Sunday, June 26, 2016

Prepare for His Reception

by Diane Bayne

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Galatians 5: -18

On the way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. Luke 9:52B-56

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever. Psalm 16

The Words of today’s Gospel include the words of Jesus to His would be followers.  Each of these words requires, first of all, that we understand their message (Study), so that we can apply them to our own life (Piety) and, finally, put them into practice, (Action).

In considering the messages in this Gospel, the first task required – even before our Piety and Action –  is our Study. 

The first words of Jesus in this Gospel are to James and John.  Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem.  When James and John see that the Samaritan village will not welcome Jesus, these two eager Disciples, trying to anticipate his wishes, ask him:  "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?"   Then, we have Jesus’ response to them: “Jesus turned toward them only to reprimand them.  Then they journeyed to another village.”  Luke 9: 55-56

What are we to make of Jesus’ response?  In his book The Gospel of Luke, William Barclay explains that James and John probably believed they were doing a praiseworthy thing when they offered to call on a divine aide to blot out the village filled with people whom the Jews regarded as enemies. 

Barclay comments, “There is no passage in which Jesus so directly teaches the duty of tolerance, as in this…The conviction that our beliefs and our methods alone are correct has been the cause of more tragedy and distress in the church than almost any other thing…There are many ways to God. He has his own secret stairway into every heart.  He fulfills himself in many ways; and no man or church has a monopoly on his truth…But, and this is intensely important -- our tolerance must not be based on indifference but on love. We ought to be tolerant not because we could not care less, but because we look at the other person with eyes of love.” (Barclay, pp. 130-31)

The rest of Jesus’ messages in this Gospel concern the sacrifices that discipleship demands:  As they were making their way along, someone said to him, “I will be your follower wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." 

To another, he said, "Come after me." The man replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their dead. Come away and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Yet another said to him:  "I will be your follower, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home."  To him, Jesus said, “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the kingdom of God."

Jesus makes clear to all of these men that there is a cost to following him. To the first man, Jesus is saying: “Before you follow me, count the cost” – and “can you really do what I’m doing?”  Regarding the second, Barclay comments that in everything there is a crucial moment; if that moment is missed, the thing most likely will never be done at all.  The third message is no one can plow a field while looking back.  For the Christian, the watchword of the kingdom is not “Backward” but “Forward.” Of this message Barclay comments “Here Jesus says “Return!  I accept no lukewarm service.”  (Barclay, pp. 131-32)

Piety and Action
As a result of this study, we are able to understand the reason for Jesus’ rebuke of James and John. We can now see that “Even if a man be utterly mistaken, we must never regard him as an enemy to be destroyed but as a strayed friend to be recovered in love.”   (Barclay, pp. 129-131). With this understanding, we are now able to apply Jesus’ words to our own life (PIETY) and to see the importance of acting tolerantly in our own life and behavior (ACTION) even when – especially when – the actions and reactions of others are different from our own.

Following Jesus is not for sissies!  Only the single-minded and wholehearted need apply!

No comments: