MAINTAIN A SINGULAR FOCUS (WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS AND COMPETING PRIORITIES) ON SEEKING CONVERSIONS AND FOLLOWING JESUS
This section involves a major transition point in the gospel of Luke.
Geldenhuys: From iv. 14 to ix. 50 Luke was mainly engaged in describing Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and we were able to contemplate Him in His progressive Messianic self-revelation. At verse 51 Luke begins a new division of the Gospel and we may regard the whole portion from ix. 51 to xix. 44 as a separate section in which the Saviour’s conduct and preaching on His way to Jerusalem is described.
Jesus has been establishing His Power and Authority. He has been performing signs and wonders that mark Him as the Promised Messiah – works of healing, exorcism of demons, calming storms, even raising the dead. He has been proclaiming the message of the coming of the kingdom of God – placing a priority on preaching and teaching.
Now He sets His face to go to Jerusalem to complete that all-important work of redemption. He is primarily concerned with the salvation of souls. But while seeking converts, He never lowers the bar of what the cost involves for becoming a follower, a genuine disciple. For Jesus, there never is any disconnect between the faith commitment involved in salvation and the ongoing commitment of discipleship.
I. (:51-56) PRIORITY OF SEEKING CONVERSIONS RATHER THAN PRONOUNCING CONDEMNATION –
THE COMPASSION (MERCY) INVOLVED IN FOLLOWING JESUS
A. (:51-53) Rejection by Prejudiced Samaritan Village
1. (:51) Purpose of Jesus
“And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension,
that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem;”
Lenski: This preamble is entirely too weighty to introduce only the following narrative.
J. C. Ryle: He knew full well what was before Him. The betrayal, the unjust trial, the mockery, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the spitting, the nails, the spear, the agony on the cross — all, all were doubtless spread before His mind’s eye, like a picture. But He never flinched for a moment from the work that He had undertaken. His heart was set on paying the price of our redemption, and going even to the prison of the grave, as our surety. He was full of tender love towards sinners. It was the desire of His whole soul to procure for them salvation. And so, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Heb. 12:2.)
Sermonwriter.com: This phrase, “set his face” is familiar Old Testament language showing resolve (Isaiah 50:7; Jeremiah 21:10; Ezekiel 6:2; 13:17; 21:2). Jesus determines to go to Jerusalem. His commitment in the face of Jerusalem danger helps us to understand the demands that he will place on would-be followers in verses 57-62.
2. (:52) Preparations by the Advance Team
“and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him.”
Apparently the interaction of John 4 with that village of Sychar did not have the positive impact on this village that one might have hoped for
3. (:53) Prejudice of the Samaritans
“And they did not receive Him,
because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem.”
B. (:54-56) Revenge Is Antithetical to the Mission of Seeking Conversions
1. (:54) Call for Revenge
“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’”
Geldenhuys: Bearing in mind the course adopted by Elijah, as described in 2 Kings 1: 9-11, they ask whether they should not also make fire descend from heaven to consume the hostile Samaritans!
Steven Cole: If you struggle with pride and anger and have failed often, these verses offer hope. James and John were known as the Sons of Thunder. Matthew Henry observes that here they even want to add lightning to their repertoire! But James went on to give up his life as a martyr and John grew to be known as the Apostle of Love. If the grace of the Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit could change these hotheads, there is hope for us all! Change begins when we acknowledge our sin and come to the cross in repentance. We should walk in the same way (Col 2:6). If you have wronged someone through pride or anger, humble yourself, go and ask their forgiveness. As you learn to practice humility and love, even toward those who have wronged you, you will become an effective servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. (:55-56) Correction Regarding Mission and Mercy
a. (:55a) Rebuke of the Disciples
“But He turned and rebuked them, and said,”
b. (:55b) Repent of Your Condemning Spirit
“You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;”
Is your motivation in ministry to serve others or to exert power over others?
Lenski: Jesus will, indeed, in due time attend also to the judgment, but that time is not yet, and the time of grace shall not be curtailed. It is this spirit which loves and labors so earnestly, so perseveringly, so patiently to save, which fills his heart and thus must fill the hearts of his disciples of all ages.
MacArthur: We are, as Jesus was, on a mission of mercy. And I only say all that because I…I want to make sure we understand we’re not making an easy truce with sin when I say that. We continue to confront sin and call for repentance, but we leave the final determination of judgment to God and as long as we have time, we cease from pronouncing judgment and plead with sinners to receive the mercy that we offer in the gospel. That’s the lesson on mercy and how we need to learn it.
Mercy is at the heart of redemptive ministry. Mercy is to extend to all without regard for race, or status, or gender, or age. And mercy is to be offered patiently toward those who are ignorant in unbelief. And by the way, Micah 7:18, “God delights in mercy.” And He’ll delight in you if you are a merciful Christian.
c. (:56) Reset Their Priorities = Key Verse
“for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
The context in this section is all about salvation; our priority has to be seeking converts
“And they went on to another village.”
