When were you recently determined to go somewhere or to get a job finished?
Luke’s account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is well regarded as methodical and a great example of historic writing. But Luke’s purposeful account is also carefully narrated as he carries us from the humble beginnings of Jesus’ birth and ministry to the consummation of why Jesus was sent. In other words, Luke is not just giving us facts. He is giving us a lesson on who Jesus is and why he came and is an equally skilled storyteller as he is a historian.
In chapter 9 we read that Jesus and his disciples are at the height of their preaching and teaching ministry. It’s in this chapter that the disciples conclude that Jesus is God’s Messiah and that Jesus resolves to head toward Jerusalem.
Take some time to read chapter 9 in full before we go on to focus on Verses 51-56. What things stand out to you in this chapter?
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven…” Luke writes to an audience who knows that this is the journey Jesus is taking. Luke reminds us that Jesus had a mission which had assigned times. Interestingly, Luke uses the word ‘time’ often in his book to talk about the time for Jesus to be born, the time for him to be presented at the Temple, the time for circumcision. Likewise, there was a set time for the ascension. Also, we should stop and think about the times that a phrase like this occurs in scripture. One is in Genesis 5:24 regarding Enoch and the other is in 2 Kings 2:11 regarding the prophet Elijah. Being taken up to heaven is a glorious statement of triumph, blessing and approval by God. Before ascending to heaven however, Jesus must be executed and be buried and rise again to complete his mission.
“Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” This is an observable turning point in the gospel according to Luke. He reminds us that this is Jesus’ destiny in Luke 13:22; 17:11; 18:31 and 19:28. Before setting his face toward Jerusalem, he told his disciples what to expect when they got there (see Luke 9:22, 31, 44). Jesus knew what was going to happen in Jerusalem. This is not simply a navigational comment but a knowledge of Jesus that the time was coming to lay down his life.
“He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him.” Ready for what? What message? Jesus was sending someone as an advance party to find hospitality for Jesus as he was heading to Jerusalem. They apparently needed to pass through a Samaritan village on the way. Preparation was for his stay – where would he sleep? Now we see what would happen as he got ready to go into such a village.
“…but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” John 4 gives us some insight into a difference between the Samaritans and the Jews. Jerusalem was an important city for one of them and not the other (John 4:19-21). The Samaritans were rejecting Jesus on the basis of which city he considered important. They wanted Jesus to stop with them and not keep going to Jerusalem. Jesus had failed their own evaluation.
“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”” The zeal of James and John for Jesus is admirable but their application is misinformed. They stole a method from another great prophet of God, Elijah (2 Kings 1:10-12). The link to Elijah is not new in this chapter. Elijah and Moses had met with Jesus earlier in this same chapter and people were suggesting that Jesus is Elijah. This prophet stands out in the Old Testament as a man, set apart by God, approved by God through signs and wonders and who stood firmly for the true God against the leaders of Israel who had turned to other gods. The people in Jesus’ day were comparing Jesus with Elijah. When this Samaritan village rejected Jesus, it seemed right for James and John to act with zeal for Jesus.
“But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” The response of James and John was foolish. They meant well but they were wrong. To wipe out an entire village for being inhospitable is extreme. Jesus had instructed them earlier on how to react when not welcomed (Luke 9:5).
“Then he and his disciples went to another village.” How sad for that Samaritan village that they did not welcome the Son of God and the Saviour of their sins to come and teach them. Jesus didn’t need to smite them with fire from heaven. He simply left them to their own destruction. They had rejected Jesus, and that is the quickest road to judgment (Luke 9:26; Matthew 10:32-33).
Jesus’ knew his mission was to go to the cross and when it was time to go there. He knew that many would not welcome him and yet he still went to the city where he would die for our sins. The mission of God into this world is not to force the souls of people to come but to lay down his life and welcome all who would welcome him.
Topic A – Let’s never doubt the resolution of Christ to be our Saviour. He did not go reluctantly to the cross. It was his desire to procure sinners such as us. “The man that comes to Christ by faith should never doubt Christ’s willingness to receive him. The mere fact that the Son of God willingly came into the world to die, and willingly suffered, should silence such doubts entirely. All the unwillingness is on the part of man, not of Christ.” (JC Ryle) And so we praise God for his great and unswerving love for us.
Topic B – Well meaning Christians can act poorly in their passion and zeal. It is best to match zeal with knowledge. Someone might say they don’t need to study and learn in depth because they just love Jesus and want people to hear the gospel. Another might say that they are all about learning and study but is not passionate like other Christians. The two need to go hand in hand. The zealous person should take time to learn from those who know how to teach well. The excellent student should pray for passion to take their knowledge and use it for the glory of God.
Topic C – Ready to go where God takes you and acknowledge when a mission field is shut down. Many are the voices who will sneer at faith in Christ. Few are those who will listen and receive Jesus. Therefore, let’s not waste time with those who have clearly rejected Christ. Of course, every person needs the opportunity to hear and respond to Christ. But if their response is clearly negative, let’s move on to those who will hear and respond. Time is too short to be bogged down in battling with the resistant.
Thank you Jesus for your resolution to redeem us. We pray for more people in our region to welcome your Son to save them. We pray for more workers to send out your message into the world. We pray for wisdom to know when to stop speaking and to seek new audiences. Please help us to be zealous for your Son and to walk wisely as we travel resolutely to eternal life. Amen.