Luke 9:51-62 – Jesus on His Way up to Jerusalem

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Luke 9:51

  1. A more literal translation of the word “taken up” is “exaltation”, which is a reference to Jesus’ exaltation on the tree of the cross, Jesus’ victory, Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
  2. Jesus is a role model in every way. In this passage we can learn to be “determined” to fulfill the mission God has given us. Even if we know it means suffering, we are to walk the path God has called us into.
    1. As a pastor and leader of a congregation, I can testify that there are few occasions that make me as happy as when someone undertakes a task and then “resolutely” carries it out, whether it goes well or badly, whether it is fun or boring. Faithfully carrying out one’s task is a sign of maturity required of anyone who wants to be a leader in God’s church. Anyone who gives up at the slightest setback will not be entrusted with leadership.
  3. Jesus was “determined” to carry out his mission despite the fact that almost everyone tried to persuade him to give up:
    1. Jesus’ enemy the devil tried to tempt him (Matthew 4:1-11).
    2. Jesus’ friend Peter tried to persuade him (Matthew 16:21-23).
    3. Jesus himself doubted before his suffering (Matt 26:37-39, Luke 22:29-44).
    4. Pontius Pilate tried to release Jesus (John 18:28-40).

Luke 9:52-53

  1. After the fall of the northern kingdom, Israel, to the Assyrians in 721 BC, most of the 10 northern tribes were taken into captivity and assimilated with the rest of the population of Assyria. To further blend the Israelite population, other peoples were brought to Israel and then intermarried with the remaining Israelites. The descendants of these mixed peoples are the Samaritans, named after the Israelite king Omri’s capital. Some Israelite priests were allowed to remain to teach the new Samaritan people how to worship the God of Israel (2 Kings 17).
    1. The Samaritans have their own version of the Pentateuch and worship God on their own Mount Gerizim, rather than in Jerusalem (John 4:20).
    2. Because of the historical conflict (Ezr 4) and the fact that the Samaritans were a mixed people, there was hostility and much prejudice between Jews and Samaritans. The Samaritans also used not to offer overnight accommodation to travelling Jews when those living north of Samaria, in Galilee, wanted to go down to Judea to celebrate Jewish festivals in Jerusalem. Therefore, most Galileans often took a detour to avoid entering Samaria.
  2. The Samaritans did not receive Jesus and his travelling party on this occasion because they were on their way to Jerusalem. The Samaritans on this occasion let their prejudices and old enmities with the Jews prevent them from hearing the Gospel. On another occasion, when a Samaritan woman is given a chance to talk quietly with Jesus (John 4:1-42), it leads to many Samaritans accepting Jesus as their savior.
    1. What we can learn from Jesus is not to let our prejudices control who we witness to. The person you least expect to be interested in Jesus may turn out to be the first to repent.
    2. Given this, it is probably no coincidence that Jesus mentions Samaria when he urges his disciples to go out into all the world and do missionary work: “8 But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be empowered and become my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.“” (Acts 1:8)

Luke 9:54-56

  1. When the disciples see that the Samaritans do not accept Jesus, they let their prejudices and old hostile history take over their judgement.
  2. The two brothers James and John were called by Jesus “Boanerges”, which in English means “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). In other words, they were very hot-tempered and close to rage.
    1. Against this background, it is a proof of God’s ability to change a person that the apostle John later became known as the “apostle of love”.
    2. Do you have a lesser character trait? This need not be an obstacle to becoming a disciple, but you should at the same time pray to Jesus to change you for the better.
  3. The mistake James and John make can be compared to the “hell preachers” or “prophets of doom” of the 20th century.
    1. Countless times I have read about so-called “prophets” who prophesy of a God’s judgment on Sweden because the Swedes have abandoned God. One time it is prophesied that the Russians will come, other times it is natural disasters that will hit us. But from this text we can learn that God does not act in this way.
    2. James and John focus on the Samaritans’ sin and God’s punishment instead of focusing on Jesus’ possibility of salvation and God’s love.
  4. Jesus rebukes James and John because they don’t seem to have understood Jesus’ mission. Jesus has not come to earth to judge all wrongdoers or to punish all sinners. Jesus has come to offer salvation to all people and to save all who believe in him.
    1. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
    2. What we can learn from this is not to constantly look for faults in other people just for the sake of it. We should be well aware that all people, including ourselves, have faults and commit sins. But instead of constantly pointing out each other’s faults, we should instead focus on growing in our faith, studying the Bible together, praying for each other, etc.
    3. But while we should not focus on the negative, we should not pretend that there is no sin. Sometimes you have to rebuke the wrongdoer, just as Jesus does here. But notice that Jesus does not rebuke the Samaritans, only his own disciples. One cannot demand as much of non-Christians as of disciples.
  5. A congregation should be aware that the surrounding community may well reject the Christian message. This should not surprise us or make us angry, but rather lead us to pray for the community and show as much love as we can.
    1. Jesus could get angry at religious hypocrites who prevented people from meeting God, but he rarely got angry at ordinary people who didn’t know any better. Once Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he knew he would be rejected, but he didn’t get angry, instead he wept (Luke 19:41-44). When Stephen is stoned for his faith in Jesus, he doesn’t get angry, but instead prays for his killers (Acts 7:59-60).
      1. So when we face persecution, we should not respond with hatred or a judgmental attitude, but with prayer and love, leaving the judgment to God when the time comes.
  6. The Christian who is afflicted by the sins of sinners should do as Jesus did, i.e. walk away without taking revenge and instead leave vengeance to God (Rom 12:19).

