When “Yes” Also Means “No”

A sermon by Michael Pahl on June 30, 2019, called “When ‘Yes’ Also Means ‘No.’” It is a reflection on the “hard sayings” of Jesus in Luke 9:57-62.

Here is a written excerpt from the introduction:

Well, this is awkward.

Three people, all set to follow Jesus. They’ve heard the altar call, they’ve responded to the invitation, they’re ready to go. And instead of making things all comfortable and easy for them, Jesus issues some warnings.

Just so you know, I’m poor and homeless. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” No time for family funerals, we’ve got kingdom work to do.

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” I told you, there’s kingdom work to do!

Seems a bit harsh, no? What happened to all that love and mercy, Jesus?

Gospels scholars sometimes talk about the “hard sayings of Jesus.” I think it’s fair to say these difficult words are some of these “hard sayings.”

I think a helpful way to make sense of these sayings is to recognize the simple truth that saying “yes” often also means saying “no.”

I don’t mean that we should be deceitful in our speech, talking out of both sides of our mouth, saying one thing to one person and the opposite thing to someone else. As Jesus says, we are to “let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’”—and then strive to follow through on those commitments (Matt 5:37).

What I mean is this: often when we say “yes” to something or someone, we are at that moment also saying “no” to other things and other people. In choosing one course of action, we are also closing off other possible paths.

Saying “yes” often also means saying “no.”

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