“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” Luke 9:62
Pastor Matt, I read this tonight and was just curious about some better understanding about what this verse means. Thoughts?
This was a question sent to me via email recently. My response is below. . .
Your question really is a good one. It is important that followers of Jesus understand what He means so that we will know what He calls us to.
The context of Luke 9 is important.
In verse 51, Luke tells us, “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” In other words, this is a transition statement in Luke’s Gospel. From 9:51 through the rest of the Gospel, the readers are to read with the lens that Jesus knows He is headed straight to Jerusalem in order to be crucified. He set His face on this task. He was determined to get there and do it. Calvary loomed.
This is important because anyone who would want to follow Him would need to know what they were getting into. They could follow Him, but they would be following Him to death. They would be following a man who would undergo crucifixion. In other words, following Jesus would not be easy and comfortable. It would be hard.
In the context of Luke 9:57-62, Jesus and His disciples encounter 3 would-be disciples. In each circumstance, it’s as if Jesus tries to talk them OUT of following Him. He wants them to know what they are getting into before following Him. If they don’t believe He is the Son of God and worth everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, they better just stay put.
When He says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” it is a call to keep all eyes and focus on Him . . . no matter what. I’ve not done much plowing in my day, but I’ve done enough push mowing to know exactly what He means here. If, while mowing (or plowing), you look back to check out your work while the mower (or oxen pulling the plow) keeps going, you are going to veer off course – BAD. The way to stay on course is to not to look back to see how you are doing. Staying focused means to look ahead, not back or around. The way to stay on course, the way to stay focused, the way to stay diligent is to put your hand on the plow and not look back to check your work. Translation for what Jesus meant: “If you want to follow Me, you can’t look back. You MUST stay focused and centered and directed and fixed on Me.” Or, to put it another way, “Before you follow Me, understand there is no going back. There is no wishing you could retract. There is no jumping in and – if it doesn’t work out – you can go back home. If you don’t think I’m worth it now, don’t even come. Follow Me only if you believe I am worth everything – even life.”
Or, as David Platt said about this text in Radical, “Plainly put, a relationship with Jesus requires total, superior, and exclusive devotion. . . (Jesus) was simply and boldly making it clear from the start that if you follow Him, you abandon everything – your needs, your desires, even your family.” (chapter 1 of Radical)
Does this make sense? In essence it is a call to radical discipleship. Or, I should probably say mere discipleship. It’s radical for us because we have reduced it so much. But in reality, it’s simply what it means to follow Jesus.
So what about you? According to Jesus Himself – are you fit for the kingdom of God?