Following immediately

Look at these two different verses, one from the Christian scriptures, and the one it echoes from the Hebrew scriptures.

Luke 9:56-62 (TLV)

56 Then they moved on to another village. 57 As they were traveling on the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 But Yeshua said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 He said to another, “Follow Me.” But that one said, “First let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Yeshua said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Then another also said, “I will follow You, Master, but first let me say goodbye to those in my home.” 62 But Yeshua said to him, “No one who has put his hand to the plow and looked back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

While all of this passage is interesting, this post is concerned with verses 61-62.

Now look at the parallel –

 

1 Kings 19:19-21 (HCSB)

19 Elijah left there and found Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing. Twelve teams of oxen were in front of him, and he was with the twelfth team. Elijah walked by him and threw his mantle over him. 20 Elisha left the oxen, ran to follow Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother, and then I will follow you.” “Go on back,” he replied, “for what have I done to you?” 21 So he turned back from following him, took the team of oxen, and slaughtered them. With the oxen’s wooden yoke and plow, he cooked the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he left, followed Elijah, and served him.

 

In the Hebrew scriptures (1 Kings 19:19-21) the prophet-to-be Elisha is allowed to go back and finish up his business.  Yet in the Christian scriptures (Luke 9:56-62), the unnamed follower-to-be is denied this.

Is it because he wasn’t chosen?  In the case of Elisha, God told Elijah that he was to be selected as his follower, moreover, as his successor.  He is not just a follower, but is going to be an equal to Elijah in status and power.

Yet the follower of Yeshua (The Hebrew name of Jesus) was not chosen.  He chose to follow, instead of being chosen.  There is a difference, and it is important.  He was at risk of turning away, of being distracted from his healthy choice, if he went to his family – his old way of living.  He had to follow immediately or he would be in danger of being distracted from the path that leads to life.

This feels like an echo of the Parable of the Sower.  Here is the Condensed Gospel version of Jesus’ explanation of it –

The parable of the sower explained

Jesus said “Do you not understand this parable? Then how are you going to be able to understand any of them? The seed is the word of God. The sower is the one who shares it with others. The people along the path are those who have heard the message about the kingdom and don’t understand it. Satan has snatched away the words that were sown in their hearts so they would not believe and be saved.”

As for the seed sown on rocky ground, this represents the people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. However, because they are not rooted in their faith, they believe for a little while but stumble when troubles come because of the word.

Regarding the seed sown among thorns, these are the people who hear the word but are distracted and paralyzed by worry and greed, and the word is not able to take root in them and produce any fruit.

But the seed sown on good ground represents the people who hear the word with honest and open hearts. They understand it, welcome it, and through endurance are able to bear much fruit, even up to 100 times what was sown.”

MT 13:18-24, MK 4:13-20, LK 8:11-15

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Dividing the waters

We tend to think of Moses being the only person who divided large bodies of water in the Bible, but there were three others.

The prophet Elijah at the Jordan:
2 Kings 2:7-8
7 Fifty men from the sons of the prophets came and stood facing them from a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the waters, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

His successor, Elisha, at the Jordan:
2 Kings 2:13-14
13 Elisha picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle Elijah had dropped and struck the waters. “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the waters himself, and they parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over.

The famous scene with Moses:
Exodus 14:15-22
15 The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to break camp. 16 As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I am going to harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh, all his army, and his chariots and horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh when I receive glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” 19 Then the Angel of God, who was going in front of the Israelite forces, moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. 20 It came between the Egyptian and Israelite forces. The cloud was there in the darkness, yet it lit up the night. So neither group came near the other all night long. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left.

