”7

Matthew 10:34-39 reads, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Someone explains, “When Christ calls us, He places Himself directly between us and all earthly attachments.  We now have direct relationship only with Christ and with no other.  Christ now comes between our father and mother, our son and daughter, our houses and lands. We no longer have a right to them except through Christ.”

Dr. A. T. Pierson shares, “When Dr. Jas. Alexander was dying, a friend repeated to him 2d Timothy i:12, but incorrectly, ‘I know in whom I have believed.’  ‘No, no,’ said the departing saint, don’t put even a preposition between me and my Lord.  I know whom I have believed.”8

Can you honestly say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12b)?

I understand the following announcement appeared in a magazine in Norfolk, England: “The maintenance of the church yard is becoming increasingly costly.  It would be a great assistance if parishioners would do their best to tend their own graves.”9 Remember as Yogi Berra (1925-2015) said, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”10

Gordon Franz explains the following on the curious statement, “Let the dead bury their own dead”: “According to the Rabbinic sources, the decomposition of the flesh atoned for the sins of the dead person (a kind of purgatory) and the final stage of this process was gathering the bones and placing them in an ossuary (Meyers 1971: 80-85).  Jesus confronts this contrary theology.  Only faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross can atone for sin, not rotting flesh or any other work or merit of our own (Heb. 9:22, 26; Acts 4:12; Eph. 2:8, 9).  Jesus may have rebuked these two disciples rather harshly because they were following the corrupted practice of secondary burial.”11

“Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” (Luke 9:23). Don’t be distracted by necessity.

III. Meet Mr. Wondering-About, who was disqualified by nostalgia.

Luke 9:61-62 reads, “And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

For Mr. Wondering-About, his primary issue related to nostalgia.  He had a connection to the past that would prevent him from being faithful to the finish. 

1 Kings 19:19-21 reads, “So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’ So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.”  Maybe you are thinking, what is the difference between what Elijah allowed and what Jesus allowed?  The difference is in the heart.  It is clear Elisha was burning bridges while Mr. Wondering-About was building bridges to the past or at least maintaining them.  In the words of our Lord recorded in Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Genesis 19:26 reads, “But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Nostalgia was her downfall.

The children of Israel demonstrated a nostalgia for the good old days.  Numbers 11:1-6 reads, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched.  So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them. Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Someone explained “the good old days” are “a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination.”12  

“Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” (Luke 9:23). Don’t be disqualified by nostalgia.


Mr. Willing-To was disabled by naivety.

Mr. Waiting-For was distracted by necessity.

Mr. Wondering-About was disqualified by nostalgia.

Jesus issues an invitation to discipleship to us.  Luke 9:23 reads, "Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” There is no fine print in the terms of discipleship.  Dr. J. C. Ryle explains, “[Jesus] would have no man enlisted on false pretenses. He would have it distinctly understood that there is a battle to be fought, and a race to be run,—a work to be done, and many hard things to be endured,—if we propose to follow Him. Salvation He is ready to bestow, without money and without price. Grace by the way, and glory in the end, shall be given to every sinner who comes to Him. But He would not have us ignorant that we shall have deadly enemies,—the world, the flesh, and the devil, and that many will hate us, slander us, and persecute us, if we become His disciples. He does not wish to discourage us, but He does wish us to know the truth.”13

The expression of discipleship might involve a dramatic transition of location as a foreign missionary or full-time minister, but certainly it will involve a dynamic transformation of life involving circumstances and situations.    Remember, there are many would-be disciples who won’t be disciples. 

1Alexander Maclaren, The Holy of Holies: Sermons on the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the Gospel of John (London: Alexander & Shepheard, 1890), 225.

2J. Hudson Taylor, The Ribband of Blue (London: Morgan & Scott), 112-118.

3Moody Bible Institute Monthly, Vol. 21, No. 7 “For Sermon and Scrap Book”, William Norton, March 1921, 335.  

4Veritas, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 2006, Mark Bailey, “Following Christ with a Whole Heart” (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2006), 1-6. 

5Aquilla Webb, One Thousand Evangelistic Illustrations, J. F. Carson, “Count the Cost” (New York, NY: George H. Doran Company, 1921), 104.

6Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (1529) trans. Frederick H. Hedge (1852).

7J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Luke, Vol. 2 (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), 168. 

8A. T. Pierson, Seed Thoughts for Public Speakers (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1900), 6.

9The Big Book of Church Jokes, Signs and Bulletins (Uhrichville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2009).

10Yogi Berra, When You Come to a Fork in the Road Take It! Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes 

11Gordon Franz, “Let The Dead Bury Their Own Dead”, March 20, 2009, (Akron, PA: Association for Biblical Research, 2009), Accessed: 03/16/17 http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/03/20/Let-the-Dead-Bury-Their-Own-Dead.aspx . 

12Warren W. Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: Wisdom and Poetry: Job -Song of Solomon, Vol. 1 (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2004), 59. 

13J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Luke, Vol. 1 (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 339.


Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on Amazon.com in hardcover, paperback and eBook]

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Miss-Revival-Spiritual-Awakening/dp/1462735428 &  http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Biblical-Preaching-Giving-Bible/dp/1594577684 / [email protected]   / (251) 626-6210

© March 19, 2017 All Rights Reserved

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