Luke 9:57-62 – The Resolute Christian

Discussion

What is the hardest thing about being a Christian?

Context

As the disciples of Jesus are beginning to understand who Jesus is and are demonstrating their zeal for him, Jesus has determined to head toward Jerusalem. This means more than his annual treck for Passover. Jesus is heading to his execution. But he is also heading toward his ascension and victory. Luke chapter 9 marks a major turning point in the gospel of Luke and Jesus’ long journey to the cross. His mission to bring salvation to the ends of the earth will cost him his life.

Read Luke 9:57-52

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Observation

These three interactions between Jesus and potential disciples are given no specific place or time when they occurred except that it was while Jesus walked along the road. Luke pulls three accounts together in one place as a means to make one united point: that following Christ is costly and must take first place in a disciple’s life. Many people will falter at this point but it is better to have a small church of seeing Christians than a full and overflowing church of people given only half the truth.

“As they were walking along the road…” As indicated in Luke 9:51, Jesus was walking on the road to Jerusalem.

“…a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”” The man is not named because the focus of the story is to provide three different approaches to discipleship. Luke has bundled three separate stories together to help us see the cost of discipleship. This offer to go wherever Jesus goes sits in contrast to the Samaritans of the last passage who refused to have anything to do with Jerusalem. We may think Jesus would welcome this offer in comparison but he uses it to teach us something more.

“Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus may very well be replying, “do you know what you are signing up for?” Everything and everyone in this world has a home to go to but this is not so for Jesus. This world is not a place of rest or comfort for him. He is the suffering servant (see Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

The Son of man was a title used of himself a number of times (Lk 5:24; 6:5, 22; 7:34; 9:22, 26, 44 and 18 more times in Luke!). It has a dual meaning of describing his humanity (child of mankind) and being God because of its clear allusion to a vision in Daniel 7:13, 14 of God coming in the appearance of a man. There is a reminder here that Jesus himself left the comforts of his home to save the world.

If you want to follow Christ, note that we say goodbye to the homeliness of this world.

“He said to another man, “Follow me.”” In this trilogy of lessons on discipleship, one example includes Jesus taking the initiative which ends with another lesson of warning. The theme of this section is clear thought, what does it cost to follow Jesus?

“But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”” Jesus’ personal invitation is met with a hurdle to cross. This offer came to the man at a very unfortunate time. It is good and right to respect and grieve our loved ones when they die. Is this not a reasonable request from the man? He is not saying no, but not yet. He is willing to leave his home and have no place to lay his head but he has responsibilities to his father and family.

“Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”” Too harsh? What is Jesus’ point? The next cross to bear as a Christian is to soberly see the great mission of God above and beyond our earthly ties to responsibility. Grief is right and responsibilities are real but Jesus’ prod here is to remember greater things. Giving attention to the things of this world is akin to ministering to the dead. But Jesus’ mission is for the living! John Calvin said of this verse: “those who do not rise above the world, — who devote themselves to pleasing men, and forget God, — are like dead men, who are idly and uselessly employed in taking care of the dead.”

“Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”” We have a similar category of trouble here but less about duty and more about giving our priority in life to our family.

“Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” Jesus is challenging a divided heart. Christ wants all of us – the whole person. Will we follow Christ or not? So many people claim to be Christian and their lives show no determination to put him first or to seek first the kingdom of God. Many will begin a journey of following Jesus but then recall what they once left behind and wish to return. Jesus calls us to come and not look back. The race is forwards, not backwards.

Some will protest at this point that this is too harsh. The point of these three challenges though is to highlight the cost of discipleship. Jesus demonstrated his own responsibilities to his family as illustrated in Luke 2:51 (also John 19:26-27) but also taught that God comes first and we have a new family in Christ (Luke 8:19-21). It is too common for us to put our children and our family ahead of our devotion to God and following Jesus. When our mind is consumed with our love of our family over our love for God, we are not taking God seriously.

