Summary: While traveling to Jerusalem, a Samaritan village refuses to welcome Jesus and his disciples. Instead of judgment, Jesus demonstrates to his followers overwhelming compassion and reminds us of how he moves in our lives.
Luke 9:51-62 “Love Costs”
The stories that we have of Jesus give us snapshots of Jesus, his life and his ministry. Snapshots are powerful communicators. They can, however, limit the information they convey, or massage it. We only see the story that is contained within the frame of the picture. The action that takes place outside the picture is never seen, and the story is never told.
The limited perspective of snapshots appears to be the cause of our surprise at the beginning of this gospel text. During most of the church year we hear stories of how people flocked to Jesus to be healed, be fed, or have demons cast out of them. The only people who reject Jesus’ message are the power hungry, religious authorities, who don’t want Jesus to rock the boat. Suddenly, in this passage, however, we hear of a Samaritan village that did not what Jesus to come near. What in the world is going on?
The village is identified as a Samaritan Village. Samaria was located between Galilee and Judea. Animosity existed between the Jews and the Samaritans since the sixth century BC when the ancestors of the Jews were deported to Babylon and the ancestors of the Samaritans stayed. The Samaritans were regarded by the Jews as half-breeds because they had intermarried, and some of their religious views differed. Each group of people believed that they had the true religion.
Galilean pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem for religious festivals would travel through Samaria. There presence was not welcomed by the Samaritans. They were disruptive and caused unrest. Perhaps it could be compared to having distant relatives, whom you never got a long with or liked, come and stay for the Christmas holidays.
Jesus was rejected by on Samaritan village simply because he was a Jew. The village people didn’t want him around—not because they didn’t believe his message, but because they didn’t like who he was. Their close-mindedness, hard-heartednesss, stiff-neckness prevented them from receiving what Jesus had to offer.
Perhaps we know a few people who remind us of the Samaritans. Perhaps we remind ourselves of the Samaritans and how we reject Jesus in our lives.
SAYING NO TO JESUS
We say “No,” to Jesus in a variety of ways.
• We know people who, because they cannot prove the existence of God, cannot believe in God. Religion is a hoax or a crutch to them.
• There are people who have been baptized in the church, either as children or as adults, and then live their lives apart from the church as if nothing happened. Pastors hang their heads is despair at confirmands who stand before the congregation and affirm their baptism and then seldom darken the door of the church again.
• There are people who allow their experiences with the church—a frail, sinful, human institution to affect their relationship with God. The people of the church hurt them, so they decide to go it alone and the glow of their faith grows cold.
There are other ways that we reject Jesus.
• We reject Jesus when we make excuses for not spending time nurturing our relationship with him. We’re too busy earning a living, watching sports on TV, playing video games, working out at the gym to take time for worship, study, prayer.
• We reject Jesus when we refuse to take a step of faith and follow him. This might be a step to a new vocation, or a new path of volunteer service. It may be a step of faith to a new level of commitment, such as a step toward tithing, a step toward loving, and a step toward forgiving.
If we are truthful with ourselves we all reject Jesus; at one time or another we say “No,” to him. We are like the Samaritans of that one village. The wonderful thing is Jesus did not allow John and James to call fire and brimstone down upon the village. In fact he rebuked them. Judgment was not the way of Jesus. Jesus left open the door for invitation, repentance and forgiveness. No matter where we are in our faith, Jesus invites us to take another step and he doesn’t rebuke us or demean us when we hesitate.
A COSTLY FAITH
As we continue to read the gospel text today the picture of the Samaritans quickly changes to pictures of people struggling to follow Jesus. Jesus always calls his people to a faith that is more than going through religious motions. Jesus bestows his free grace upon us so that we may follow him as faithful disciples who give up our lives to serve him.
When we are disciples of Jesus, the world’s goods change from possessions to gifts; from mine to God’s. Jesus, creator of everything, had nothing to call his own. He didn’t have a place to call home.