Summary: This passage is hard on the disciples, no getting around it. They fail, repeatedly. But when I step back and look at me, and at today’s church, I refuse to condemn the disciples because I see these very same failures in me and in today’s church. We’ve
Getting it Wrong: Breaking Boundaries
Luke 9:37-50 May 17, 2009
What we usually do when we study Scripture is good – we break it down into smaller pieces so we can really get into the stories and try to understand them, see Jesus in them, and reflect on what they mean for who we are and how we live our lives. But if we only ever look at Scripture that way, we miss out on some of the bigger picture, the broad themes, the over-arching messages. It is like we take one little scene – like maybe the one scene in “The Three Little Pigs” where the “big bad wolf” goes to the pig who built a house of sticks and “huffs and puffs” – and we study it and think about it, but we miss the broader story of three brothers who eventually come together and overcome their adversary. You get the point…
And sometimes that is what we do with the stories of Jesus – we narrow in on the one story for the day, and miss the broad themes coming through. As we begin today I’m going to take us back a couple chapters, not reading the whole story again (solely for the sake of time, I’d really love to otherwise!) but highlighting them so when we get to today’s passage we’ll have that bigger piece of Luke’s narrative in mind. We started to follow the stories of Jesus after Christmas, and then I’ve been away a bit and other things have come up, so we are going to invest the time in backtracking. And I’m going to ask for some help as we do…
Luke 7:1-10 - Centurian’s slave healed (Jesus crosses ethnic boundaries)
Luke 7:11-17 - Jesus raises widow’s only son back to life (Jesus crosses social boundaries and life/death boundaries)
Luke 7:18-35 - John’s disciples come (Who is Jesus?)
Luke 7:36-50 - Jesus anointed by “sinful woman” (Jesus crosses physical and image boundaries)
Luke 8:1-15 - Parable “Seed among the soils” (we are the sowers, not the seed)
Luke 8:16-21 - Parable of the lamp (Brian and Norma; light exists toshine)
Luke 8:22-25 - Jesus calms the storm (Jesus breaks the human/nature boundary)
Luke 8:26-39 - Jesus heals a demoniac in the Gerasenes
Luke 8:40-56 - Jesus heals Garius’ daughter; bleeding woman
Luke 9:1-6 - Jesus sends/commissions disciples for ministry
Luke 9:10-14 - Jesus feeds 5000
Luke 9:15-27 - Who is Jesus, and what does it mean to follow Him?
Luke 9:28-36 - Transfiguration
In these three chapters, we see some common themes – “who is Jesus?” (directly, and indirectly as Jesus keeps breaking traditional boundaries, challenging existing assumptions, and relating to people in radically new ways), and – “what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?”. Two great questions – very applicable to us today. There have been amazing “highs”, and pretty significant failures. The four accounts back to back, which we look at next, highlight those failures on the part of the disciples once again. Chapter 9 starts with the great high, disciples doing the “stuff” just like Jesus, then they fail at the feeding of the 5000, followed by this hard teaching about “taking up the cross daily and denying oneself”, then followed by this “mountaintop” experience where they see Jesus for who He really is, and then this:
37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”
41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.”
42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.
While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” 45 But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
46 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”