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 and they went to another village.
On verses 51-56: Why did the Samaritan village reject Jesus because Jesus was heading for Jerusalem? It’s because culturally Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another and considered one another enemies. The Samaritans rejected Jesus based on the fact that Jesus and his disciples were Jews heading to the Jewish city of Jerusalem. Fueled by anger and pride, two of Jesus’ closest disciples, James and John, offer to call fire down from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village that didn’t welcome them. No wonder Jesus gave James and John the nicknames “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). However, Jesus rebukes them for this suggestion and they move on.
What can we learn from this? Here we see how gracious and gentle Jesus was in the face of rejection. Even though the Samaritan village had disrespected Jesus and rejected him, Jesus refused to retaliate. I believe he did this for two reasons: (1) he trusted God his Father to be his defender and justifier; and (2) Jesus is a gentleman who honours our freedom to choose, even when we make the wrong or foolish choice to reject him. I’m amazed by Jesus’ patience and kindness.
Luke 9:57-62 (NIV) 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 holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
On verses 57-58: Following Jesus gives us a peace, a comfort and a joy that the world cannot give, but at the same time verse 58 shows us that if we choose to follow Jesus, we must be prepared that our lives will not always be comfortable. Following Jesus means, like Jesus, recognizing that our ultimate home is not on earth but in heaven.
Luke 9:59-60 (NIV) 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man 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.”
On verses 59-60: Does Jesus mean in verse 60 that to follow him means that we are to completely abandon and ignore our parents, or that we cannot even pay our respects to them when they die? No. In this case it is quite possible that the man who said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” did not have any funeral to go to any time soon; rather what he meant was, “I’ll follow you, Lord, but only after my dad has passed away”. Jesus’ response “Let the dead bury their own dead” means “you’ve spent enough time doing things that have no eternal value. Don’t delay any longer but focus on God’s kingdom now.”
Another lesson is that as followers of Jesus, our number one affiliation and loyalty is to God, above and beyond our loyalty to any other person, even our parents and family.
Luke 9:61-62 (NIV) 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
On verses 61-62: The situation here was perhaps similar to the one in verses 59-60. Able to read people’s deepest thoughts, Jesus saw through this man’s superficial expression of devotion (“I will follow you, Lord” – v61) and perceived that this man was fickle, torn between doing what his family wanted him to do and doing what Jesus wanted him to do.
What can we learn from this? You won’t serve God effectively if your heart is not fully devoted to Jesus. If your heart is on one hand wanting to serve Jesus but on the other hand wanting to go back to living for yourself, you’ll find yourself uncomfortably and ineffectively straddling two worlds, and you will not be fit to serve God that way. Jesus wants us to be fully committed and wholehearted in following him, not focusing on what is behind us but straining toward what is ahead.
Lord Jesus, thank You for warning us that following You is not always easy or comfortable, but in doing so we find a peace, a purpose and a hope that are priceless. May I follow You all the way and wholeheartedly, not looking back or living in the past, but trusting in You each day. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!