Pastor Bill heard Malcolm Smith preach the sermon, “Talking People Out of Jesus.” And in Bill’s own right, sat perplexed, with hundreds of others that day in Lanes Presbyterian Church, West Virginia.
Who is Malcolm Smith to be talking people out of Jesus?
Why was Pastor Bill sitting in this church listening
to a man tell him something so incendiary?
Well, Malcolm Smith is a minister, a healer, and apparently a name brand in the religious sector of life. To tell you exactly who he is, I can only provide a link to a brief, two paragraph expose (http://crosslifebooks.com/authors_author.php?authorid=108), but there is so much more to Malcolm. Here is a link to “his” church (http://www.zoechs.org/). Given all that I’ve learned this morning, and noting 60 years of faithful service to God, I’d say that his venturing into something so unfathomable was not a random act of defiance.
Did he get the attention of his audience?
Pastor Bill, “My eyes shot up in amazement and confusion. What was he thinking? What was I thinking? I had just become the pastor of the Cheshire United Methodist Church and here I am listening to someone who tried to talk me out of following Jesus.
Pastor Smith preached the sermon exactly as Luke 9* describes. Giving potential disciples warnings about what is involved in following Jesus. At the end of the service he invited people who wanted to follow Christ come down to the front. To my surprise many in the crowd got up from their seats and came down. I sat there dumbfounded and began to think, so this is just a preaching tactic kind of a sanctified reverse psychology. And it works. Tell them you’re going to talk them out of following Jesus, and they will respond in droves.”
* Luke 9: 57 – 62
The Cost of Following Jesus
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 dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he 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 goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was telling these men, as Malcolm Smith did, to not follow him.
But we ask ourselves why not follow Jesus?
Why not bury our dead, say good-bye, and
why not follow him wherever he goes?
Is this truly a form of manipulation to get people
to do our bidding or is there something more to these words?
When I think of the message presented as a form of manipulation, I feel dissolution and betrayal. Why not? Who want’s to be manipulated and used?
When I look beyond the words and to the intention I believe something different. I believe what Jesus was saying was not to be manipulative but one of great thoughtfulness and care for these followers. They were not stupid people; Jesus gave them credit for intelligence.
Jesus gave his followers the respect of allowing a choice. He gave them wisdom in his words to allow them to have the ability to decide for themselves.
And what if they all left, parting from Jesus, that day on the road. Would the story have a different ending? Or would this story never have been told?
How many times in your own life have you walked behind Jesus, following him, only to realize you should be walking next to Jesus and sharing in his whispered conversations? Or those times were you toss Jesus aside and yell at him for his betrayal of your heart and needs? These are the times when Jesus walks behind you, sweeping aside your words of anger and hatred, to catch you when you fall and accept His loving embrace back into your life, your apologies, your sincere regret.
Pastor Bill, “I decided to try it.
The next week I was preaching at my own church taking my clue for Malcolm Smith, I probably stood before the assembly and told them, my goal tonight is to talk you out of following Jesus. I could see the leaders of my church raised her eyebrows and concerned, but I knew what I was doing. After all I’d heard Malcolm Smith preach this just a few weeks ago, and I’ve seen it done before. So I preached the message and then invited all who wanted to follow Christ to come forward.
Apparently I was more successful in preaching the message the Malcolm Smith had been. Let’s just say I stood at the front of the church alone for a while until finally one of the leaders of the church decided it was time for me to call it a night. For some reason it didn’t work out exactly as it had for Malcolm Smith.
Contrary to what I may have thought about Luke 9, Jesus was not using a gimmick to get more followers. He was simply, and boldly, making it clear from the start that if you follow him, you abandon everything – your seats, your desires, even your family.