And last, Moses’ successor, Joshua at the Jordan.
Joshua 3:9-16 (HCSB)
9 Then Joshua told the Israelites, “Come closer and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” 10 He said: “You will know that the living God is among you and that He will certainly dispossess before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites 11 when the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth goes ahead of you into the Jordan. 12 Now choose 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe. 13 When the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, come to rest in the Jordan’s waters, its waters will be cut off. The water flowing downstream will stand up in a mass.” 14 When the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carried the ark of the covenant ahead of the people. 15 Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season. But as soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan, their feet touched the water at its edge 16 and the water flowing downstream stood still, rising up in a mass that extended as far as Adam, a city next to Zarethan. The water flowing downstream into the Sea of the Arabah (the Dead Sea) was completely cut off, and the people crossed opposite Jericho.

In spite of all these miracles, we have to remember that Elijah, Elisha, Moses, and Joshua did not divide the waters. God did. They were simply the people who God worked through to make these miracles happen. It is like when someone asks for prayers for healing, and they give credit to their pulling through to the people who prayed. We must always remember the One who answers prayers. We must pray, certainly, but it is important to remember the One we are praying to, the author of healing.

The Journey to Jerusalem

Jesus decided to travel to Jerusalem when the time drew near for him to return to the Father. He sent messengers on ahead, and they stopped in a Samaritan village on the way to find a place for him to rest. But the villagers didn’t welcome him because he didn’t want to stay there, but to continue on to Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John realized this, they said “Teacher, do you want us to call down the fire of heaven to destroy them, as Elijah once did?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, saying “You don’t know the Spirit that you are a part of. The Son of Man came to save people’s lives, not destroy them.” Then they traveled on to another village.

LK 9:51-56

Jesus dies

Darkness came over all the earth from noon until three. Jesus knew that all the Scriptures had been fulfilled at this point. Around three pm he yelled out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”

The people standing by thought he was calling out for Elijah. Jesus then called out, saying “I’m thirsty!” Someone ran to get a sponge, soaked up some sour wine that was in a nearby jar, and put it on a long hyssop reed to hold up to his mouth so he could drink. Another person said “Let’s wait to see if Elijah comes to rescue him!”

After Jesus had some of the wine, he said with a loud voice “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands. It is finished!” He bowed his head, breathed his last, and released his spirit.

Suddenly the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary ripped in half from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks broke in half, and the tombs of the dead were broken open. The bodies of the righteous were raised from the dead. They left their tombs after Jesus was resurrected and walked to Jerusalem, where many people saw them.

The centurion and the soldiers who were guarding Jesus saw all that had happened and were terrified. They said “This man really was the Son of God!” The crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle went home, striking their chests in grief after they witnessed the events.

MT 27:45-54, MK 15:33-39, LK 23:44-48, JN 19:28-30

The Transfiguration

About a week later, Jesus led Peter, John, and James up a high mountain to be alone with them. He was transformed in front of them as he was praying. His face began to shine like the sun and his clothes became radiant with a white light. Suddenly Elijah and Moses appeared in glory and began talking with Jesus about his upcoming death that was to happen in Jerusalem.

Peter said to Jesus, “Teacher, it is good that we are here! Let us make three shelters, one for each of you.” He didn’t know what he should say because they were all terrified.

While he was speaking, a bright cloud formed around them and overshadowed them. A voice came from the cloud saying “This is my beloved son, the chosen one! I take delight in him, listen to him!”

The disciples were even more terrified when they heard this voice, and they fell facedown. Then Jesus came up to them and touched them, saying “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” Then they noticed that they were alone with Jesus – Elijah and Moses were gone.

While they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus said “Don’t tell anybody about what you just saw until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” They spoke about the event only among themselves, wondering what being “raised from the dead” meant. The disciples began to question him, saying “Why do the Jewish leaders say that Elijah must come first?”

“Elijah does come first and will restore everything,” he answered. “But I tell you that Elijah has already come and they didn’t recognize him, but did whatever they wanted to him just as it was prophesied. The Son of Man is going to suffer in the same way.”

The disciples then understood that he was talking about John the Baptist.

MT 17:1-13, MK 9:2-13, LK 9:28-36