The Difficulty of Oncoming Suffering

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Lectionary Reading: Luke 9:51-62

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

This is what most people believe about Jesus maybe because we learned it through singing about it at a very young age. Through John Wesley, as Methodists, we believe that Jesus seeks us out even when we have strayed (prevenient grace). We also get this through parables like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. We understand that love is a difficult task and yet, we believe that the love of Jesus tries to overcome the barriers that we put before it.

So when we examine today’s reading, Jesus may seem a little foreign to us. At least at first glance.

Jesus has his face set toward Jerusalem. We are not sure what this means but it carries a harsher tone to it. It could be that Jesus had to steel himself to the difficulties of facing the cross. It would not be an easy thing to embrace. Whatever it meant, we see that the Samaritan village doesn’t receive him because of it.

As we think of it today, we like to imagine that we would whole-heartedly embrace Jesus in the here and now. If Jesus were to show up at our church, we would throw wide the doors and give him our best! But if his face were set toward Jerusalem – if he had prepared himself to suffer and die – I’m not so sure he would be such good company. He would likely challenge us to say the least and while some may be up for the challenge, there are likely those who would find something “better” to do with their time.

We do see Jesus rebuke his disciples for seeking to punish the town. He hasn’t lost his compassion, he’s just not as warm as he has appeared earlier in his life. Then we encounter three people who seek to follow Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus either discourages them or breaks down their excuses. The death of a parent seems pretty valid and we wonder at the tact of our Lord in this instance.

We want to excuse Jesus for this and so we invent back-story that is not in the text:

The man’s father wasn’t dead yet and so his commitment was vague

The man’s father lived in another town and this was a way for him to beg off

The man’s inheritance would add duties that would never allow him to leave

It is not a bad thing to speculate on the text. I make a living at it. But we must be careful not to read into it what it doesn’t actually say.

What we do know is that following Jesus must be prioritized for it to be effective. There are times when the call of our Lord is convenient and it fits with what we want to do anyway. There are also times when it is the opposite of convenient. I think the difficulty of the text (and why we sympathize with those who fall away) is that we are not entirely sure that we would be able to pursue discipleship during these same moments.

Join us for worship on Sunday as we wrestle with this scripture! And yes, Jesus loves you!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Sandy via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.