Study 4Study 4: Setting Out for Jerusalem

Sermon Date: March 26, 2017

Reading: Luke 9: 51-62; Isaiah 53:1-12



Before we begin our study, can I encourage you to read Luke 9:28-51.  Due to the calendar, we’re unable to include these events in our sermon series. But they are important and also put our study in context.
These verses begin a new phase in Jesus’ journey to securing freedom for humanity. 

Conversation Starter:

Q) Have you ever been upset on somebody else’s behalf and wanted to do something to help them?  What happened?

Questions: (see “Helpful Hints” at the end of this section)

Read Luke 9: 51-56: This short section reveals more about the heart and mission of Jesus and what he desires in his followers.
1. What does verse 51 reveal to us?
2. (verses 52-53) 
a) Why do you think Jesus wanted to visit a Samaritan village?
b) Why was Jesus unwelcome in the Samaritan village?
3. (verses 54-56) 
a) Why do you think James and John responded as they did?
b) What does Jesus’ response teach us?
Read Luke 9: 57-62: Did you notice that the verb “follow” is used three times (verse 57,59 & 61) in these verses. Jesus’ teaching in these verses is about the nature and demands of discipleship. 
4. Looking at these three encounters, what do they reveal about what it means to follow Jesus and the obstacles to following and living the life of freedom in Christ?
Take some time to consider how this study has spoken to you and consider sharing with others.
Give time to encouraging and praying for each other in your life of discipleship
Give time to praying for your loved ones.
Conclude by sharing ‘The Grace’ (2 Corinthians 13:14) with each other:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever more. Amen.

Helpful Hints for discussion questions:

1. Luke wants us to know that although Jesus knew his fate, he nonetheless, in obedience to God the Father, willingly and resolutely set out for Jerusalem to secure the freedom of humanity through his sacrifice on the cross. This again reveals the love, faithfulness and courage of Christ.

2 a) Read 1 Kings 16:21-24. Jews and Samaritans were hostile to one another. This was for reasons that date to the time of the Old Testament. The Jewish people regarded the Samaritans as ‘impure’ because their ancestors had married outside the faith. They were considered ethnic traitors and also who worshipped at another site Mount Gerazim (see John 4:20-24) instead of the temple on Jerusalem.  
Accordingly, as a devout Jew, Jesus' desire to reach out to them was culturally exceptional.  And his intentional action aroused the opposition of the Jewish religious leaders and contributed to his arrest.  
This episode is also important because it reveals that Christ has come for all people – not just the Jews.
2 b) We don’t know but it may be because:
? Jesus was Jewish and en route to Jerusalem. As we have learnt, the Samaritans did not have good relations with the Jews.
? Perhaps having heard of Jesus, the villagers did not to want to get involved with him and any further dispute with the authorities – religious, civil and military
3 a) James and John (“the sons of thunder” Mark 3:17) were incensed by the rejection of Jesus and try (as if they could!) to bring about the destruction of the village. The request for "fire from above" recalls the ministry of Elijah to the priests of the pagan God Baal (1 Kings 18:38).  Perhaps in a misguided sign of loyalty and faith, James and John were trying to impress Jesus and do His will as they understood it or perhaps wanted it to be?
3 b) Whatever the reason, Jesus was not impressed by their response. Although he recognised James and John’s faith in their spiritual power through Him, he rebuked their lack of love for the Samaritan village. In love, Jesus came to seek and save the lost not to destroy them.  
God is merciful and loving. He is not judgemental and vindictive. Jesus taught that his followers are to love their enemies – as He did – not to destroy them. Finally, it is for God alone to judge.
Recalling his earlier instruction (see Luke 9:5), Jesus now leads the disciples onwards to another village. This is an important detail. Although Jesus’ destination is Jerusalem and the cross, he chooses to seek out and offer salvation to people on the way.
4. Jesus’ encounter with the different would-be disciples reveals more about the nature and cost of discipleship.
Jesus answer to the first would-be follower (verse 58) simply and clearly tells us that to follow Him involves a cost (“no home”) and we must be willing to always journey onwards with Him.
The second man was called by Jesus (verse 59). In response, he asked for time to bury his father.   This seems reasonable to us. What’s more, in Judaism the duty of burial took precedence over the study of the law, the Temple service, the killing of the Passover sacrifice and the observance of circumcision. Accordingly, Jesus’ reply appears harsh but it’s not.  
Jesus knew the heart and mind of this would-be follower.  The would-be disciples immediate reply to being ‘called’ by Jesus revealed that he was more concerned with the honouring the way of the world than the kingdom of God. Through his reply (verse 60), Jesus wanted the man (and us) to understand the priority of the kingdom of God. On his journey, Jesus could not wait for the man to perform the duties of the burial. This is why he said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Those without spiritual insight can perform these duties but Jesus has called this man “ proclaim the kingdom of God” – this has priority. 
Moreover, through this encounter, Jesus wants the man and us to realise that when we recognise His call on our lives, we’re to trust and follow immediately.
The third man (verses 61-62), like the first, offered himself to Jesus. But he gave a condition – to “first say farewell” to those at home (as Elisha did when he followed Elijah cf: 1 Kings 19:20f). Again, on first reading, this condition seems reasonable.  
But following Jesus means more than following Elijah. What’s more, knowing this mans’ heart, Jesus knew that this would-be disciple had a priority that came before his desire to follow him. Jesus knew that this man’s heart was not wholly with Him – hence his reply.
To fully understand Jesus’ reply (verse 62) it’s helpful to know the geographical context in which this encounter took place. Although fertile, the land in this area was rocky. Accordingly, a farmer ploughing in this area would not furrow a straight row if he looked back as he ploughed. Through his reply, Jesus points out that the kingdom of God has no room for people who look back when they are called to go forward to and with Him.
Additionally, some commentators suggest that Jesus is also teaching that disciples:
i. are to focus on him
ii. not allow distractions to take us off course and 
iii. that we’re to keep our hand on the plough. Just as ploughing requires application and physical strength, so with our life of discipleship.  
This was the testimony of Jesus as he did the will of God the Father.

Richard Jones, 14/03/2017