Meaning

Jesus is speaking to people on his way to the cross. The theme of sacrifice and the cost of discipleship is clear. We live in a different situation where following Christ does not take us actually to Jerusalem. But our dedication to follow Jesus and join in his mission still comes at a cost. We must withdraw from our earthly home in order to claim heavenly citizenship. We must go about our responsibilities with the knowledge that all of this is passing away. And we must look to Jesus and never look back. We must take up our cross and follow him. If not then we are unworthy of the kingdom of God.

Application

Topic A – Are your investments on earth or in heaven? The bible doesn’t teach us to be poor, but it teaches us to be rich in the kingdom of God. That is, find your treasure in God and not in financial gain. Taking risks for the kingdom of God is easier when the value of this world is diminished. What would you struggle to live without for Christ? How strong are your ties to live in this area? Are you deeply invested in your career such that it feels impossible to leave that behind?

Topic B – Managing responsibilities with a Christian view. God instructs us to be good with our money and with the responsibilities of this world. We are called on to pray for the government for example. Also, God instructs us to work and to provide for those we are responsible for (2 Thess 3:10; 1 Tim 5:4). Yet, he also says to do all things as though doing them for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23). He calls us to seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be taken care of (Matt 6:19-32). Having a Christian view of the world, puts all of our responsibilities in its eternal perspective and transfers the glory from ourselves to God.

Topic C – When family comes second. It is possible to love your family to death. The order of our devotion is God first, then family. The glory of this is that God loves our family more than we do. To truly love our family is to help them to see Jesus. A person can pour all of their time and energy and money and care into their family, but if Jesus is not given first place in this relationship, then the family is shutting their saviour out. You will be loving your family to death.

Prayer

Father, accept our desire to follow Jesus and help us to do so despite the cost. Give us your grace to see the joy and privilege of knowing your Son and being known by you. Help us in our weakness and thank you for the price that you paid to call us your children. Amen.

Luke 9:51-56 – The Resolute Christ

Discussion

When were you recently determined to go somewhere or to get a job finished?

Context

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?

Read

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.

Observation

“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).

Meaning

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.

Application

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.

Prayer

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.

Study 10 – 1 Peter 5:5-14

She in Babylon sends you greetings

Context

We’ve reached the end of the letter by the apostle Peter to the church scattered in the northern regions of the Mediterranean. He has not addressed the letter to several churches named but to the elect of God dispersed across parts of the world. What binds the readers to gether is their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the hope of grace that comes through him. He has been encouraging Christians to stand firm in their faith despite suffering through persecution in this world. This world is not their home. His letter concludes with the returned theme of encouraging believers across the globe to trust God who is in charge and who cares. In the previous verses, Peter has been specifically addressing the elders of God’s community whose task is to shepherd God’s flock.

Observation

Structure

  • 5:5-6 Humble yourselves
  • 5:7-11 Know where the power and care lies
  • 5:12-14 Greetings from the other scattered saints

5:5-6 Humble yourselves

“In the same way…” Peter has used this same phrase to speak with wives (3:1) and husbands (3:7) and refers to his instruction back in 2:18 to do everything in reverent fear of God. All relationships fall under his headship and it is in reverence to Him that we decide how to treat one another. Slaves to masters, wives to husbands, husbands to wives and now young to elders.

“…you who are younger submit yourselves to your elders.” The word ‘elder’ means whatever the word means in it’s context. In a different context it would refer to people older than you. But following from verses 1-4 speaking directly to the shepherds of the church, this is not about age but about that responsible role of caring for the household of God. The younger, would then be a generic term for those who are not recognised as elders in the church. This generally had a correspondence with age but not necessarily (see 1 Timothy 4:12).

“…submit yourselves…” It is not the responsibility of the elders to squash the church into submission or shame them into obedience or manipulate them into assimilation. It is for the young in the faith to respect to their elders. The message of the kingdom of God is designed to be handed from one person to another and from one generation to the next. Those who have known their LORD longer and know how to handle the word of God ought to be respected and trusted as they teach and exhort others. Church life is truly a community.

“All of you clothe yourselves with humility…” Both elders and younger people, wives and husbands, slaves and masters – the entire household of God are to be humble toward one another. As the younger submit to the elder, as the wife submits to the husband and so on, the outcome is not domination or power plays but humility from everyone toward everyone else in the community.

