Summary: Jesus’ call is to complete discipleship. Total love. Abandoning ourselves to Him. No half heartedness, no “yes, but first…”, no giving Jesus just a piece of us. He wants it all, because it is all broken and it all needs to be healed, and then He gives
Joining the Journey To Jerusalem: Breaking Boundaries
Luke 9:51-63 May 24, 2009
Journey… Bob Dylan asks “How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man”? Tom Cochrane says, “Life is a Highway”. Robert Frost said that “two roads diverged in a wood…” We seem to relate to the idea of life like a journey, with its ups and downs, peaks and valleys, times when we feel like we are flying through the air and other times when we feel stuck in the muck.
It’s the same image that Luke picks up as he continues to tell the story of Jesus. We’ve been walking alongside Jesus, and thus far all of Jesus’ work and teaching and miracles have been in the area of Galilee. But in Luke 9:51, that all changes as Jesus’ journey takes a new direction and He starts down the road to Jerusalem, the center of the nation of Israel, where the political and religious and cultural power is all centralized. Now we have seen thus far that Jesus’ journey has continually challenged, upset, reversed, and then recreated all of the existing structures and priorities, but thus far it has been in this little province far from the power center. What might happen when Jesus takes this message into the heart of the nation?
The more immediate question, to which Luke now turns our attention, is to what happens “along the way”. The destination is in view, we’ll see Jesus’ determination, but there is still a lot of ministry and teaching that will happen “along the way.” Let’s read the rest of Luke 9.
51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” 62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Destroying the Opposition:
Verse 51 begins the section by showing Jesus in a very determined light – He “resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. Other translations put it this way – “He set his face towards Jerusalem”. He decided, resolved to go, and was determined. He knew where He needed to go next, and when the time was right He went. The rest of Luke are the stories of what happens on the journey, and what happens when Jesus arrives.
There are four quick stories as Jesus begins this journey, the first one continues to demonstrate how Jesus’ disciples still haven’t quite grasped the nature of the new Kingdom of God. We read the story – Jesus experiences rejection at a Samaritan village, and so James and John default to their expectation of what this new Kingdom of God should be – one of power and force that will destroy anything that gets in the way. Remember they expected a military Messiah, so a forceful response is an appropriate recommendation for them. They are making a little progress – they are taking on some authority (“should WE call down fire from heaven?”); but they haven’t yet grasped that the new Kingdom of God in Jesus is about the power of love, not the power of “fire and brimstone” from heaven. That part still hasn’t sunk in…
Have you ever wanted to call down fire from heaven on someone? In anger, maybe out of hurt or rejection, wished that fire would fall and “burn them up”? I can think of a time or two when I’ve wanted God to do something drastic to change other people so that my life and expectations can be better – not actually wanted God to destroy, but I have secretly thought about how awesome it would be if something like that happened that just proved how right and justified I was. Can you hear that echoing James and John? I can. They had seen Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, knew the story of Elijah calling down fire from heaven, and thought that the rejection they experienced might merit the same response. But such is not the way of Jesus. When I have done the right thing with those kinds of feelings, prayed them through and sought God’s will in them, God ends up showing me that the issue is actually mine. Oh, true the other people might be in the wrong, might be even really dumb and maybe even deserving of some drastic response, but God turns it around, and says, “Let’s talk about you, Steve… Why is this so important to you? Why is your reaction so strong? Why do you think you know what is best? And, what might happen if you loved instead of prayed for a heavenly judgment and condemnation??” And in the times when I have followed and obeyed and loved instead of dreamt about retribution, the result has been forgiveness, freedom for me, a deepening of relationship, and another advance for the Kingdom of God.