"I'm hoping Jesus is saying: Make sure that following me is what guides all that you do. Don't put me aside to go bury your father; make following me guide you as you bury your father. ... I admit my hope is but a poor scrap of what Jesus has actually said, but I remember a time when even a scrap was good enough for Jesus to grant a woman's heart-felt desire."
Season of Pentecost
Sunday Between June 27 to July 2 Inclusive
Proper 8, Ordinary Time 13
June 27, 2010, Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Click here, Luke 9:51-62, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version of this note.
The Lectionary takes a big leap from last week's lesson, Luke 8:26-39, to today's. That's not so bad, except that the entire context for today's reading has been skipped over. Specifically:
- Luke 9:18-27. Jesus asks, "Who do you say I am?" And then teaches, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."
- Luke 9:28-36. The transfiguration of Jesus, and the voice from Heaven saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him."
These passages are the turning points from which Jesus now "set his face to go to Jerusalem." (Verse 51.)
And the passage for today is such a smorgasbord of disconnected events and sayings, that I sometimes wish I could invite the planners of the Lectionary to come and lead the service and preach the sermon. "Come and preach the Good News from this text you have chosen!"
Nonetheless, I'm reminded of that other beggar for Good News who would be happy with even the scraps that fell from the table for the dogs to eat, Matthew 15:27, and trust that like her, my faith will be sufficient for the preaching of this text!
However, not being family, and not coming to Samaria for the purpose of being in Samaria - but just passing through on their way to the big city of Jerusalem (the ancient rival of THEIR big city) - is taken as an insult by the Samaritans. Sort of, "So. We're not good enough for you to stop and spend a little time with us. Is that too much to ask of the upstart who's 'set his face on Jerusalem?'"
But the refusal of the Samaritans to offer hospitality is in turn understood as an insult by Jesus' followers. Sort of, "So. You think we're not good enough for you to offer even a little food and a place to sleep. You think you can treat us like lepers and social outcasts instead of guests who the whole world knows are owed a little respect."
The extreme response of James and John shows just how touchy relationships were between Galileans and Samaritans, and how hot tempers could get.
Fortunately, as usual, Jesus rises above petty rivalries and rebukes his own followers. They move on.
Verse 57 to 62. This collection of 3 events and teachings are not necessarily connected to each other - or to the previous incident.
What they all have in common is the theme of "Follow me."
Personally, I find Jesus' response in Verse 58 confusing. The implication seems to be that the person who says in Verse 57, "I will follow you wherever you go," is thinking that Jesus is going to some destination where he will stay at; is on his way to some place where he will live. But to follow Jesus, means to be on the road with no permanent home.
Then Jesus asks someone to follow him. But this person's father has just died, and one of the highest family duties is to see to the proper burial of their father - which must be done within the day - and would continue with a period of mourning for a year. But Jesus places proclaiming the Kingdom of God as an even higher obligation.
And finally, even the opportunity to ease the break from one's family is denied.
As Malina comments (Page 268, see footnote below.):
There can now be no doubt about the radical quality of the break (from one's biological family and all its social obligations) that following Jesus requires, nor about Luke's understanding of its cost.
Well, I guess we can be thankful that this lesson is scheduled to fall after Father's Day. That would make the challenge in these teachings even tougher to duck.
As it is, for the 99.99% of current followers of Jesus with places to live, kids, pets, and aging parents to care for, these lessons raise serious questions about the importance following Jesus has in our lives. Just exactly what is it that we will do - or do without - in order to follow Jesus?
Personally, I'm hoping the challenge is NOT an either / or thing; but is more of a horse / cart thing.
That is, I'm hoping Jesus is NOT saying: Either you are on the road 24/7 and you never let your family come first, or you are not my follower.
I'm hoping Jesus IS saying: Make sure that following me is what guides all that you do. Don't put me aside to go bury your father; make following me guide you as you bury your father. Don't put me aside as you say good-bye to your family; make following me guide you as say good-bye.
I admit my hope is but a poor scrap of what Jesus has actually said, but I remember a time when even a scrap was good enough for Jesus to grant a woman's heart-felt desire.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
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