Jesus and The Samaritans - Gospel Analysis
PENTECOST 5C Luke 9:51-62
SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, p. 164-165.
Last Journey To Jerusalem
LUKE 10-18 (According to Luke)
In this section of Luke 10-18, we are will focus on stories which are uniquely from the Gospel of Luke. This section is often called Luke’s “travel narrative” in which Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea/Jerusalem.
We will study several stories which are unique to Luke such as:
+to Jerusalem, (gospel lesson for this Sunday)
+rejection by the Samaritans, (gospel lesson for this Sunday)
+parable of the Good Samaritan,
+Mary and Martha,
+parable of the persistent friend at midnight,
+parable of the rich fool,
+parable of the being invited to a marriage banquet,
+parable of the persistent widow,
+and the parable of the Pharisee and the publican.
All of these stories are unique to Luke and reveal his particular emphases, values and biases.
We will also carefully study Jesus’ teachings from Q (Quella) which are found in this “travel" section. We remember that whenever there are exact parallels between Luke and Matthew, we conclude those two authors must have been copying from a third, earlier source which we call Q.
Just as Matthew gathered several teachings from Q and placed those teachings in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere in Matthew,) so also Luke gathered several of Jesus’ teachings from Q and has placed them in this “travel document.”
In this travel section of Luke 10-18, there are some of the finest passages of Scripture in the Bible. During this section, we will stop and pause before some of the most magnificent Bible passages such as the story of Mary and Martha, the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Grateful Samaritan, the Rich Fool, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Great Banquet, the Marriage Feast, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Lost Son (the Prodigal Son.)
It is as if you are visiting the finest art galleries in the world and you stop to immerse yourself in the Hall of Mirrors in the Louve in Paris, or stop and silently examine the Pieta by Michelangelo in the Vatican, or stop to see grand dining room in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. These places are the finest places in the art galleries of the world.
Similarly, we will stop and pause before the most grand religious short stories in the world when we listen to these parables of Jesus in Luke 10-18. These parables of Jesus in Luke 10-18 have transformed human history and religion. We do not hurriedly pass by these parables, but we slow down, stop and listen to the wisdom of Jesus through these his common yet profound everyday stories from life.
Summary Teachings About Luke
Authorship of Luke-Acts: Luke, the Physician
Luke 1:1-4. “Inasmuch as many have taken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”
Theophilus’s name was a Gentile name. Theophilus was perhaps a Roman official.
Luke persistently translated the language of Jewish customs so that a non-Jewish person could more clearly understand e.g. “master’ is substituted for “rabbi,” “lawyer” for “scribe,” and “verily” for “amen.”
Luke’s gospel is comparatively free from Old Testament quotations and makes little use of arguments from prophecy as Matthew often does.
In this gospel, the purpose of Jesus Christ is to save the whole world (including Samaritans and Roman centurions) and is not limited to saving the Jews first and the Gentiles later (as in Matthew.)
Luke was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, and was with Paul when Paul wrote Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy.
Luke is mentioned in the following Bible passages:
Colossians 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you.”
Philemon 14, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings as do Mark (John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark), Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.”
II Timothy 4:11, “Luke alone is with me (here in prison). Get Mark (John Mark, the author of Mark’s gospel) and bring him with you. He is very useful in serving me.
Irenaeus, an early Church Father: “Luke, the follower of Paul, recorded in a book the gospel which was preached by him.” Irenaeus, about 200 CE.
The Muratorian fragment: “Luke, that physician, who after the ascension of Christ when Paul had taken with him as a companion on his journey, composed it in his own name on the basis of report.” Written in about 190 CE, the Muratorian Fragment is a list of 22 of our 27 books of the New Testament. There are brief remarks about the origins of each of the books. The Muratorian Fragment is a pivotal document, the first “official” list of what books are to be included in the New Testament.
Characteristics of Luke-Acts
The Gospel of the poor and outcast. The following stories are found only in Luke’s gospel: Mary’s song of poverty (1:51-53), the poor have good news preached to them (4:18), the disciples left everything and followed him (5:11), beatitudes of poverty (6:20-25), parable of the rich fool (12:33-34), followers to renounce all that they have (14:25-33), parable of the unrighteous steward (16:1-13), parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31), story about Zacchaeus (19:1-10.)
The Gospel of Womanhood. The following stories are found only in Luke’s gospel:: the widow Anna, the widow of Nain (7:11-12), the band of women who follow Christ (8:1-3), Mary and Martha (10:38), the woman with a disease (13:10-17), the parable of the woman and the lost coin (15:8-16), the widow who insisted on her rights (18:1-8), the daughters of Jerusalem weeping at the foot of the cross (23:27).
The Gospel of Tolerance. The following stories are found only in Luke’s gospel: James and John rebuked for wanting to destroy a Samaritan village (9:52-56), the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:29-37), the story of the grateful leper (17:11-19). The one in ten healed people was a Samaritan.
The Gospel of Prayer. The following stories/incidents are found only in Luke’s gospel: at Jesus’ baptism, before choosing the twelve disciples, on return of the seventy, the parable of the persistent friend, the parable of the woman and the unjust judge.
The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. The following stories/incidents are found only in Luke’s gospel: The Holy Spirit was upon the Baptist (1:15-17), Mary, Elizabeth 1:35, 41), Zechariah (1:67), Simeon, Jesus at his baptism (4:1, 14), Jesus during his first sermon (4:18), and on the seventy. This gospel has been called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit e.g. Luke 11:13, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” We remember that Luke’s companion volume, the book of Acts, is all about the activity of the Holy Spirit on people’s lives.
The Gospel of Evangelism/Mission/Conversion of the Gentiles. As students of the Scriptures, we always need to remember that Luke also wrote the Book of Acts which is the greatest evangelism document ever written. Luke knows that the Jesus Story in the Gospel of Luke becomes the Church Story in the Book of Acts. The Gospel of Luke records the acts of Jesus and the Book of Acts records the “acts of the apostles.” The story of the Samaritans in this section is a prelude to the mission to the Samaritans in the Book of Acts.
The Gospel of Joy. The following stories/incidents are found only in Luke’s gospel: the three hymns in Jesus’ infancy story, after the return of the seventy.
#174. Decision To Go TO Jerusalem
Matthew 19:1-2, Mark 10:1, Luke 9:51
-Now when Jesus finished these sayings. (Only Matthew) This is a common transitional phrase. Matthew closes sections of his book with this and similar phrases. Luke uses the same wording in Matthew 7:28, “and when Jesus finished these sayings.” Mathew also uses a similar phrase in 13:53, “And when Jesus had finished these parables.” Matthew 7:28 closes the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 13:53 closes Jesus’ beginning parables in the book of Matthew. Also, here in Matthew 19:1, Jesus closes this section of his life, his teachings and parables in Galilee.
-When the days/the time drew near/were fulfilled for him to be received up. (Only Luke) The NIV translation says, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The time was ripe for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. The days were fulfilled. The time was ready.
“To be received up” refers to Jesus’ ascension.
It is clear that in the Gospel of Matthew, this section is a transition point in Jesus’ life. Similarly in Luke’s gospel, this is clearly a moment when Jesus begins to move in a new direction: towards Jerusalem.
-He set his face (steadfastly) to go to Jerusalem. (Only Luke) There was a look of resolve and determination in Jesus’ face.
The Greek language implies the word “steadfastly.” Jesus set his face steadfastly which means being “resolved” to go to Jerusalem.
We find the mention of Jesus traveling to Jerusalem in five places in Luke’s narrative: In 9:51; in 9:53; in 13:22; 17:11 and 19:28. Examine each of these passages and underline the phrase, “to Jerusalem.” This theme, “to Jerusalem,” becomes a motif in Luke’s gospel.
This travel narrative will consume 40% of Luke’s story about Jesus.
It is as if Jesus knew that it was time to begin his trip to Jerusalem and the cross. The cross became symbolic of his life. “"Setting one's face" to do something is an Old Testament way of speaking about resolve (Gen 31:21; Jeremiah 21:10; 44:12). Jesus is determined to accomplish God's will wherever it leads.”
The journey from Galilee to Jerusalem was not a “straight line” journey. Sometimes we will find Jesus south near Jerusalem. Most of the time we will find Jesus in vague locations in Samaria.
#175. Jesus Is Rejected By The Samaritans
-He sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. The first story in this Lucan travel narrative is a story about the Samaritans. Samaritans were “traditional enemies” of the Jews.
