Chapter

Luke 9:62

ESV Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
NIV Jesus replied, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'
NASB But Jesus said to him, 'No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'
CSB But Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
NLT But Jesus told him, 'Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'
KJV And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

What does Luke 9:62 mean?

Luke has been using short pericopes—segments of a text—to show what Jesus expects from His disciples. Most shockingly, He expects them to accept that He is going to die (Luke 9:43–45). He wants them to live in servanthood, not ambition (Luke 9:46–48). He wants them to recognize an ally, even they are not part of the group (Luke 9:49–50). And He wants them to know when it's time to peacefully move on (Luke 9:51–56).

In Luke 9:57–62, he includes three short stories about how counter-cultural Jesus-followership is. A scribe may wish to learn from Jesus, but he shouldn't expect the hospitality and comfort traveling teachers and miracle-workers usually try to elicit from their audience (Luke 9:57–58; Matthew 8:19–20). A nominal disciple of Jesus learns that following Him may require abandoning the deeply rooted responsibilities he has as a family member (Luke 9:59–60; Matthew 8:21–22). Finally, a man who wishes to say farewell to his family learns that Jesus' mission is too important and urgent for even those delays (Luke 9:61).

Near the end of Elijah's ministry, God told him to call Elisha to take his place. Elijah found Elisha plowing a field with twelve yoke of oxen and placed his cloak on the younger man's shoulders. Elisha knew what this meant and asked permission to say goodbye to his parents. With Elijah's permission, Elisha sacrificed the oxen, boiled the flesh, and threw a party for the people. Only then did Elisha follow Elijah (1 Kings 19:19–21).

In this chapter of Luke, people have speculated that Jesus is the second coming of Elijah (Luke 9:8, 18–19). Unlike Elijah, however, Jesus doesn't let this man delay his commission. He needs to leave and follow Jesus now, and not look back on his old life, even to say goodbye.

Luke's point isn't that this poor man didn't get the chance to say goodbye to his family. Nor is he saying that a Jesus-follower can lose salvation. It is true that those who look back by returning to their old way of living show signs that they may not have been saved at all. But Peter's lapse proves that Jesus is willing and able to forgive even the sin of inconsistency (Luke 22:54–62; 24:33–34; John 21:15–19). It is not failure—in the sense of sin—which proves a person is not a follower of Christ, but failure to repent.

Luke is showing that following Jesus is a serious commitment. We can't look back at the past; we need to keep our eyes on our work and where it will take us in the future. Jesus' comment about looking back reflects a modern proverb: "you steer where you look." A person driving a vehicle tends to drift when they take their eyes from the road ahead. If someone is plowing a field and looks back, they will naturally turn and not plow in straight rows. Jesus wants the man to look straight ahead and leave his old life behind.
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