Taking up the mantle. The Cost of Discipleship.
1 Kings 19: 19-21, Luke 9: 57-62 (NRSVA)
(1 Kings 19) 19 So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was ploughing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. 20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ Then Elijah said to him, ‘Go back again; for what have I done to you?’ 21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
(Luke 9) 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59 To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61 Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
Elijah passed over to Elisha his mantle: a symbolic act, confirming this new recruit in his office of prophet. To receive it from Elijah was a sign that the call was from God, whose gifts would be sufficient for him to fulfil that calling.
That Elisha was ploughing with twelve pairs of oxen shows that he belonged to a wealthy family. To obey the prophetic call would therefore involve considerable financial loss. It would mean counting the costs. But Elisha was a man of faith who was willing to do just that.
Elisha’s request to kiss his parents Goodbye was genuine, not an act of hesitation like the men described in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus saw through that one as an attempt to avoid His call. Elisha was not like them.
Immediately he went and burned the tools of his former trade. Thus Elisha demonstrated to family and friends that God had given him new aims and aspirations, new values and priorities. He was counting his past life as loss for the Lord. He would never look back, nor abandon the calling of God, no matter how tough life might become.
God has placed a mantle, a call, with the gifts we need, upon all who choose to follow Jesus Christ. We are each to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us — our time, talents, our treasures, and His truth. This requires Elisha’s kind of commitment.
Elisha was an ordinary man, who turned his life over to the Lord totally and without hesitation, and God was able to use him in tremendous ways.
Loving Lord God, thank You for Your faithfulness to guide me in my discipleship. Thank You for your word that comforts me and reminds me of Your promises, plan, and provision. Help me to be a good steward of all that you have given, and to pass the mantle of faith wisely to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.