The Samaritans and Jews did not mix with each other nor intermarry with each other.
They had different centers of worship, different capital cities, and different Bibles.
“In Jewish eyes Samaritans were half-breeds, ethnic traitors, bad guys. When the nation was divided, Samaria was originally a name for the capital of the northern kingdom founded by Omri (1 Kings 16:21-24). Samaritans intermarried with other peoples in the region. They even worshiped at a different site, Mount Gerazim (Jn 4:20-24). Many recognized only the Pentateuch as inspired. Traditionally Jews and Samaritans were hostile to one another. So Jesus' effort to reach out to them is culturally exceptional. It would be like ministering in a cross racial setting today. The reaction might be "What are you doing here?" and "Can you believe he ministers to them?"
Carefully examine the following map and find the location of Samaria. Notice that Galilee, Samaria, Judea and Idumaea are all provinces.
The following is a map of Samaria. This map shows the location of Mount Gerazim in New Testament times. The Samaritans believed that the center of worship was not Jerusalem but Mount Gerazim. The word, “Gerazim,” can be spelled with an “a” or an “i” e.g. Gerizim or Gerazim.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote about the Samaritans. Josephus was a Jewish historian living after the time of Christ (37-100 CE). He offers us a secular, non-Biblical view of the Samaritans. He was a historian and advisor to three Roman emperors and his books were widely read for centuries. Josephus also wrote many secular, non-biblical details about John the Baptist.
Ant. 20.6.1 118 (also War 2.12.3-4 232-235)
“It was the custom of the Galileans, when they came to the Holy City at the festivals, to take their journeys through the country of the Samaritans. On their route lay a village called Ginea, which was situated on the border between Samaria and the Great Plain, and at this time certain persons fought with the Galileans, and killed a great many of them.”
Comment by Professor G.J.Goldberg, the author of this article: “The Samaritans had their own Bible and their own Temple. There was an enmity between Samaritans and Jews that sometimes became violent. The forced contact between the groups as Galileans journeyed to festivals appears both in Josephus and the New Testament…The particular incident recorded by Josephus was extremely serious, resulting in mass crucifixions and beheadings and eventually in an embassy to the Emperor Claudius. (Ant. 20.8.5 161).
-The people would not receive him because his face was set to Jerusalem. Jesus, a Jew, was resolved to go to Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews. The people of Samaria were deeply prejudiced against the Jews and vice-versa. It offended the Samaritans that Jesus’ face was resolved to go to Jerusalem, rather than Mount Gerazim, which, for them, was their holy city. In the minds of the Samaritans, Jesus was heading the wrong direction. He should have been resolved to go to Mount Gerazim which Samaritans believed was the true and proper place to worship God.
-When his disciples James and John saw it (the Samaritans’ rejection of Jesus), they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to bid fire to come down from heaven and consume them (like Elijah did.)’ The footnote to the Biblical text (other ancient authorities) adds three important words to the sentence, “like Elijah did.” James and John were known as “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17) which meant both had “hot tempers.” These two hot-tempered disciples had recently been with Jesus to the top of the Mount Transfiguration. There on the top of Mount Transfiguration, James and John (and Peter) had seen Moses, the father of the Law and Elijah, the father of the prophets. James and John knew the story about Elijah from II Kings 1. In that story, Elijah brought the fires of God down on the false prophets of Baal. James and John wanted to do the same with the Samaritans. It seems as if James and John thought that the power of God in Elijah had rubbed off on them, and they wanted to use that fiery power to punish the Samaritans for not receiving Jesus with open arms and acceptance.
-But he/Jesus rebuked them and they went on to another village. We have previously heard Jesus rebuke others such as demons (Luke 4:35, 9:42), a fever (4:39), and the disciples for their lack of understanding (9:21). Here, Jesus used strong language to correct James and John.
Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to incinerate and destroy the Samaritans.
In the coming stories about Jesus, the Samaritans will become examples of true mercy (Good Samaritan) and true thanksgiving (Grateful Samaritan) and true disciples (in the churches of the Book of Acts.) Shortly in Luke’s gospel, we will hear the parable of the Good Samaritan as a model of compassion. We will also hear the story of the Grateful Samaritan (ten lepers healed) as a model of deep thanksgiving. Rather than being enemies to be incinerated by a fire storm, Jesus saw the hearts of these Samaritans as examples of people who had deep compassion and thanksgiving. The Samaritans were outside the boundaries of Jewish religion but, according to Jesus, they had true faith, compassion and gratitude.
