FOLLOWING CHRIST

Jesus

One of the basic lessons I learnt when I was growing up is that Jesus always preached in parables: it wasn’t for naught that He was referred to as Rabbi-teacher. Sometimes I would read a few verses and realize that I hadn’t grasped the concept…sometimes I would even feel afraid… (Sometimes it happens when one peruses through the enlightening chapters without an open mind). The book of Revelations, especially, does that to me a lot; there’s nothing pleasant about the end times… I didn’t want to feel that-afraid- so I learnt to read the Bible like I would a novel or poetry; always seeking to find the deeper meaning.

Apparently that worked; with it came a deeper understanding of the scriptures.

In church, this past Sunday, the readings were just the perfect examples of those verses that have so much meaning behind them. I thought it would be nice to share them; maybe then I’ll help someone else understand them:

1 kings 19: 16, 19-21 In those days the Lord said to Elijah, “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place”. So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah took off his cloak and put it on Elisha. Elisha then left his oxen, ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother goodbye and I will go with you”. Elijah answered, “All right, go back I’m not stopping you!” Then Elisha went to his team of oxen, killed them and cooked the meat, using the yoke as fuel for the fire. He gave the meat to the people and they ate it. Then he went and followed Elijah as his helper.

Personally, when I read a particular verse, questions pop in my head. For instance, when I was reading this particular verse, I wondered, why Elijah would forbid Elisha from bidding his folks adieu? He- Elijah-was just implying that Elisha had to come back because by draping his cloak over him he had done a very significant gesture; he therefore had to follow him whatsoever. Thankfully Elisha managed to go back and settle things before he followed Elijah…

Once I went to school without hugging my mom goodbye; it wasn’t something planned; it just happened that she went to get me some stuff I had forgotten to buy while shopping the previous day as we waited for the bus to fill up with passengers. I had only realized it when I was in the bus. While still waiting for my mom to come back, the driver ignited the engine when all the seats were occupied, and before I knew it, we were on the road…headed for school. It would be a month and a half before I saw her again, on visiting day.

The feeling that washed over me was so intense…as the bus pulled out from the bus stop, onto the main road, I kept looking back frantically, hoping to spot my mom appearing from the crowds… thank God she didn’t, because at that time I was so sure I would jump out through the window if I did…

My heart paced madly, I was breathing fast…and I felt nauseous as my abdominal muscles tightened…it felt really bad… I got over it weeks later, and even though I was only eleven at the time, to date I consider it my worst opening day. So as I read about Elisha’s anointment, I imagined that’s how he felt… almost… Elijah was asking him to up and leave, without so much as a word to his parents…

But then the priest went on to explain: it was all symbolic; the parents and the oxen symbolize the things in life that prevent us from following Christ; the people we love, wealth… that is why Elisha ended up slaughtering his oxen and subsequently giving the people; he didn’t want anything holding him back…

In Genesis 19:26 When God rescued Lot and his family, from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, He instructed them not to look back; but Lot’s wife defied Him and looked back at the cities that were up in flames. She turned into a pillar of salt. Basically, this emphasizes on following Christ without looking back.

Not everyone is a farmer, so that definitely means we don’t all own oxen…but each one of us has that precise thing that stops him/her from surrendering his all to God. Whatever it is, one  must give it up in order to follow Christ.

In the verse below, we’re shown further what Jesus felt about people who felt they had matters to attend to before following Him…

Luke 9:57-62 As they were going along the road, a man said to Him, “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. To another He said, “Follow me”. But he said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. But He said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home”. Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”.

One would wonder, why wouldn’t He allow the man to go bury his father; to pay him the final respects? Why wouldn’t He allow the other to say goodbye to his family? But then, what Jesus is trying to emphasize here is that if one wants to be His follower, they must be willing to give up everything for His sake…one must give Him first priority.

It sounds like a herculean task, one might think? Personally, I realized that it’s actually the other way round; when one puts God first, things feel simplified. One can’t afford to worry about their problems because their faith gives them the courage to believe that in due time He will help them out.

He will feed them, clothe them, put a roof over their heads, and one won’t have to stress about it…like the birds; they don’t have food stocked up in refrigerators, but they eat… they don’t pay mortgage, but they survive through the rain, the blistering sun, the chilly nights…and when dawn breaks we see them up in the sky, flying…  He takes care of them…

It’s all about faith; believing that He can make everything right; that He can offload the weighty burden on our shoulders, if we let Him. And He doesn’t imply that we should all be men & women of the cloth, no… all He asks is that we put Him first in our lives.

 

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