Summary: Year C. Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, July 1st, 2001,Luke 9: 51-62 Title: “Life is a Journey”
Year C. Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, July 1st, 2001, Luke 9: 51-62
Title: “Life is a Journey”
Heavenly Father, thank you for this life, which is a journey from birth to death of learning to find and trust in you. Amen.
First of all, today’s Gospel is about a trip - a journey - which Jesus and his disciples are making. You can easily miss the point when you read it, because while Luke uses the same word for journey five times in the first six verses, the English translation never uses it at all! Here is where the word for journey appears. In verse 51 Jesus set his face to journey to Jerusalem. In verse 52 on their journey they enter a village of the Samaritans. In verse 53 the Samaritans do not receive Jesus because his face was set on a journey to Jerusalem. In verse 56 Jesus and his disciples journey to another village. And in verse 57 it is as they are on their journey that all the things in that paragraph occur. Five times the same word for journey appears. Obviously, it is Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem that is the basis and the framework for today’s Gospel.
As Jesus resolutely begins his journey to Jerusalem, the city of his destiny, he and his disciples encounter hostility from the Samaritans. Jesus reinforces his teaching on non-retaliation and stresses the need for unqualified commitment.
The section in Luke from 9:51 to 19:10 has been called “the Great Interpolation.” Luke has inserted much material into this part of Jesus’ life and ministry that is not found in Mark. He has folded it into the “journey theme” he is so fond of. In this section Jesus firmly sets his sights on Jerusalem, realizing his days are numbered. Hence, there will be a heightened sense of urgency in what Jesus teaches along the way as he nears the cross. The section begins as his ministry in Galilee began- with rejection. He was rejected by his hometown folks when he began his public life and now he is rejected by the Samaritans as he begins his public march on the capital of Judaism. It did not stop him then; it does not stop him now. Along the way he will clarify some issues: he is not Elijah or Elisha or a clone of any other prophet. He will require of his disciples what he requires of himself: unqualified commitment.
In verse fifty-one, when the days for his being taken up were fulfilled: As Luke writes this sentence it has the ring of a new beginning. More literally translated the text says, “It happened that….” “His being taken up” translates a technical term, Greek analempsis, which includes his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.
He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem: Jesus freely chose to go to Jerusalem to be killed. He was not fulfilling a role. He was not an actor unaffected by what happens to his character. This was real life. Soon to be rejected yet again, he does not reject his Father’s will. He accepts his plan and adopts it as his own.
In verse fifty-two, messengers…to prepare for his reception: It was a teaching of Jesus, almost a truism, that whoever welcomes, receives, accepts his messenger accepts him, and whoever rejects someone sent in his name rejects him. Thus, the rejection of his messengers is tantamount to rejecting Jesus himself. It is not specified what these preparations would entail. We can presume they would include lodging and eating arrangements. The direct journey to Jerusalem went through Samaria, a regular route taken by pilgrims from Galilee, about a day’s walk of a three day journey.
In verse fifty-three, not welcome because the destination was Jerusalem: Luke means this on two levels. On the level of raw fact Jesus and his companions were rejected simply because they were going to the capital of the people the Samaritans despised, purely racial prejudice. On the symbolic level, Jesus was rejected because his ultimate destination was not God’s earthly city, but God himself, not so much where he was going but what he stood for. On the earthly level those who rejected him represented all Samaritans; on the spiritual level they represented any and all who oppose Kingdom values.
In verse fifty-four, call down fire: This is a metaphor for retaliation. When James and John, called elsewhere the “sons of thunder,” wanted to “call down fire,” they were thinking of Elijah (2Kgs 1: 10) who cast lightning upon the king’s soldiers who wanted to arrest him for opposing the king.
In verse fifty-five, Jesus rebuked them: Jesus always rejects retaliation as a response to rejection, preferring the power of persuasion to the “persuasion” of power. Implicitly, Jesus is rejecting Elijah’s response.
They journeyed to another village: Jesus had no trouble switching from Plan A to Plan B. Like the wise men in Matthew Chapter two, he took another approach to reaching his goal, not allowing obstacles to prevent him.