Also, Luke wrote a two-book sequel after Jesus lived. He wrote the book of Luke and the book of Acts. Luke knew the future. That is, many of the Samaritans were going to become Christians. The theme verse for the book of Acts is Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” As the Church rippled out from Jerusalem, people in Judea and then Samaria and then the whole earth became disciples of Jesus. Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all of Galilee, Judea and Samaria had peace and was built up.”
By contrast, James and John, with their hot tempers and religious inflammatory disdain for their religious enemies, wanted to fry the Samaritans in a firestorm. But Jesus saw the inner hearts of the Samaritans. Jesus saw true compassion and thanksgiving in Samaritans and knew that they were someday going to become members of his Church. In addition, we recall Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus knew that this Samaritan woman wanted to drink from the wells of living water.
From a sermon on this text:
“Well, it is with this mood and awareness that we approach the gospel lesson for today. It is a story about little incident that explodes because of a deep seated historic conflict. It is a little known story about James and John. It is not one of the great classic stories from the Bible. In fact, it occurs only once, in the Gospel of Luke. It is the kind of story which is easily forgotten; I personally had forgotten all about this little story as I reread it in preparation for today’s sermon.
The story goes like this. Jesus was up north in Galilee, and he was getting ready to go down south to Jerusalem, and he had to pass through the land of Samaria. And the Jews and Samaritans, as you know from previous sermons and Bible studies, the Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other very much. It didn’t take much for them to set off against one another. I mean; they didn’t talk with each other or walk with each other; they didn’t intermingle or intermarry; they didn’t chit and they didn’t chat with each other.
And when any Jew was on a pilgrimage to come from northern Israel down to southern Israel, and had to pass through Samaria, the Samaritans and Jews often harassed each other. There was a long-standing historic conflict between the two nations. Who knows the origins of it all! We do know that a hundreds years before, the Jews had burned down the Samaritans temple, and the Samaritans were really mad about that; that was only a hundred years ago. But nations and races and families do remember certain things for a hundred years.
Well, Jesus was getting ready to go down south, and he was going to go through Samaria, and he sent his disciples there in front of him, to make preparations. And he sent two of his disciples, James and John, into Samaria. Now, I would never suggest that Jesus made a mistake sending these two hotheaded Jews into Samaria, but I sometimes wonder about it. As you may remember from other Bible stories, these two brothers were called the “sons of thunder,” who had thunderous personalities, thunderous tempers, and thunderous prejudices. Jesus sent down the “sons of thunder” to Samaria. Was a mistake made to send those two? I’m not sure. And so James and John went to this small Samaritan village; they came to a little town in the road where prejudices run deep and real. And they went into that town and text says that they were not sufficiently “welcomed”, and that set the two hotheads off. Just a little thing; they were not properly welcomed, and that set the two of them off. It didn’t take much to set James and John off; it didn’t take much to make them mad. They came up to Jesus who had just entered the village and said: “Do you want us to call down the fires of hell and burn these people up? Let’s burn up those Samaritans, just like Elijah called on the fires of heaven to burn up those 400 priests of Baal. Why don’t we call on God to send down the fires of heaven and burn up all these Samaritans? Burn ‘em up; they didn’t welcome us.” A little of an over-reaction, we would say? Just because they hadn’t been properly welcomed? Little incident? Big explosion? And the Bible says: “Jesus rebuked them;” James and John, that is. He strongly corrected them for their explosion of rage and feelings against the Samaritans. And he said: “ That is not my Spirit, for the Son of Man came not to destroy, but to save other people.”
William Barclay, the great English theologian, said that this passage in the Bible, although not well known, teaches tolerance like no other passage in the Bible. This passage is the best passage in the Bible that teaches tolerance.
This quick anger over little incidents happens all the time. .... Such as a parent who sets you off. You have this long term conflict with your parent; the littlest thing happens; and you go into a slow burn or a fast rage? Yes, for many of you? Yes, of course; if we are honest, there are a whole bunch of us who have long term historic conflicts with a parent. .... Or such as a teenager who sets you off. The littlest incident, and the bomb goes off. Does anyone here not have that happen? .... Or such as a husband or wife, and the littlest incident sets you off, and you know its not the little incident, but the thousand of similar little incidents which have happened before and this latest incident is merely the trigger? ...Such as with your neighbor, a work associate. And when the person does the littlest thing to offend, the anger explodes over nothing.
