Scripture:Another person said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)
Reflection: The author of Luke’s gospel presents the same two examples of itinerancy as does the author of Matthew’s gospel (see above and Matthew 8:18-22 and Luke 9:57-60). Both do this because both writers use material found in Q (referring to quelle, the German word for “source” and indicating material found only in Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel). In Luke’s version of the second person’s request to bury his father, Jesus says, Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:60) The last half of Jesus’s response and Jesus’s response to the man who wants to say farewell to his family indicate one of Luke’s favorite themes: the proclamation of the kingdom of God.
Like the man who wants to bury his father, Luke presents a man who wants to say farewell to his family. This saying also illustrates both the itinerancy and the immediacy of the mission. Using a cryptic saying about not being able to look back when plowing a field because one is behind a horse and has reins around his neck, Jesus further emphasizes the urgency of the mission to proclaim God’s kingdom. Following Jesus means there is only one direction: forward. One must keep moving; there is no room for regret. There are no second thoughts. Any follower who even entertains turning around is not fit for God’s kingdom.
It seems as if the Lukan Jesus is telling his followers that they need to be physically fit. After all, the metaphor he uses is plowing, which requires some degree of physical fitness in the context of how it was done in Jesus’s day. In other words, couch potatoes need not apply! Proclaiming that God is present here and now and rules people’s lives requires strength and firmness of purpose. Likewise, a spirituality of mission needs to consider one’s physical fitness when it comes to following the itinerant Jesus in announcing the kingdom of God. Otherwise, one is tempted to keep looking back and may fall into the plow or the field or both.
Journal/Meditation: How physically fit are you for proclaiming the kingdom of God?
Prayer: God of Jesus, you call me to plow the field of your world with the proclamation of your kingdom. Make me both physically and spiritually fit so that with urgency I may announce that Jesus is Lord to your glory, Father. With the Holy Spirit you are one God, forever and ever. Amen.