Sunday

26 June 2022

Luke 9:51-62

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (v. 51)

Psalm 16

Background

Having ministered around Judea, Samaria and Galilee for three years, Jesus has now trained up his team of disciples to the point where he knows they can continue his ministry without him being present ‘in the flesh’. The time has therefore come for him to set out for Jerusalem for a final time.

The Samaritans are not impressed with this approach. For centuries, the Jews have considered the Samaritans to be a group of heretics who have twisted the scriptures given to them by God. Perhaps the best comparison is to think of how mainstream Christians might view Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons – people who belong to a sect that claims to be 'the way', but have significantly distorted core parts of the teaching. Most Jews despised Samaritans, and most Samaritans had no dealings with Jews.

So despite Jesus having made previous successful visits to Samaritan towns and encountered a favourable response there (see John 4), we read that being so determined to reach Jerusalem, and having made it clear that he considers the Jerusalem Temple to be the core place of worship (as opposed to where Samaritans worship), he is no longer welcomed by the Samaritans.

There is always a cost to following Jesus. This passage makes clear that Jesus knew the cost and the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem. He was now encountering a cost even on the road to Jerusalem, with previous friends becoming hostile to him. And the subsequent verses make clear the cost that all his followers need to pay.

In this passage we are given three examples of different types of would-be followers. They all want to follow Jesus, but all three have what could be considered legitimate reasons for either postponing or questioning the call to follow him. But Jesus asks for single-minded devotion to the cause from them, just like he is showing on the road to Jerusalem. In verse 62 Jesus makes an analogy with ploughing. Anyone who starts ploughing a field and then glances backwards risks veering off into the wrong direction, thereby ruining the very crop they are trying to harvest. Anyone who ploughs needs to set their face to the other side of the field, and walk in a determined and straight line so they can achieve a fruitful field. Jesus commands us to do the same.

 

To Ponder:

  • What is Jesus calling you to ‘set your face towards’ in your following of him?
  • What individuals or groups of people have opposed you as you followed Jesus? And how have you dealt with this?
  • What cost of following Jesus have you experienced in your own life?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, we ask for the courage and the faith to follow you where you lead. May we also set our face towards the things you call us to, and walk boldly into the future that you have for us. Amen.


Bible notes author

Mark Williamson

Mark works for One Rock International, is chair of the Fresh Expressions movement, and is also employed at Methodist Central Hall Westminster, leading their Sanctuary congregation for young adults. He directs the 100 Dreams project, encouraging lay Methodists in their 20s or 30s to start new missional projects – see www.100dreams.co.uk

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