If you have such feelings; if you have such attitudes; such inner passions in your heart based on historic long-term conflicts with someone (parent, child, sibling, co-worker); Jesus will rebuke you, will strongly correct you. The Spirit of Jesus doesn’t like those feelings inside of you, and neither do you. ..... Do you really like those feelings inside that are so easily triggered against someone you have long-term conflicts with? Do you really like those feelings? Noooo. Are those feelings, so easily triggered, are those feelings God pleasing? Noooo. Are those easily triggered feelings inside; are they the Spirit of Christ? Noooo. You are like me; you don’t like them either. And so you listen to the word of God that says: “Create in me a clean heart o God, and put a new and a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of loving.” No, we do not like those easily triggered hostile feelings within ourselves; and we want God to heal us of them.
O yes, such are the feelings of the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. O yes, Elijah called down the fires of God from heaven to wipe out the 400 prophets of Baal; but Jesus would never do that. That is one of the crucial differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Between Elijah and Jesus. There is an enormous difference between the two.
The best commentary on this passage is a story about Abraham Lincoln who many people think was the finest and most spiritual of all our presidents. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was being criticized for not being harsh enough and severe enough on the soldiers of the South; and one time, after a battle, a general from the North came up to him and said: Why didn’t you destroy your enemy? And President Lincoln answered with those famous words: “Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?” The word of God touched Abraham Lincoln’s heart and he said: “Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?” That is a great quotation. It is like a Bible verse from the inspired lips of Jesus: “Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend.” That’s what Jesus wants of us: to destroy our enemy by making him my friend.
I know that the feelings of anger and resentment run deep in many of your hearts today, and mine. There are some of you who have deep feelings of anger inside of you, where you wouldn’t mind if such a such a person were punished immeasurably or had a string of bad luck happen to them. And Jesus says: “That is not my Spirit. Let me heal your heart.”
Why is it that some religious believers want to call down God's damnation on people they don't like?
#89, #176. On Following Jesus (Q)
Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 9:57-67
We immediately notice that there are exact parallels in the wording of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew and Luke. When there are parallel teachings in Matthew and Luke and there are no parallels in Mark, we assume an earlier source called Q.
Write, “The Cost of Discipleship,” after the phrase, On Following Jesus. Then write: “Jesus is more important than home, family and friends.”
Matthew inserts this Q teaching here perhaps because it is a “sea” story and his next story is the stilling the storm on the sea. Whereas Luke inserts this Q teaching with the sending out of the seventy disciples.
It appears that the theme of this Quella teaching on discipleship fits better and more naturally in Luke’s sequence than in Matthew’s.
The question is: What does it mean to follow Jesus? This is the issue being addressed in this teaching. The invitation is from Jesus to follow him. What does that mean for us in our world today?
-Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. (Only Matthew) The geographic location of this scene is not clear. As a pastoral theologian who tries to reconstruct the movements of the historical Jesus, it seems to me that Jesus was still in Capernaum, after his healing of Peter’s mother in law.
Matthew and Luke insert this teaching in different places in the Jesus Story.
Matthew inserts the story within Mark’s basic outline. Jesus gave orders for the disciples to go to the other side. In the next story according to Peter via Mark, Jesus was out in the middle of Lake Galilee during a violent storm. After Jesus calmed that story, he and his disciples landed on the south shores of Lake Galilee for an encounter with the “madman.”
On the other hand, Luke records the location of the story vaguely such as “they were walking along the road.”
-A scribe then approached and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." The Gospel of Luke does not use the word, “scribe” but inserts a more generic word, “a man.” Luke also omits the word, “teacher” or “rabbi.”
In other words, “scribe” and “teacher/rabbi” would naturally appeal to a more Jewish audience as Matthew was attempting to do. Whereas Luke’s “man” is more generic and appeals to a wider Gentile audience.
A scribe/man, full of bravado, tells Jesus that he will follow him wherever he goes.