“Because, God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.” Just as submission is given freely out of reverence to God, so too humility is displayed because this pleases God. Humility is not about pretending to know nothing or acting like you are insignificant but about using your gifts, talents and wisdom to serve others and not yourself. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility (Philippians 2:5ff)

“Humble yourselves…under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” This segues nicely between this section and the next. We know that God has the power to elevate us and glorify those worthy of praise and so leave it to him. No matter how good we may feel we are, we are always subordinate in every way to God. But he is no cruel master, as the next verse shows us.

5:7-11 Know where the power and care lies

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Christians do not need to fight for recognition or wealth or anything because we know that God is the giver of all good gifts. Knowing that God is all powerful and that he cares are the two most comforting truths in the bible. He has a mighty hand and he cares for us. Now, anxiety is not a sin but we need to be careful what we do with it. On a biological level, anxiety is that natural reaction to things that threaten us. As humans, we have the capacity to worry about things that are not of immediate danger (like not being ready for an exam or being disliked or afraid of failing). When we have these feelings of worry and deep concern, we have the privilege of taking them to God in prayer. Casting our anxiety on God is like throwing all of our concerns at him and then resting in his promises to do good with our request. Faith is trust. If we trust God then tell him about our worries and keep moving. If you keep worrying, keep talking to God about them. Note that talking to others is helpful and sometimes necessary too so that we indeed get good advice on how to think rationally about things that we may have irrational reactions to. But God’s ear is always the first and ongoing ear to speak with about our worries.

“Be alert and of sober mind.” We heard this phrase in 1:13 and 4:7. With clear heads, set your hope on the grace of Christ and know that the end of all things is near. The reality of the world as we know it in Christ ought to give us clarity to resist the devil and pursue what is right and good.

“Your enemy the devil…” The gospel writers, Moses, and Paul, to name a few, each described the devil as real. He is not the boogeyman.  When Adam and Eve made the mistake of their lives, the devil was talking in their ear. When Job was living a godly and holy life, it was the devil who spoke to God to get permission to cause suffering for him. The devil is not equal with God because he is a created being. But the bible does not show any signs that the devil will repent and come back to God nor that he has the option to.

“…prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The image given by Peter is enough to know that the devil is a predator. He is shark-like in his wanderings across the earth (Job 1:6-7). He sought to destroy Eden, he sought to destroy Job, he sought to destroy even Jesus Christ. Anybody who is found without sober judgment with respect to God and His kingdom are easy prey for him. But there is a defense…

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” What Satan really desires is for all of humanity to deny God’s rule and promises. For all to regard God as a liar or worship him falsely. But standing firm in the faith – the knowledge of the gospel and the hope that comes through Jesus Christ – is the response to his attacks. All temptation, whether from the world, the flesh or the devil, is to be combatted with resistance. Speak truth to yourself. Pray to God for help and stand firm.

“…because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” No attack from Satan is new. It’s the same old thing. The persecution in this world has the support of the devil.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,” If it is God who has called you 1:1-2, then no power of satan can alter that. Peter is closing his letter with the same themes of calling and grace that he began with. Standing firm in the faith requires remembering who called you, what you have been called to (eternal glory) and what power or proof has been given for this calling (the life, death and resurrection of Christ). Be aware that the devil is on the move but know for sure that God has already won you and paid for you and prepared a place for you in Christ!

“…after you have suffered a little while…” Recall the great theme of suffering that has taken up a large portion of this letter. Suffering is not a sign that God is losing. That is the flavour of life this side of heaven – during this time of testing.

“…will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” God himself, not you, not an elder of the church, but God himself will restore you. During times of temptation, stand firm and come to God in prayer – casting your worries on him because he cares for you – he will restore you and give you strength and conviction to stand firm. Next time you become aware of temptation, come to God in prayer and see what happens.

“To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” Although Peter tells us about the devil, and about the fiery ordeal of this life but does not want us to lose sight of who is always in control.

