Summary: Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus: God is in the Business of Using Ordinary People
Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
God is in the Business of Using Ordinary People
In Chapters 8 and 9 Luke describes a series of miracles demonstrating Jesus’ power and authority – healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, stopping storms, and over needed resources for ministry. Then came the transfiguration giving us a preview of his glory. Now we come to a series of events exposing the shortcomings of the disciples and should encourage all of us that in spite of our shortcomings and sinfulness that God is in the business of using ordinary and imperfect people to do extraordinary things. Too often we have a false idea that the disciples were spiritual giants. First we see the disciples unable to help a demonized boy; then they are arguing about who is the most significant; after that they are jealous because of the fruitful ministry of others; lastly they want to call down judgment on a Samaritan town for rejecting Jesus.
1. Ordinary People Struggle with Unbelief (37-43a)
A man begs the disciples to come and free his only son from a demonic spirit and they cannot. All three gospels make it clear that the root issue is unbelief. Mark even goes on to tell us that this kind cannot come out except by prayer. The implication is that unbelief led to prayerlessness. What is unbelief? It is turning away from the one who is the source of and promise of our life and resources to something else for life and resources. Here they were not trusting in Jesus’ power and authority to minister. They had either gotten a bit cocky or had not understood the necessity of prayer. God’s grace, the power of the Spirit in our lives is not automatic. It flows from going to God to be filled up with him and then dispensing that in life. It is a turning away from ourselves and our own self sufficiency and look to him for our source of life and ministry.
2. Ordinary People Struggle with Disunity (vs. 43b-48)
Notice the contrast between Jesus and his followers. Here he is describing his impending death; this is a serious moment. He even tells them to listen carefully and they begin arguing about who is the most important one in the group. He is foretelling of his sacrifice and they are thinking of their own status and self importance. Knowing their hearts, Jesus takes a child, and says whoever receives this child receives me. Children had not social status in that culture. His point is that whoever welcomes and embraces the insignificant ones in society welcomes and embraces me! Ministry is not about demographics and embracing people like us – that is easy, that does not take God’s grace. Jesus embraced the outsiders and the outcasts. Jesus is talking about embracing those who are on the fringe of society, the ones others reject – that takes God’s grace. Status is not a virtue in the Kingdom of God. Yet we are a status driven people. This comes from thinking too highly of ourselves. I think we can say all conflicts arise because of self, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Greatness comes from who you are connected to not who you minister to. Neither does greatness come from comparing yourself to others. How does Jesus respond? He gives a living illustration.
3. Ordinary People Struggle with Spiritual Competitiveness (vs. 49-50)
Now right after Jesus talks to the disciples about welcoming and receiving others the disciples seek to exclude others from ministry. They try to stop, unsuccessfully so, those who are not part of the ‘official group!’ Not only do they argue amongst themselves they argue with another group! I think the other group was a threat - they were casting out demons and the disciples had just experienced failure in this area. They had an us against them mentality, a competitive spirit. We need to be able to bless other ministries out there, even if they are more fruitful than us. More than just wanting them to do well we need to bless even sow into their ministry.
4. Ordinary People Struggle with Lack of Compassion (vs. 51-56)
Jesus speaks of his impending rejection and he is rejected by Samaritans; he speaks of receiving others and he is not received by the Samaritans. The disciple’s response is like an Old Testament prophet wanting to call down fire from heaven to burn them up. The disciples think they deserve God’s judgment rather than God’s mercy for rejecting Jesus. James and John are still expecting the kingdom to come in a glorious apocalyptic finish. The prophets in the Old Testament did not understand that God would accomplish his purposes in two advents or comings. The first coming is one of blessing, extending his grace and mercy; the second coming is one of judgment, pouring out his wrath on his enemies including those who reject him now.