Luke 9:57-58

  1. Jesus lived a relatively simple life with few resources, no house of his own, and constantly dependent on God to provide for him. Such a life is hardly attractive to a person with worldly ambitions who wants to be rich or successful. But given all the miracles and good teaching Jesus preached, at times very many people wanted to follow Jesus.
    1. Perhaps many were drawn to Jesus because he was “popular” at the time or stood for something “modern”.
    2. So as not to create false expectations or hasty decisions, Jesus is clear from the start that discipleship in his discipleship is not an easy thing that will lead to worldly or human success and wealth. On the contrary, there is a risk that it will lead to great sacrifice.
      1. Jesus exemplifies these sacrifices by saying that even he, the leader of this movement, has no fancy house or worldly wealth.
    3. What we can learn from Jesus is that when people are interested in the Christian faith, we should not try to entice them with false hopes of a humanly successful life, but instead tell them the truth about spiritual growth but worldly suffering.
    4. We can also learn that discipleship may well mean not being able to buy as nice a house as all the other average Swedes. As a disciple of Jesus, you may have to choose between a successful career and a sacrificial life.

Luke 9:59-60

  1. In the previous example, a man asked to follow Jesus. In this example, it is Jesus asking a man to follow him. For the evangelist, it is important to be able to see and decide when it is appropriate to ask someone if they want to become a Christian or when to wait for the person to come to that decision for themselves.
  2. The man in this example wants to follow Jesus, but not quite yet. If the man in the previous example was too quick to follow Jesus, this man is too slow to follow Jesus.
  3. A Jewish funeral ritual could take 12 months for a loved one to perform. In other words, waiting to follow Jesus until the entire ritual is performed could result in missing the opportunity to become a disciple altogether.
    1. From this we can learn that we should not let human traditions stand in the way of following Jesus.
  4. In Nepal, a country I spent a lot of time in, according to Hindu tradition, the eldest son has to perform a Hindu funeral ritual when his parents die. This ritual allows the parents to go to Hindu heaven. When a Nepali becomes a Christian, he does not want to perform this Hindu ritual for obvious reasons, which often leads to the parents distancing themselves from their son, throwing him out of the home and disinheriting him. In a poor society where children stay at home even after they marry in order to care for their parents when they grow old and to help each other with their livelihoods, such divisions can be disastrous. That’s why many young Nepalis wait to become Christians until after their parents have died so they can perform the Hindu funeral ritual. In other words, this Bible verse becomes very topical in Nepal when compared to Sweden.

Luke 9:61-62

  1. When the time comes to become a Christian, one should not waver or make a half-hearted decision.
  2. Sometimes I have come across people who want to become Christians, but who first want to live out in the world for a while. They want to follow Jesus, but first they want to find a girlfriend or do all the fun things their friends do. Then when you get a bit older you can calm down and start going to church. But with that kind of attitude, you’ve already shown that you think the kingdom of the world is a better place to be than the kingdom of God.
    1. When farmers in Jesus’ day would plow the field, he had to look at something ahead, like a tree, so that the rows would be straight. If the farmer lost focus and started looking back, he ploughed crookedly.
    2. If we want to follow Jesus, we should fix our eyes on Jesus and not look back at our old life.
    3. Jesus exemplifies this when in verse 51 he “turned his face toward Jerusalem, determined to go up there”.
      1. As disciples of Jesus, we are right to follow Jesus with determination by leaving our old sinful life behind us immediately when Jesus calls and fixing our eyes on Jesus and the mission he gives us. ­­­­
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