bible blog 1888

LUKE 9

As the time approached for him to be taken up, he resolutely turned his face towards Yerushalayim. 52 He sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village in Samaria to make preparations for him. 53 However, the people there would not let him stay, because his destination was Yerushalayim. 54 When the disciples Ya‘akov and Yochanan saw this, they said, “Sir, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?”[55 But he turned and rebuked them.[] 56 And they went on to another village.

57 As they were traveling on the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Yeshua answered him, “The foxes have holes, and the 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 the man replied, “Sir, first let me go away and bury my father.” 60 Yeshua said, “Let the dead bury their own dead; you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God!”61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me say good-by to the people at home.” 62 To him Yeshua said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back is fit to serve in the Kingdom of God.”foxes

All the gospels recognise that Jesus’ departure from Galilee for Jerusalem is a turning point in their story of Jesus, but none of them make this as clear as Luke does in this passage. For him Jesus’ decision is made in obedience to the compelling will of God which he expressed by the Greek word “Dei” meaning “must”: he must go to the holy city of his people, although he knows that is the place of mortal danger. Luke uses the ambiguous word “taken  up” to refer to both the execution stake and the ascension of Jesus to God, a device also used by John when he writes of Jesus being “lifted up”.

Luke especially uses Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem as a framework for incidents and teachings, all of which are placed under the shadow of what is to come. In chapters 10-18, the execution stake is the elephant in the room, to which only Jesus is rude enough to point, as he does in this passage.

Even Jesus’ disciples are depicted as ignoring it. The Samaritans, who see Jesus as an orthodox Jew heading for a festival in a city whose primacy they do not recognise, are not hospitable to him. James and John still imagine that Jesus can summon heavenly violence to deal with this sort of thing. They are rebuked.

The first would-be disciple with his fulsome promise of loyalty is cut off at the knees by a  a savage and poetic depiction of Jesus’ real situation. He, the Son of Man, bearer of the humane kingdom, has nowhere he can call home. The second, who only wants time out to bury his father, is met with an appallingly impious rejection of this sacred duty, while the third is rejected as a time-waster. homeless

You could imagine Jesus PR people going spare as he turns away people who might at least have signed  a direcr debit if he’d treated them politely. Luke however wants the reader to sense Jesus’ realism and his impatience with pretenders.The contrast between Luke’s Jesus and the Jesus peddled by smart evenagelists, who welcomes thousands of sinners every night and asks no questions, is clear. Jesus wants sinners who will stick by him and his God in their time of need, and he’s not about to disguise this journey as a gravy train.

For Jesus, the “Son of Man” is a corporate identity. Taken from  Daniel chapter 7, the Son of Man is a symbol of the humane kingdom of God’s saints, in contrast to the savage kingdoms symbolised by beasts. Often Jesus ends up as the sole representative of those saints, as for example, on the execution stake; but his ministry is intended to draw others into this enterprise. He succeeded in this, but only via his death and resurrection. The assemblies of Jesus came to see themselves as the frail, earthly representatives of Jesus the Son of Man, who would return one day in the power of God.

The language belongs to the first century but some contemporary followers of Jesus still long for the humane kingdom more than their “personal salvation”.

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