June 26, 2022
Sunday Between June 26 and July 2 Inclusive
Proper 8, Ordinary Time 13
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 9:51-62, The Message or Luke 9:51-62, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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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!
Verses 51 to 56. Here we catch a glimpse of small town social expectations. Jesus and his followers were from the region of Galilee. They are passing through Samaria on their way south to Jerusalem. Being Galilean, they do not have family to stay with in Samaria, so they need to rely on the hospitality of strangers.
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.
Alan Roxburgh (See footnote below.) makes an interesting observation, connecting this passage with next week's lesson of the sending out of the 70 (or 72), Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, and the Good Samaritan parable, Luke 10:25-37, the following week: Having just been sent out, the 70 would identify with the traveler in the Parable who was attacked, beaten, and stripped. And having just experienced the animosity of the Samaritans, they would be astounded at Jesus' teaching.
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 and Rohrbaugh comment (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.
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 267-268; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See below.
Alan Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God in the Neighbourhood, 2011, Ch. 10. (I'm reading this an iBook and can't give a paper page reference.)
Luke 9:51-62 (NRSV)
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60 But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 9:51-62 (The Message)
51 When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. 53 But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. 54 When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, "Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?"
55 Jesus turned on them: "Of course not!" 56 And they traveled on to another village.
57 On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.
58 Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."
59 Jesus said to another, "Follow me."
He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral."
60 Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!"
61 Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home."
62 Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, 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.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.