5:12-14 Greetings from the other scattered saints

“With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother…” Silas is mentioned often in the book of Acts and referenced in a number of epistles. Acts 15:22. He joined Paul on his journeys. How Silas has helped Peter to write is unclear. Perhaps he was the scribe or perhaps they co-wrote it. The way that Peter starts to conclude his letter though is to encourage the scattered church with news from the church in other parts of the world.

“…encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” There is no other gospel in other parts of the world. There is only one gospel and one truth about God and salvation. There is no such thing as localised truths and communities who manufacture their own beliefs. There is only one truth and Jesus Christ is at the heart of it. Stand firm in that.

“She who is in Babylon…” Although there are different arguments about what this phrase might mean, it seems most likely to match the phrase in Peter’s opening to the letter. He addresses the ‘scattered’ or the ‘temporarily residing abroad’. They are aliens and strangers. The city of Babylon was famous for where the exiled Jews lived for a time. They sat by the waters of Babylon and remembered their homeland. Peter is most likely using this metaphore to refer to the rest of the church (in the feminine) who are also scattered in different parts of the world. It could be specifically Rome but there is nothing to suggest this for certain. Peter is closing his letter to address the Christians scatterd in Asia Minor with encouraging words from the Church or household of God in other locations.

“…chosen together with you…” Peter mentions again that under God there is only one church. God has chosen all of his elect across time and space to belong to his royal priesthood. A Christian in a mega-church in Dallas is no greater than a Christian struggling to be fed in the 3rd world and no different to a saint in Campbelltown.

“…sends you greetings…” Peter’s theme here is to encourage all of God’s elect to stand firm because the people of God, thought scattered, are one in the faith that they stand firm in.

“…and so does my son Mark.” The writer of the second gospel record is also known as a close companion to Peter. (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37, 39). Here he is referred to as Peter’s son although this is a spiritual relationship, not a blood relationship.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” While there is suffering and persecution from the outside placed on the church, Peter encourages mutual love and affection. This is a cultural reference to respect one another but the adjective to the kiss is love – not a fake kiss but authentic.

“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Peter ends the letter addressing the same readers he greeted at the beginning. Not just all who read the letter but all who are in Christ. This phrase, ‘in Christ’ is such a beautifully concise way of signalling that all of our hope, peace, trust, identity, motivation and future is wrapped up in Christ. We are not citizens of this planet but known and proud to be known as Christians.

Meaning

Peter’s final note is for all who are in Christ to stand firm and know that God is more powerful than any enemy we can face. While the dangers of this world are real (even if unseen) our defence against the devil and his attacks is to stand firm in the faith. We can be encouraged that this is the same faith shared across the globe by God’s faithful household. Even in the midst of the worst of humanity, the church of God is there and will survive. More than that, at the right time, God’s elect will be delivered to their eternal glory in Christ. Do not be concerned about the evils of this age, when you know that God cares and his power is above all and forever.

Application

  • Topic A – Helping yourself and the church grow. Peter provides a formula for the younger Christians to submit to the overseers in the church. To the younger, it is wise to submit because there is much to learn in the Christian faith. To the elder, it is important to show wisdom with humility. This is a wonderful formula for church growth and maturity. Do you see where you fit in the process of maturing one another in the faith at church?
  • Topic B – Anxious prayer. We must understand how important prayer is. What causes you worry, concern or anxiety? Do you take it to the LORD in prayer? Read Psalm 55 to hear how the psalmist talks to God and listen for the echoes to 1 Peter. Perhaps you could use this Psalm in your groups to pray together.
  • Topic C – The community of saints across the globe. We can always bring our brothers and sisters in Christ to God in prayer who are scattered across this planet. We are not identified by race, class, culture or denomination but as those who stand firm in the true grace of God. We don’t wear badges. We don’t have a secret handshake. But we call Christ our LORD and Redeemer and we have all been born again into a living hope through the blood of Christ. Do you identify with this community?

 

Prayer of the Week

Lord God, we thank you for your universal church, distinguished by race, gender or class, but set apart by your Son and your call to stand firm in the faith. May we be sober of mind and encourage one another daily while we wait for your kingdom to be revealed. Amen.