1.17 Synoptics -- Family Ties, cont.
Mat 8:18-22, Lk 9:57-60. Jesus encountered some people who were eager to join "the cause" until family responsibilities got in the way. These were reasonable complications and excuses, but Jesus rejected them all.
"Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Lk 9:60).
"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Lk 9:62).
At first, these rejections seem to have nothing to do with race. But this passage is related to the previous section about God's Kingdom taking precedence over natural ties. That would include race. One cannot hold onto old loyalties of nation, family and race, and serve as a representative of the universal Kingdom of God. This rule that Jesus laid down looks pretty stark, even cruel. But it is the path that he himself walked, and he never looked back towards Nazareth. There is a tension, and perhaps a hostility, between the natural family and the spiritual calling. One cannot serve two masters.
This is the flip side of Jesus' magnanimous statement, "Here are my mother and my brothers." Not everyone sitting in that crowd was a part of his new spiritual family, only those who had likewise chosen God's will over their family ties. Becoming part of Jesus' community was not just a matter of joining up. It also required an act of letting go, modeled by the disciples who "left all to follow" him (Lk 18:28).
Racial ties have proven to be a powerful disincentive to commit oneself to the work of the Kingdom. It is one thing to evangelize within one's home community. It is quite another to attempt to be an agent of reconciliation to social groups outside of or opposed to one's own. But as Jesus made clear, a commitment to his way of life was not half and half, but all or nothing.