No time for condemnation; moving on to another village to bring blessing to them and to proclaim to them the message of the kingdom of God
II. (:57-62) PRIORITY OF FOLLOWING JESUS TRUMPS ALL POSSIBLE EXCUSES – THE COMMITMENT INVOLVED IN FOLLOWING JESUS
A. (:57-58) Excuse #1 = Unwilling to Embrace the Hardship of the Mission
1. (:57) Superficial Commitment
“And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him,
‘I will follow You wherever You go.’”
It is easy to make big claims of loyalty and commitment; much harder to walk the walk;
It is important to keep in view that the concept of “following Jesus” is at the core of salvation because you cannot be saved apart from becoming a genuine disciple; a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ; this is not some type of second tier commitment post salvation
Geldenhuys: He spoke with so much self-confidence because he had no inkling of the way of sorrows and death which the Lord would yet follow and also because he did not realise his own weakness and instability.
2. (:58) Lifestyle of Deprivation
“And Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’”
Donald Miller: acting on emotional enthusiasm – One must count the cost and be ready to share Jesus’ privation (vs. 58). This means the abandonment of all security except that of commitment to God.
B. (:59-60) Excuse #2 = Family Commitments Require Me to Delay
1. (:59) Timing is Wrong
“And He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’
But he said, ‘Permit me first to go and bury my father.’”
Morris: Some hold that, had the father been a corpse at home, the man would probably not have been with Jesus at all; he would have been occupied with duties connected with the funeral. On this view his request was to stay at home until his father died. This might have meant an indefinite delay and the affairs of the kingdom cannot be put off. But the words have an even greater urgency if the father was dead.
J. Ligon Duncan: Now you need to understand that in Jesus’ day, burial was a process that could take about a year. What happened was first, after a person died and after the funeral celebrations had taken place and the body had been prepared and placed in an open tomb, the body would be allowed to decompose over about a year and then the eldest son had the responsibility of going and taking what was left of that decomposed body — by that time just the bones — and placing the bones of his father or mother, his parents, into an ossuary, a box in which the bones of the person would be more permanently laid in a tomb. And this was considered to be part of honoring your father and your mother. This was part of fulfilling the command that you were going to care for your parents all the way up to and even after death.
2. (:60) Mission is Urgent
“But He said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’”
C. (:61-62) Excuse #3 = Other Distractions Compromise a Singular Focus
1. (:61) Divided Loyalties
“And another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’”
2. (:62) You Must Be All In
“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Morris: Jesus points out that the kingdom has no room for those who look back when they are called to go forward.
Sermonwriter.com: Plowing behind a draft animal is exacting work, because the farmer must control the plow with one hand and goad/guide the animal with the other hand. He must watch a fixed point directly ahead to plow a straight furrow. Looking back will cause him to lose sight of the fixed point and to lose control of the plow—causing him to plow a crooked furrow—the mark of an amateur. The crooked furrow will be there for all to see until next year’s plowing.
Geldenhuys: Complete devotion to His service and unconditional faithfulness to the task to which He calls are the indispensable requisites for true following of Jesus.
J. Ligon Duncan: He wants disciples whose hearts are not divided. They’ve already decided that He’s more important than anyone else and so they’re ready to give up everything and follow Him.
Steven Cole: He thought that following Jesus was important, but not important enough to let go of the old relationships and ways. The Lord could tell that the man’s heart was divided. Like Lot’s wife, he just couldn’t quite cut the ties with the old life. He wanted to keep the door open so that if things didn’t work out, he could always go back. He wasn’t willing to make a clean break with the old contacts and way of life.
MacArthur: Jesus said, “Look, if you’re going to follow Me, you have to say goodbye to your family. You have to be willing to cut the cord with your family.” He was going to go back to a family who would never understand this, who would prey on him, who would ply him not to do this and dissuade him. In the 25th verse of Luke 14, “Multitudes were coming along. Jesus turned and said, ‘If anyone comes to Me and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brother, sisters, yea and hate his own life, he can’t be My disciple.'” You’re back to that whole thing of self-hate. And it doesn’t mean that you…you loathe the people in your family, you despise them with some kind of vitriol. It simply means that in a relative sense your love for the kingdom of God is so great that you are really from the spiritual viewpoint indifferent to the compulsions and the pull and the interests of your family.
Steven Cole: In our text, Jesus makes some radical demands on His followers. Interestingly, just two verses later He laments that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (10:2). If Jesus had hired a marketing consultant, he would have said, “Lord, if you want more workers, you’re going to have to be a bit more realistic. You just lost three good volunteers because you demanded all or nothing!”