Write in the margins of your text: : “The Grand, Hollow Promise of Christians.” Often potential disciples have inflated self images about their willingness to follow Christ in every and all circumstances. Such disciples live with a false and optimistic view of themselves, saying that “I will be the loyal Christian.” Of course, we remember the story of Simon Peter, the loyal but fickle disciple, who denied Jesus three times, immediately after professing his deep faith and committed faith to Christ. We Christians often make promises of loyalty to our Lord in a moment of spiritual bravery, but then weaken when the time gets tough. We often prove to be too human and too weak for radical, committed, total discipleship.
Notice that the exact wording on this teaching is identical in both Matthew and Luke, indicating that these authors were copying from an earlier document (that we call Q).
-And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Notice again the exact parallel wording in both Matthew and Luke, an indication that they were copying from another source.
Here Jesus is responding to the blustery bravado and inflated self-confidence of would-be disciples. Rather than affirming their blustering bravado and blowing of smoke and hot air, Jesus is more realistic when he says that he has no home…even if foxes and birds do. It seems to me that Jesus is telling us a truth about ourselves as human beings: we often love our homes, apartments, and condominiums more than we realize, more than God, and more than God’s kingdom, values and reign.
-Another of his disciples said to him, (Matthew 8:21). Again, it is not the great crowds that are professing loyalty to Jesus above all things, but his disciples who are crowing about their greatness of discipleship that they will exhibit.
Luke omits the word “disciple” and has “Another.”
-“Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” This disciple has a legitimate reason not to follow Jesus. That is, his father has just died and he needs to go and bury his father. That seems reasonable.
Here again, we have an exact parallel of language in Matthew and Luke. That means Q which is the earliest document on the New Testament. Jesus teaches that family considerations often become more important than the kingdom of God.
-But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Again, we can’t simply take these words of Jesus literally. That is, we either follow Jesus fully or we bury our father, mother, siblings, friends.
As mature Christians, we all know that it is right for us to honor and care for our parents as they die and help them as they make final preparations for their death. To care for parents as they are dying is a way of truly loving them.
So what is Jesus saying? Again, reading under the lines and under the Aramaic colloquialism, we know that we are to love God and God’s ways more than our parents. There are higher and more precious values than caring for our family and home. By doing so, we will actually love our parents even more deeply during their death.
Here again, we have an exact parallel of language in both gospels, presupposing that they were copying from an earlier source.
-But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (only Luke) Highlight. Circle the little word, “go.” That is our purpose. That is our goal. To go and proclaim the kingdom of God. The first two letters in the word, “gospel,” are "g" and "o." The first two letters in the word, “good news,” is "go." We are to go out into our worlds and proclaim the good news of the gospel, the good news about what happens to people when their lives are ruled by God’s love and grace, the good news about what happens to families, schools, ethnic groups, and nations when these groups are ruled by God’s grace, love, and justice. “As for you, go and proclaim the good news.”
Each one of us is to put our personal name near the word, “you.” Each one of us is to go and proclaim the rule of God in our lives and how life goes MUCH BETTER when God rules a person, family, school, nation, group, ethnic group. When the love of the Lord God rules, things change for the better.
Luke’s gospel is an evangelism gospel and Luke transposes Q in such a way that evangelism is emphasized: "Go and proclaim the gospel."
We recall Matthew 28:26-20, the Great Commission. “Go therefore to all people and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Go, go, go… with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Luke lets the proverbial cat out of the bag: the most important value in life is to be ruled by God’s love and God’s ways in the world in which we live. We, who are parents, know that the finest possession our children and grandchildren can have is to be filled with presence of God, that God would rule their life, that God’s way would be inside of them, that the Spirit of Christ would permeate all that they say, think and do. Yes, on a deeper level, we all realize that the Spirit of Christ, the Mind of Christ, the Heart of Christ, needs to live inside of us. When Christ rules inside of us, life in all aspects goes much, much better, both on this side of the grave and beyond the grave. We proclaim the reign of God which is the central teaching of the first three gospels. The Gospel of John says the same thing when he says that we are to have life and have it more abundantly.
-Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; BUT let me first say farewell to those at my home." (Only Luke) Oh, Oh, somebody needs to say goodbye. Circle the word, “but,” because the word, “but,” is crucial to the story. We will follow Christ, but..but..but… We always create some excuses so as not to follow Christ and be filled with his kingdom. Such excuses or reasons often have to do with home, family and friends. The power of evil can take these legitimate loves in our lives and twist them so that we begin to love our homes, families and friends more than God and the ways of God. Quietly, and with laborious glacial slowness, our homes, families and friends draw us away from the most important reality in our life: the kingdom of God, the reign of God, the rule of God, the life of Christ. This is what Jesus is warning about, and we will find this same theme about the cost of discipleship in his other stories and parables.
-Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Only Luke) It is obvious that Luke wants his reader and us to be fit for the kingdom of God. We need to keep our eyes forward and on Christ and his kingdom and kingdom values. When we look back at our homes, family and friends, we can easily become seduced into loving these more than God.
From a sermon on this text:
“Now in the gospel story for today, when Jesus left the Samaritan village, and went on their way to Jerusalem, three people came up to Jesus and they wanted to be his disciples. It happens all the time. There is something very attractive about Jesus of Nazareth; and when people get acquainted with Jesus of Nazareth; their immediate reaction often is that they want to be his disciples. They were wantabes. We all understand the mood of the word wantabe; that people wantabe part of a gang or a group. And you would expect that Jesus would say, “Come on board,” but consistently, Jesus does not encourage wantabes to become his disciples, but he seems almost to discourage them. Because to be a disciple of Jesus takes a greater commitment than they may be willing to give.
So, in the text for today, the first wantabe comes up to Jesus and says: “Jesus, I want to be your disciple. I will leave everything. I will leave everything and follow you.” And Jesus said: “You don’t understand what you are asking. For foxes have holes and birds have nests, but I have no where to lay my head at night.” To follow me is more important than the having the safety and security of a home. And the person said: Ouch.
Then the second wantabe said: Jesus, I would love to be your disciple, but first, I need to bury my father. My father and my grief is very important to me. And Jesus replied: Let those who are dead bury the dead. Ouch. The kingdom of God is more important than your grief over the death of your father.
And the third wantabe came up to Jesus and said: Jesus, I would love to be your disciple, but I first must say good-bye to my family. I love my family; and I first must say good-bye to my family. And Jesus said: A person with his hand on the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. You can’t plow a straight line if you are constantly looking back. To plow a straight line, you gotta keep your eye out front; you gotta keep your focus out front; and if you are going to be my disciple, you can’t constantly be looking back at your family. If you are always looking back at your family, you are not fit to be part of the kingdom of God.
And so three wantabes came up to Jesus and said, “Jesus, I want to be your disciple” and Jesus seemed to discourage all three of them.
Now, today, I need to make a quick teaching footnote. Have you ever driven a tractor with a plow behind it? How many of you have done that? I see that most of you haven’t driven a tractor with a plow behind it. Just a few of you. Another question: how many of you have driven a mule with a plow behind it? Hmmmm. Just a couple. So, if Jesus were teaching today, he probably wouldn’t use the analogy about a farming using a plow. So I need to change the analogy. It goes like this: Imagine yourself driving a car is rush hour traffic, bumper to bumper, without a rear view mirror and you are always looking back. If you don’t keep your eye on the center line in front of you and the cars in front of you, what is going to happen? You are going to have an accident. If you are driving the car and always looking back into the back seat at your family, you will have an accident. If you are always looking back at your family, in the back seat, if you don’t keep your eye on the road, if you don’t keep your eye on Christ, on the love of God, you are going to have a major accident and hurt yourself and others. You are not fit for the kingdom of God. Seek first the kingdom of God. Keep your eye on that center-line out in front of you.
Now, in this part of the Bible passage for today, there are two fundamental problems that we are facing. The question is: Can we love our homes/apartments/living spaces too much? And the answer is yes. A resounding yes. We can love our homes, condos, apartments, farms, acreages, vacation-homes too much. Whereas Jesus said: “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Our homes can easily become too important to us. You know that; so do I. I love my home. I really do. I love my home. Sitting in my kitchen. Sitting on my deck. I love being where I live. And you know what? Loving my home and my kitchen and my garden and my view can get in the way of me doing the work of God. And for you as well.
