The people who met Jesus on the road in today’s gospel, and who all had reasons to delay following him, are mirror images of Elisha when he was called to come and follow the prophet Elijah. After an initial request to go and say goodbye to his parents Elisha realised the enormity of the calling. There and then he killed a pair of oxen he was using to plough the field with, killed them and cooked them by burning the plough. The meat would have been absolutely fresh but not very tender!
It’s noticeable that, when Jesus was calling his apostles, we are told that they left their nets etc. “at once” and followed him. For those who choose to be followers of Jesus there is an immediate attraction, something which is no mere half-way house appeal. When the famous prophet Elijah throws his cloak over the simple farmer Elisha, then Elisha knows he has a claim on him.
If there’s one thing God can’t stand then it must be half-heartedness. Am I serving God with every ounce of strength and commitment or am I just doing enough to keep my conscience quiet? Am I just covering all bases and paying the premiums on my heavenly insurance policy? Or do I feel a magnetic attraction to Jesus and all that he asks of me? In my life is God a passion or a hobby?
When Jesus calls us to be disciples, he calls us to make a lifelong, irrevocable, absolute commitment. Most of us follow Jesus to the best of our abilities but we are also aware that there are areas of our lives where we hold back, aspects of the way we live that are not helping our commitment as disciples of Jesus. This is because following Jesus is an ongoing, lifelong commitment. We have continually to ratify our commitment, to keep signing on the dotted line as disciples of Christ.
What are the nets that Jesus is still asking us to leave, the oxen that we need to slaughter, the ploughs that we have to burn? Are there relationships in our lives that dull our response? Are there habits that we have taken for granted but which make us slow to respond to the challenge of being followers?
Or have we felt the cloak thrown over us, God’s mantel in Christ, which calls us to follow wherever he may lead and to proclaim the best news possible to those we meet on the road?