Summary: Jesus was focused on his mission. He urges us to be focused on God's kingdom in our lives, too.
June 30, 2019
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Eyes on the Prize
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
A farmer was teaching his young son how to plow. As his son sat in the tractor seat, his dad pointed to the far end of the field. “Now, son,” he said, “What you have to do is keep your eyes on one point at the far end of the field. Just focus on that one thing and drive straight toward it. And when you get to the other side of the field, your row will be straight as an arrow. Understand?”
The boy nodded in agreement, “Just keep my eyes on one thing and drive toward it. Got it, dad!”
So the boy started up the tractor. He looked keenly at the far end of the field. His eyes fixed on something and then he slowly let out the clutch. The tractor began to roll down the length of the field. He was plowing a perfectly straight row. Dad felt a swell of pride in his heart.
But then, about halfway down the field, the tractor started to veer to the left. And not just a little bit. The boy was plowing WAY off course! By the time he reached the far end of the field, he was disastrously off. Dad couldn’t believe it. How could his son have failed so miserably? He threw his hat to the ground in disgust and ran to the far side of the field.
“Son, I told you to keep your eyes on one thing and drive right at it! What happened?”
“I did, Dad! I was watching a cow in next pasture. Then she started to walk towards that tree over there. But I just kept following her like you told me to!”
Most of us don’t have much experience with plowing fields. About the closest we come is mowing our lawns. The same principle holds. You have to pick a point on the far side of your lawn and just keep walking towards it.
Nowadays, plowing is pretty high tech. Many farmers use GPS systems to guide their tractors. They just plug in the coordinates of their field, and off they go. They don’t need to fix on that one thing any more. They can catch up on their email while the tractor drives itself.
That brings us to another thing, distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, 28% of all traffic accidents are caused by people talking and texting on cell phones while driving. 28 percent! When we’re behind the wheel, it’s essential that we remain focused on the primary task at hand, safe driving. We can’t allow anything else to get in the way of that.
Keep your eyes on the prize. In our gospel reading today, Jesus is transitioning from the first part of his ministry to the second half. During the first portion of his ministry, Jesus stayed to the north, in the area around the Sea of Galilee. He carried on a ministry of preaching and healing. His reputation grew tremendously.
But just when he was at the peak of his fame, Jesus shifted gears. It was time for him to be “taken up,” as Luke called it. “Taken up” – a pretty way of saying “be crucified.” This was the end game of his ministry: Golgotha. This was the landmark at the far end of the field. That fixed point was the cross. Jesus put his hand to the plow and set his eye on that goal.
Jesus’ ministry shifted. For three years, his route had been roundabout. He carried on an itinerant ministry. He curlicued his way around Galilee. Jesus and his disciples rowed from one side of Lake Galilee to the other. He meandered through Samaria. He moseyed up north to Tyre and Sidon. They toured the cities of the Decapolis. They travelled to Bethsaida and Capernaum and Cana and then back again. They moved from town to town. They buzzed around circuitously, like bees in a meadow.
But all that changed when it was time to be “lifted up.” Then, it was laser focus. It was time to make a bee-line for Jerusalem. Jesus was on a mission. Luke tells us that Jesus “set his face” towards Jerusalem. The word in Greek conveys determination. Jesus is resolved.
As he sets out, Jesus encounters some people. Our passage today tells us what happens in these encounters. In each case, there’s a lack of focus. Distractions come into play. Jesus responds to them.
First of all, Jesus and his disciples pass through the region of Samaria. There’s no way around Samaria. It’s like going from Wisconsin to South Dakota. You HAVE to pass through Minnesota! To go from Galilee to Jerusalem, you had to pass through Samaria.