Summary: The mission to Samaria shows us an improper response to rejection.
Luke has come to a major turning point in The Gospel of Luke. Up until this point we have been introduced to Jesus, the Son of Man (1:1-4:13), and we have examined the ministry of Jesus (4:14-9:50), which has taken place largely in Galilee. Now, Luke shows us the rejection of Jesus (9:51-19:27), which begins with the mission to Samaria (9:51-56).
Let’s read about the mission to Samaria in Luke 9:51-56:
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)
There are times in our lives when life-altering decisions need to be made. We make decisions about which college to attend, what career to pursue, what employment opportunity to accept, where to live, whom to marry, and so on.
Sometimes we agonize over a decision because so much is at stake. We know that choosing one option closes off other options, and we will have to live with the consequences of our decision for the rest of our lives.
Jesus, of course, constantly faced decisions as well. But he never wavered from his mission to seek and to save the lost. So, after about two and a half years of ministry, mostly in Galilee, he knew that it was time for the next phase of his mission. It was time to go to Jerusalem.
His journey to Jerusalem would culminate in rejection. Interestingly, it began with rejection as well. Unfortunately, Jesus’ disciples responded improperly to rejection. And in that rejection of Jesus, there is an important lesson.
The account of the mission to Samaria in Luke 9:51-56 shows us an improper response to rejection.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Resolve of Jesus (9:51)
2. The Rejection of Jesus (9:52-53)
3. The Request to Jesus (9:54)
4. The Rebuke by Jesus (9:55-56)
I. The Resolve of Jesus (9:51)
First, note the resolve of Jesus.
Luke said in verse 51 that when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.
This verse is a turning point in The Gospel of Luke. Up to this point, Luke has focused his attention on introducing Jesus (1:1-4:13) and giving important details about the ministry of Jesus (4:14-9:50). Luke gave examples of Jesus’ preaching and miracles so that we would understand his identity: Jesus is fully God and fully man who has come to seek and to save the lost.
“But,” as John MacArthur says, “at this point, the whole tenor of Luke’s gospel changes. The focus is no longer on Jesus’ coming, but on His going.” Although Jesus would still make a few brief trips back to Galilee, his focus was now on going to Jerusalem. That is why Luke said that Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. Commentator Darrell Bock noted, “The Hebrew idiom ‘to set one’s face to go somewhere’ indicates a determination to accomplish a task (Genesis 31:21; Isaiah 50:7; Jeremiah 21:10; 44:12; Ezekiel 6:2; 13:17; 14:8; 15:7).”
So, what was the task that Jesus wanted to accomplish? What was the resolve of Jesus? Luke expressed it in the first part of verse 51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up.” Commentators are divided about the meaning of “to be taken up.” Some commentators say that it refers to Jesus’ death on the cross, connecting it with Jesus’ comment in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
But other commentators suggest that although this is the only time that the Greek word for “to be taken up” is used in the New Testament, it is related closely to another word that is used of Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:2, 11, 22 and 1 Timothy 3:16. Therefore, as MacArthur says, “It seems that Luke’s use of the term here encompasses the entire sequence of events from the cross, through the resurrection, to the actual ascension into glory (Acts 1:9-11).”
Jesus resolved to accomplish his mission. His mission was to seek and to save the lost. He had come on a mission of mercy to “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). He had come to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He had come to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah said of him in Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”