Who Comes First?

A disciple is simply someone who follows Christ. Luke 9:57-62 and a parallel passage in Matthew 8:18-22 tell of Jesus' interaction with three different disciples. It is easy to follow Jesus when doing so is popular, but many disciples leave when things become difficult (John 6:66). Jesus' response to each disciple highlights the question of who they will follow first. Each one's heart attitude is revealed in what the Lord says to him.


First-century people followed Jesus for a variety of reasons. They followed Him for healing (Matthew 4:24), food (John 6:26), political deliverance (John 6:15), and just to be a part of the general excitement. Some genuinely believed He was the Messiah (John 6:69).

The First Disciple

The first disciple in this passage comes to the Lord himself. Matthew 8 shows that he is a scribe, someone who would be used to living comfortably. He tells the Lord, "I will follow You wherever You go." He appears respectful, genuine, and honest, speaking from his heart as best he knew it. Yet he was also naive. Jesus' response shows that enthusiastic sincerity needs to be grounded and rooted in the truth of God's Word.

Being a disciple of Christ is serious business. We can't even count on ordinary comforts when we follow Christ. God is kind not to tell us what is to come (John 16:12). There will be trials, but the Lord promises that we will bear them by His grace.

The question for the scribe is "Who comes first, God or you?"

The Second Disciple

The next disciple in the passage didn't volunteer; Jesus called him just as He had called Peter and John. This man had good intentions, but he countered Christ's call with his own demand. "Lord, permit me first..." He did not think Jesus had the right to ask him anything that countermanded something that was important to him. He told Christ that He had to wait. But nothing could be more important than following Christ.

The question for this disciple is, "Is Jesus Lord?"

The Third Disciple

This disciple was not as enthusiastic. His following was cautious and conditional. His attitude was akin to saying, "God, show me what Your will is, and I'll decide whether I like it." A back-looking disciple is always talking about what he or she gave up. They are no longer effective to do the job God has purposed for us. Lot's wife was a famous back-looker, but a very bad disciple. The Scriptural teaching of discipleship doesn't fit with American society. We have to transfer to a different kingdom to have the proper mindset.

The question for this disciple and all who would follow Christ is, "Who comes first?"

Application Points

  • Are you a disciple? Why do you follow Jesus? How does the presence of a crowd affect your willingness to follow Him? Are you afraid of what your friends will say if you wholeheartedly follow Christ?
  • Is Christ Lord of your life? Is your following conditional on His meeting your demands? Do you trust His will even when you don't know what is coming?
  • Does anything in your life come before Christ -- a person, thing, or goal? Is the Lord calling you to give up something or undertake a new endeavor? Do you have excuses for why you can't right now? You have to decide who will come first, God or you.
  • Make Christ first. Give Him everything you are and have, and you will be a true disciple. Detach your heart from all other things and love Him supremely Who has showed us the greatest love.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Luke 14:26-27, Matthew 10:37 -- Following Christ must be our first love and top priority.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:15, Job 13:15 -- True disciples are willing to follow whatever the cost.
  • Mark 8:36 -- Eternity is our highest priority.
A Hymn to Encourage: "I Stand Amazed in the Presence"

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!