Several passages in the Gospel of Luke can tell us something about the subject freedom, it seems to me, and over the next three days, I would like to take three passages and reflect on what they tell us.
In Luke 9: 57- 58 we read,
As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.
What is happening here? This man seems to be making Jesus a very generous offer, not of money or material goods, but of his very self. One would expect the Lord to appreciate this offer, but in fact, the man seems to get something wrong. Instead of hearing Jesus say, ‘Well done, my man! Welcome aboard! Let me introduce you to the others!’ he encounters a wary Jesus, whose response seems stern, even unwelcoming.
Why does Jesus seem so hard on him? Jesus, with his penetrating insight into character, probably sees something here that doesn’t ring true. Judging from Jesus’ words to the man, it is not hard to imagine this man being big and loud-voiced, full of bravado, playing to the gallery as it were, as he steps out of the crowd and makes his offer.
So Jesus pulls him up short and confronts him with reality: ‘You don’t know what you’re saying’ Jesus seems to say. ‘My life is extremely uncomfortable on many levels. I have no settled abode. I’m an itinerant preacher. I rely on other people for food and shelter. My followers have left all security, all comfort to follow me. Do you really want to live like that?’ Jesus can’t accept this man as a follower without challenging him. Jesus wants him to think about the very real physical deprivations in store for him. Is he really willing to be free in respect to human comfort? Is he really willing to leave his comfort zone?
Likewise, when we say to the Lord, “I will follow you wherever you go,” we need to stop playing to the gallery, and to face reality. We are telling him that we want to live as he lived.
Do we? His entire being was surrendered in love to his Father; Jesus’ longing to fulfil his Father’s will was all-consuming. This is not to say Jesus never allowed himself any human comforts. But the need for comfort barely even figures in Jesus’ list of priorities. It is not merely that he worked extremely long hours, then went off alone to pray all night; it is not merely that he had an itinerant life-style without a fixed address. Jesus’ freedom was so much more profound than this. Jesus was completely free for carrying out his Father’s will. He was free, free enough to offer the supreme sacrifice of his life on the cross.
If we declare that we will follow Jesus, we can be sure that we will find ourselves challenged to grow in this kind of freedom. We cannot get there in a day, but we must start somewhere, and our comforts are a good place to begin. Ironically, our comforts, which seem to make life so liveable, can interfere with our life in a more profound sense, for our attachment to them can enchain us. Sooner of later, some – perhaps all – of our most treasured comforts will need to be laid aside so that we can be free for Christ and for carrying out his will.