John T. Willis

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jesus sets his face to go to the Cross--Luke 9:51-62

From the beginning of the story of the birth, visit to Jerusalem at age twelve, and his ministry at about age thirty, Jesus spent almost all his time in Galilee in North Israel. This covers Luke 1:1-9:50. Now, a very distinctive sharp turn in the life of Jesus occurs in Luke 9:51 and through the rest of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus now sets his face to go to Jerusalem, which will take him southward. The first section falls into two parts: Luke 9:51-62. I. Jesus intentionally sets his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51-56. a. Luke introduces this section of the Gospel in an intriguing way: "When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up." This obviously refers to the ascension of Jesus after his resurrection. Clearly, the audience knows in advance that Jesus will die, be buried, be raised on the third day, and be "caught up" into heaven. See Luke 24:51; Acts 2:33. The background is Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-12) are "caught up" into heaven. Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem," demonstrating his resolute determination (see the same idea in Isaiah 50:7)to be arrested, beat, and crucified. (Luke has already prepared the hearers or readers to expect this--see Luke 9:44). 9:51. b. Jesus sent messengers ahead of him. The messengers entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for Jesus' arrival, but they did not receive him, because his faced was set toward Jerusalem. This is the first mention of Samaritans in the Gospel of Luke. Samaritans are descendants of North Israelites after the division of the kingdom of Israel in the days of Jeroboam I and Rehoboam after the death of Solomon (I Kings 12). After the Assyrian overthrow and captivity of the ten Northern tribes, North Israelites intermarried with people of all nations and became a hybrid people. Luke is the only Gospel which presents several stories about Samaritans. Samaritans and Jews do not associate, so the Samaritans did not want to receive Jesus, because Jesus was obviously a Jew. 9:52-53. c. When James and John, sons of Zebedee, saw the rejection of Jesus by the Samaritans, James and John ask them permission to command fire to come down from heaven and consume the Samaritans. But Jesus rebuked James and John. So they went to another village. In behaving in this way, Jesus gives the example of how we should respond to our enemies. See Luke 6:29. 9:54-56. II. Jesus demonstrates the seriousness of REAL DISCIPLESHIP. Luke 9:57-62. a. As Jesus and his follows travel toward Jerusalem, they encounter three unnamed people, all of whom volunteer to FOLLOW Jesus. Jesus rejects all of them because of their lack of complete commitment. The first person says: "I will follow wherever you go." Jesus replies: "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but Jesus has nowhere to lay his head." Are YOU REALLY WILLING AND READY to follow me? 9:57-58. b. Jesus first asked a second person: "Follow me." But this person said: "first let me go to bury my father." Jesus replied: "Let the dead bury their own dead," but if YOU REALLY intend to follow me, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." The problem here is putting anything or anyone ABOVE Jesus. Jesus is certainly not opposed to honoring the dead. But Jesus transcends all family ties. 9:59-60. c. A third person came to Jesus and said, "I will wollow you, but let me first say goodbye to my family." This conditional offer is much like the account of Elisha leaving his family to go with Elijah in 1 Kings 19:19-21. Jesus responded: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Following Jesus requires complete devotion to hard work about the kingdom of God, God's rule on planet earth. This exceeds family affection. 9:61-62. History shows clearly that many people initially turn to God through Jesus Christ, but after a period of time, their commitment is shallow as difficulties arise. Luke 9:51-62 contains a sobering message which all of us need desperately. Share YOUR experiences and failures and shortcomings and commitments to others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God Favors the Humble Like a Child--Luke 9:37-50

Still in response to Herod's question, "Who is this about whom I hear such things" in Luke 9:9, Luke continues by presenting additional events and sayings of Jesus, now related in Luke 9:37-50. This falls into three rather small sections. I. Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit. Luke 9:37-45. [Note, this paragraph is much shorter than the parallel in Mark 9:14-29. The parallel in Matthew is much shorter than Mark--see Matthew 17:14-22]. a. After Jesus was transfigured on the mountain (Luke 9:28-36), the next day when Jesus and his associates came down, the crowd met him. Very soon, a man in the crowd shouted out to Jesus: "Teacher, please look at my son, a spirit seizes my son and all at once my son shrieks; the spirit convulses my son until he foams at the mouth, mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I asked your disciples to cast out this spirit, but they could not do it." This description has led some people to assume the boy experienced epilepsy. If so, the cause, according to this text, is that an unclean spirit came upon the boy. 9:37-40. b. Jesus responded by rebuking the father and the crowd because they are a "faithless and perverse generation." He called the father to bring his son. While the father and the son were coming, the demon dashed him tol the ground in convulsions. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him to his father. The whole crowd who saw this powerful act of God through Jesus Christ was astounced "at the greatness of God." It is very important to note that the Bible repeatedly reminds the hearers and readers that God the Father always works through Jesus Christ. Jesus is dependent on his heavenly Father. 9:41-43a. c. While the crowd was amazed, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be betrayed into human hands. But they did not understand what he was saying, and they were afraid to ask Jesus what this meant. It is very interesting and marvelous that the disciples of Jesus did not express faith in Jesus, but only incomprehension of what Jesus had said. 9:43-45. II. Jesus's Disciples Argue about who is the greatest. Luke 9:46-48. a. Instead of pondering over Jesus' statement, his disciples soon began to argue who is the greatest. This clearly reveals that the reason the disciples of Jesus could not comprehend Jesus' words is because of their heart attitude about outsiders, non-believers, who would seek to find and come to Jesus. 9:46. b. But Jesus was aware of the inner thoughts of his disciples [and all human beings] [see Luke 5:22; 6:8], and chose a little child and put him at Jesus' side. 9:47. c. Jesus uses this little child as a sterling example, which he immediately explains: Whoever welcomes this child welcomes Jesus and the heavenly Father. "For the least among all of you is the greatest." Most of us human beings evaluate greatness by wonderful acts, intellectual ability, leadership capabilities, etc. But God teaches us in the Bible that greatness is all about being humble, like a little child. 9:48. III. Jesus corrects John. Luke 9:49-50. a. Rather than responding to Jesus in an appropriate and expected way, John, one of Zebedee's sons, one of the Twelve, avoids Jesus message and tries to justify what the Twelve were doing in behalf of Jesus. John said, Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us. John bares his shallow understanding of Jesus' mission and the nature of human beings. 9:49. b. Jesus responded, rebuking John and the Twelve: Do not stop this person or anyone else who is trying to serve God through Jesus Christ; for whoever is not against you is for you. We so-called Christians have ignored, misunderstood, denounced many good godly people simply because they are not part of our separate group of people. God is a very open God. His arms are wide open to INCLUDE all people who wish to serve him. Let us follow God's example through Jesus Christ. 9:50. Share YOUR hangups and offerings and insights and failures and depression with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis