Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871 Commentary: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/jamieson/jfb.xi.iii.x.html
51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.
57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And 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.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
A Little Bit for Everyone
Oremus online text: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Luke+9:51-62&vnum=yes&version=nrsv
Textweek general resources: http://www.textweek.com/yearc/properc8.htm
Textweek resources for Luke’s Gospel this Sunday: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk9b.htm
Some interesting articles on this passage:
Working Preacher: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=6/27/2010
William Loader’s thoughts:
Commentary by Chris Haslam
Preacher, Dr. William Long’s commentary: http://www.drbilllong.com/LectionaryII/Lk9.html
Sustain us in our decision to follow where Jesus leads, and by the power of your own love, at once both strong and gentle, keep us faithful to Christ and compassionate in serving others. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
We begin this Gospel lesson with two striking images. The first is the use of the words: “for his being taken up.” This is the only place in the New Testament where this phrase is used. Hearkening back to Elijah, we can see that Luke intends for his narrative focus to be upon the ascension. (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, Sacra Pagina, 162) What is interesting to me here is how much we focus on so many other things in Luke’s Gospel. Nevertheless, there is seemingly a continued focus on the reign of God into which Jesus is taken. There is also a great sense in these first words of our passage of an urgency that surrounds the events that follow. This is the second striking image of the first words from our passage. Jesus is setting his face like a flint towards Jerusalem. The time is now and he is going there now! We must follow now! Come on lets get going.
Perhaps it is the elongated waiting for Jesus’ return that makes us loose the urgency of Jesus mission? Yet the call is before us again in this passage.
To help get the people ready Jesus sends messengers with the purpose of making ready. Again we see that Jesus is in the land of Samaritans, and not in the land of the faithful. This paradox continues to reflect Jesus’ focus on those outside the faithful community and for the church today returns our attention on the people outside our Christian communities. Are we being sent out into the world to prepare the way of the Lord? And, are we answering the call on our lives to do so?
Luke Timothy Johnson gives us some history on the differences between the Samaritan and the Temple worship in Jerusalem. It appears that not unlike our disputes in the church today it was about who is a true believer.
“The ancestral antipathy between Judeans and Samaritans is reflected in this verse. It was based on the rivalry between shrines of Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Zion, and on a whole cluster of disputes concerning the right way to read the sacred books, messianism and above all, who was a real Israelite. See e.g., Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:119-138; John 4:9-20).” (LTJ, Luke, 162)
The disciples’ response finding that the Samaritans are not receptive is not unlike the complaints of why we shouldn’t bother reaching out to our communities. Why bother? Let the dice fall how they fall…let fire be cast down on them. They aren’t like us at all. They really don’t belong. This lack of vision for the mission of God is as wrongly placed today as it was when those first messengers returned to Jesus. Jesus’ response is clear, he is here to save and not to destroy.
So we get the message. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He is prophetically breaking into the world and bringing with him the reign of God. His mission is urgent and he is here to save and not to destroy. Old divisions are set aside for the Gospel of Christ. We are offered again the vision of how God sees us and that is a vision of potentiality and a vision of hope that we will see our salvation and join Jesus in the proclamation work, the messenger work. And, so we are told a few hear, a few recognized, a few see who this Jesus really is and what he is up to. So they are eager to follow.
Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us that the threefold call and offer are similar to the threefold willingness of Elisha to follow Elijah in the period just before his ascension, again bringing into focus the great prophetic work of Jesus. (LTJ, Luke, 162)
The problem is that while these want-to-be followers of Jesus get the invitation and they get the vision, they do not get the urgency or understand the cost. This is a prophet who is homeless until he returns home to heaven. This is a prophet who will not rest till rest is won for all. Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God and his mission sees the potential future of the restoration of God’s world as the highest goal and makes clear the consequences of following.
When we choose to follow we must be attentive like the ploughman. We cannot take our eye off the work and the mission -- to do so is to risk wondering aimlessly and destroying the good work and labor already performed.
Luke Timothy Johnson writes the following about Jesus’ challenge to his audiences and how he calls each into action:
Luke is very careful to note Jesus’ audience in every instance. To each group, furthermore, Jesus speaks quite different sorts of words: to the crowd, he issues warnings and calls to conversion. To those who convert and become disciples, he gives positive instructions on discipleship. Finally, to those who resist his prophetic call, he tells parables of rejection.
Luke gives dramatic structure to these sayings by carefully alternating the audiences. Throughout the journey (as the notes will indicate), Luke has Jesus turn form one group to the other, form cord to disciples to Pharisees. The narrative that results form this “arrangement” is therefore filled with unexpected tension: the Prophet makes his way to Jerusalem, to his death and “lifting up.” As he goes, he speaks the word of God to those around him. Some hear and become part of the people. Others reject the word and are themselves in process of being rejected from the people. The climax is reached with Jesus reaches the city and is greeted, now not by a handful o followers (cf. 8:1-3) but by a “whole multitude of disciples” (19:37) prepared to hear the teaching of the Prophet in the precincts of the Temple. (165)
Several questions come to mind for the preacher. Do we know to whom we are talking? Can we, like Jesus, direct our words in accordance with the challenge needed to be heard by those listening? Are we actually able to proclaim the word of God in different contexts, clearly being aware of the challenge before the one’s in front of us?
Another set of questions arises as I reflect on the particular passage and wonder are we giving positive messages and instruction that help those within our church be better disciples? What does that look like in today’s American church context?
Do we have the sense of urgency needed to motivate our congregation to action?
Are our people ready to hear the teaching of Jesus? Or are our churches filled with individuals who have more in line with the crowd in Luke’s Gospel?
Missionary context and the wisdom to navigate it with solid teaching is an essential ingredient for the modern day priest. Today people are out there in the world soaking up religious and spiritual information from the internet, and the book store, and at the water cooler. They come to church on any given Sunday or during the week and they turn to the leaders of our churches and expect us to have a message. Like the pilgrims who entered the dessert seeking out the solitaries: Abba, give us a word.
Church life today is manifestly different from the pilgrim journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. There are bills to pay, metrics to reach, and leadership groups to contend with – all this is true. But the message of Jesus, the message of the possibility of the reign of God, is no less urgent. The people who live out in the world are turning to their leaders and asking for a word. We must be ready to give it to them. We must reclaim our preaching and teaching office as clergy in the church of God. And, I would argue that we must raise up around us others who also can teach and share in the discipleship and mentoring needed to transform our church into the vision that we had when we joined; a vision that offered hope for the future, and plenty of labor for the laborer. We must recapture and reclaim our churches as places, along the road with Jesus, where those who journey with Him can find words which warn and convert, which instruct and offer positive reinforcement for the journey, which talk about division clearly and work towards unity.
What are my excuses to Jesus for why I cannot come and follow? For why I cannot do what is asked?
Fear of the other: They are not like us. They believe differently. They should have fire brought down on their heads.
Fear for my needs: The journey itself looks too difficult. I might find myself homeless.
Fear for of all the things I have to do….
The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question
Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.
2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.
3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.
4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.
5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.
6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.
7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"
8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.
9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”