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May 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 22, 2011

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. Luke 9:51-53 (read verses 9:51-62)

INTRO: In the last few months, I’ve been asked a couple of times, what I thought of Harold Camping’s predictions of a May 21 rapture

– I didn’t really know anything about it
– since I could not force myself to get interested in it, I never looked into it

But now, after it didn’t happen, I am interested
– what is he doing the day after? How is he handling his failure?

  • is he blaming God? Satan? The media? His calculator?
  • is he coming up with rationalizations–why he wasn’t wrong?
  • or is he sitting in humility admitting he made a mistake, that he let his excitement get the best of him and now he’s learned important lessons about the mystery of scripture and letting God be God?

– this is what I would like to see
– the Lord knows how many times I’ve made public blunders

Why does this interest me now that it’s a colossal failure?
– because it reveals an inner conflict felt by many Christians: We want God to come out of hiding and take center stage
– we’re afraid of our world, ourselves–humankind–and we want God to intervene before we self-destruct
– but even more, we want God – not a substitute, like a church, a priest, or predictors of the last day
– we want to know that God is here with us, that he cares, and that he is involved in our everyday issues
But when we go and look down every street, he’s not there (Job 23:8-9)
– when we listen for the sound of his voice, the sky is silent

Then we have to return to ordinary faith
We return to:

  • developing a greater sensitivity to spirit, because that is where God speaks
  • to a greater awareness of God in the everydayness of life, because that is where he reveals his face
  • a life in which we are not sure about the day or the hour
  • a life in which everything continues on as it has
  • what we were doing in the days and months before it didn’t happen
  • the day to day discipline of the spiritual journey

This is exactly where we join Jesus in Luke 9:51

Verses 51-53, Jesus’ takes his ministry in a new direction

This translation hides a repetition that occurs in the Greek text
– “set his face,” “before his face,” and “his face was going to”
– his face indicates his intention, direction, and destination
Jesus is facing his destiny and he has begun his journey toward it

When Jesus was transfigured, the first thing that happened was the appearance of His face became different

I was reading in 1 Chronicles this week and came to the place where David passed a song on to worship leaders

Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually
(1 Chr. 16:11)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the term face refers to God’s presence and favor
(e.g., the blessing of the priest in Nu. 6:25, “The LORD make His face shine upon you”)
– to seek his face is to look to ones circumstances for an indication of God’s pleasure
– more fundamental to the spiritual life, it is to come to an awareness of his immediate presence

Kathleen McAlpin, “Simply stated, theological reflection is a process used by Christians to become aware of the living God in the context of daily life. Through this process, communities of faith and individuals reflect on their experiences and notice the presence of God at work in their lives and in society. From this awareness, although they see the brokenness of the world, they also see the hope of God for humankind. These beliefs and spiritual resources give them the wisdom to look closely and critically at their world, and help them to discern a response to given situations, and thus participate in the reign of God.”

No sooner does Jesus begin the journey, than he runs into problems
– that is exactly how the spiritual journey goes
– but it is these complications that enlarge our experience and expand our education

Verses 54-56, Two disciples are quick to defend Jesus’ honor

James and John seem to be over-reacting and we can only guess why

– I don’t understand people who look forward to Judgment Day
– Jonah waiting for God’s judgment to descend became angry when it didn’t happen – God had to talk him down
. . . there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand . . .

Men, women and children were walking around in that Samaritan village
– what could have motived James and John?

They had been there when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and they had been there on the mount when Jesus was transfigured
– perhaps they shared the typical Jewish attitude toward Samaritans, “These half-breeds dare insult our Messiah and Lord?”
– there’s a parallel in the life of David when he was cursed by Shimei (2 Sam. 16:5)
Then Abishai . . . said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head”
– fire from heaven may have seemed an appropriate punishment for a great insult

But Jesus “turned and rebuked them” – remember when we read that Jesus turned to deliver his rebuke, his gesture adds emphasis to what he is doing, to his focus on the one (or those) he is addressing
– that is not how Jesus or his followers deal with people
– when you’re turned down, just move on

Verses 57-62, Further clarification regarding discipleship

As they were going along the road
– Where? Those of us who have been to Israel would like to know
– but for Luke, identifying the exact point on map isn’t important
What Luke is emphasizing is the fact of the journey

Three people think they want to join Jesus on this journey, but they come with conditions

These three would-be disciples are “flat” characters
– Luke doesn’t give us enough details to make us feel like we know them
– yet it is possible to understand their concerns and how they are similar to our own

I don’t know if Luke intended this, but we see here the parable of the soils and the seed again

  • the Samaritan village that did not receive Jesus would be like the soil beside the road
  • disciple 1 would be like the rocky soil–at the first sign of difficulty he will give up
  • disciples 2 and 3 are like the thorn-infested soil; other concerns hold them back

Where is the good soil?
– it is typical of Luke to leave us hanging in a situation like this
– it is as if he were telling us, “You write the end of the story. Why don’t you be good soil?”

These people were given a moment with Jesus
– a moment of crisis, of decision
– they were at a crossroad and had to make up their mind before they took the next step
– surrender to Jesus? Or give in to the other voices that called them?

Every time we pray, we stand at this crossroad
– there will always be voices calling us to other things
– we have to choose to surrender completely to Jesus in the present moment
And what we practice in prayer eventually becomes a way of life

Contemplative prayer is a way of surrendering to Jesus’ conditions

  • as far as possible, simplify and streamline our lives
    – a man set aside a weekend to rest in silence at a monastery. A monk kindly showed him to his room and briefly explained the itinerary of each day. Then the monk told him, “I hope your stay is blessed. And if you need anything, let us know and we’ll teach you how to live without it”
  • if you know what Jesus is asking, don’t put it off
    – we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow
    – besides, any delay only prolongs our inner discomfort
  • if you realize that something or someone is holding you back, detach
    – usually your attachment isn’t to the thing or person, but to your perception
    for example, what their approval means to you, what you feel about your obligation to meet their expectations, your concerns about what others will think of you
    – it is those inner attachments that we need to sever
  • if you go with Jesus, go completely
    – learning to dive off a diving board, you cannot be half-committed
  • don’t look back – you can’t plow a straight furrow if you’re always looking behind you

When rejected by the Samaritan village, “they went on to another
– In the Greek language of the New Testament, one of two words can be used for “another”

  1. allos (another of the same kind)
  2. heteros (another of a different kind)

There is always another village, another place where you may find a different response
– in verses 59 and 60, “another” occurs two more times when Jesus interviewed the three candidates for discipleship
– perhaps there will be another who is prepared to leave all and follow Jesus

CONC: How do we grow in Christ until we reach the point that we meet all of his conditions?

There is one reason that explains why a person would be willing to suffer deprivations
– to go with Jesus immediately, putting him before everything
– to not look back at what they have given up for him

There is one reason, and it is love
– don’t worry if you are not at that place right now
– just do your best to take the next step of the journey

If you just keep going, what you lack now, you’ll pick up on the way

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