Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
“Because of Only One Reason.”
I want to start with something funny. I found this story on an internet site: A young man called his mother and announced excitedly that he had just met the woman of his dreams, and asked his mother, “Now what should he do?” His mother had an idea, “Why don’t you send her flowers and on the card invite her to your place for a home-cooked meal?” He thought this was a great strategy and arranged a date for a week later. His mother called the day after the big date to see how things had gone. “The evening was a disaster,” he moaned. “Why didn’t she come over?” asked his mother. “Oh, she came over, but she refused to cook.”
Do you remember the first time you met your spouse or significant other? What made you decide to marry them? Or what made you choose them to have a relationship with? When I was in Chicago, I served a younger congregation. They were mostly in their twenties and thirties, and most of them were single. As you may guess, what was most exciting to them was when they had a boyfriend or girlfriend. If anyone had a blind date, everybody gathered around them to hear how things went. After a blind date, if they don’t like them, they have several reasons why they don’t like them, such as their height, being too old, no sense of humor, talked too much, boring, didn’t make enough money, etc. But, if they like them, they just said, “I like him/her.” That’s it. No reason or explanation was necessary. I have learned one thing from them: There are a thousand reasons if you don’t like something or someone. But, if you do, there is only one reason: you “like” it. When you ask a couple why they married, if they say, because he is tall, a good cook, and good looking, but you keep asking until they say because I love them. If they say, because I love him/her. That’s all. My point is love is everything. If you fall in love, no matter if they are taller or shorter, good looking or ugly, a good cook or bad cook, humorous or boring. If you love, you go after what you love. If you love your spouse, friends, coworkers, you may follow what they want.
When Jesus called his disciples, they followed him without any questions. Mark 1:16-20 shows us how they followed Jesus, “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into sea-for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately, they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.”
How many have you seen who immediately follow you when you ask people to come to the church? Even among your family members, you rarely saw those who immediately followed you to church, especially for the regular Sunday service. I mean, if it is on Christmas or Easter Sunday or a special program’s day, it is easier to get them to follow you. However, don’t be disappointed by your loved ones who haven’t followed you yet, because it is about the spirit, not about you. It is about prayers and patience, not about your love for them.
Today’s scripture shows us those who didn’t follow Jesus for several reasons when Jesus called them. It was about the last period of Jesus’ public ministry. Because Jesus had already decided to go up to Jerusalem for his last mission, his mind was in a hurry to find more people who might follow him. He had a plan to take a shortcut through the Samaritan village, up to Jerusalem. However, the Samaritans did not allow them to go through their village to Jerusalem. Jews didn’t touch Samaritan people as well as Samaritan land, and they didn’t allow Samaritan people to come to the Jerusalem Temple, even to worship God, because they ignored Samaritans as a gentile. Therefore, as was customary, the Samaritans didn’t allow Jesus and his disciples to go to the Jerusalem Temple through their village.
The disciples were upset with the Samaritans. James and John’s disciples said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” They knew that Jesus could command fire to come down on them. The disciples did get upset because they thought, “how dare they ignore Jesus?” But, they didn’t know who Jesus was. They could be forgiven because they didn’t know what they were doing. When Jesus was on the cross, Jesus prayed to God for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). If they don’t follow you, pray for them. Because they don’t know who Jesus is yet. Jesus went the other way. At that time, one said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” I think it is good enough to encourage Jesus and comfort him. Jesus even told him his deep concern, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Jesus continually finds people and asks them, “follow me.” However, they had several reasons, and they couldn’t follow Jesus immediately. One said, “I will follow you, but let me bury my father first.” The other said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Their attitudes are very different from Jesus’ first twelve disciples. But, we are still wondering what the matter is. If one of our family members passes away, we should bury them first before following Jesus. Why did Jesus say, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” At this point, we should understand the background of their culture. According to the Law (Numbers 6:6; Leviticus 21:10-11), they prohibited touching the dead body, especially for religious leaders, before worshiping God. They believe they shouldn’t touch unclean dead bodies because they are holy. You may remember the story of the Good Samaritan who helped the wounded man. At that time, a Levite and priest passed by the injured man, avoiding him because they thought keeping the Law was more important than taking care of the wounded man. However, the Samaritan, who didn’t know the Law, helped the wounded man with loving care. Jesus taught us to do like the good Samaritan.
Today, carefully listen to what Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” The reason God gives us the Law is to teach us love. But, the Law without love is violence. Those who keep the Law without love are dead. The people misunderstood Jesus went against the Law, but Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to destroy them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Because Jesus is love, the Law could be fulfilled with Jesus. The Apostle Paul says, “If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3). Love is everything because God sent Jesus to us, for He loves us so much. Jesus died on the cross because he loves us so much. The reason we follow Jesus is to love God and love others. No other reasons to be Christians. Only accept God’s love and grace with an open mind, open heart, and open doors. We walk with Jesus day by day toward God. Don’t look back on worldly life. Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” If you farewell worldly things to walk with Jesus, don’t desire them any longer. Remember Lot’s wife, who looked back and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). To walk with Jesus, we might give up something, but remember there is no other reason God calls us other than “love.” We are here because of the only one reason, God’s love. Let us love God and love one another day by day. Thanks be to God. Amen.