‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’
1. He sent messengers to prepare for his arrival. Unlike the twelve who were sent out to preach and to heal, these emissaries are a sort of advance party of scouts who prepare places of hospitality for the guests.
2. Fire to fall from heaven: A clear reference in 2 kg 1: 10 when Elijah threatens fire to fall on his enemies and then delivers on the promise. James and John went to practice similar vengeance on their opponents. Jesus teaches lesson on tolerance. Abraham Lincoln once asked about his cordiality with enemies noted “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends”
3. Jesus rebuking the disciples: Jesus is deriving a lesson for all the Christians ‘You do not know of what spirit you are and these’ and we should not forget his words ‘for the son of man did not come to destroy souls but to save them’
4. I will follow you: The threefold call remind the reader of the threefold willingness of Elisha to follow Elijah before his ascension (2 Kgs 2: 1-6). It is the only passage in the Gospel where someone volunteers to follow.
5. The image of the plow recalls Elisha who was called while plowing and begged to leave o kiss his father and mother (1 Kgs 19: 19-21). Elijah allowed him, Jesus’ demand is stricter. We are not expected to turn back which means to live in the past and with the past memories. We live the present looking forward to the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ may apparently seem to be too demanding but the point to be noted is, when someone wants to bury his/her father it only means that his/her father is not yet dead and he needs some more time to make a decision. Jesus always gives time for sufficient discernment but we should develop some sort of stability in our decisions. We cannot be wavering like a cat on a wall. The moment we decide to commit ourselves totally to the kingdom of God, Jesus will give us the strength to persevere without turning back at our past.
The International Commentary on the NT
Sacra Pagina Series
William Barclay’s Commentary.