The modern word that is used to describe this phenomenon is “cacooning,” cacooning in my castle, my house, my condo, my apartment, safe from the struggles and the evil in the world out there. Faith Popcorn, an American thinker about the future, coined the word “cacooning.” It is a great word, and describes the life of so many of us who are so totally wrapped up in our little worlds, like a cacoon, you can’t even seen outside and what is around you. At least in a nest, you can see the world around you, but not in a cacoon. Cacooning is being so totally wrapped inside my little safe world, not at all concerned for God’s big world of pain out there, not at all concerned for a world of hurting out there that needs to be healed. Cacooning is contrary to the kingdom of God. Yes, we can love our homes too much and have them become the focus of our primary energies.
And the second problem we face is this: loving our families too much. The first wantabe says: Let me first bury my father before I come and follow you. And the other wantabe disciple said: Let me first say good-bye to my family before I come and follow you. I must tell you: I love my family......tooooooo much. The question is: can you love your family too much? And the answer is yes. A resounding yes.
Sometimes, when you are part of a family, it can be so difficult and so painful. Sometimes, it quite easy to love God and God’s kingdom more than one’s family; at that moment, one’s family is a gigantic headache. We’ve all been there; done that. And at other times, when you are part of a family, it can be so good. It can be so good, you don’t want to touch it for fear that the fragile bubble will burst. I live in such a moment. I love my family...deeeeeply. And it is very possible for someone like me and someone like you to love your family too much, where you are constantly looking into the back seat of the car to enjoy seeing your family there, that you don’t keep your eye on Christ out in front of you, and the things of God and the justice of God and the poor of God. Where I am so preoccupied with my little family that I forget God’s larger family of the whole earth. I am so obsessed with my little family that I don’t have the energy and compassion to care for God’s family around the globe.
Jesus one time told a parable about this. In fact, the best commentary of this passage for today is Luke 14. Jesus invited numerous people to the party, to the banquet, to the great ballroom, and the people had numerous excuses why they couldn’t come: The first person said that I would love to come, but I just bought a new field; I just got a new job; that new job of mine is just so time-consuming; my job is so consuming, I just don’t have time for you. The second person said: O Jesus, I would love to come to your party, but I just bought five new oxen. I just bought a new camper; I just bought a new boat; I mean, I am busy; I am a teenager; I have track and soccer and swimming and baseball; I have all of these really wonderful things which are really important to me; and I just don’t have time for you. And then the third would-be disciple said: I chuckle when I read it; it is so appropriate to our family situation: We would love to come to your party, but we just go married; we have to go finish our apartment; we have to get our furniture, our apartment decorated, our home redone; we are so busy being married that we don’t have time for you. ....In all of these stories, Jesus persistently reminds us that those of us who love the good things of life; that can get in the way of keeping our eyes on Jesus and the love of God in front of us.
This past week I read an absolutely wonderful quotation from Dr. George Caird. He is my favorite author on the book of Luke, and he gave me this wonderful quotation: “The most difficult choices in life are not primarily between good and evil, but the most difficult choices in life are between what is good and what is best.” And home and children and family and jobs: these are all good; they are absolutely wonderful; but they are not the best. The best is Jesus. The best is the love of God. The best is the kingdom of God. The best is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The best is doing the work of God in the world. The best is taking care of all of God’s family on the globe. All the other things of life are good, but they are not the best. Keep your eyes on the best.
What does it mean to love Christ more than your family, home, possesions and eve life itself?
Why is it such a danger to love home, family and friends more than God?
(In your discussions, please discuss this question with a group at the table and designate a person to record your group’s responses. Your group’s responses will be added together and inserted into the class.)
The following are some responses by one class to the above question:
-“We love Christ because he first loved us and gave us the capacity to love. Without this gift, we would not have the ability to experience genuine, unconditional love.”
-“If you love God first, it is easier to show love for your family.”
-“Because God is all-powerful and the Creator, it is understood and expected to love him more.”
-“Christ is with us from beginning to end, but sometimes our family and friends are not.”
-“Christ put us first when he died for us; we need to put Christ first. We need to choose the same priorities Christ did.”
-“If you do not love God more, you are then more distracted by things in the world.”
-“If you compromise by putting things before Christ, you will continue to compromise and compromise will become easier.”
-“To love God more than our family is beyond human comprehension.”
-“When you leave this world, you cannot take your possessions with you, including your family.”
-“It is clearer regarding material possessions but harder with spouse and children and grandchildren.”
-“It could actually harm children if you give into the child instead of following Christ.”
-“It is easier to give up material possessions when you have little than when you have much.”
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