Themes in Luke—Source, The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume IX
• There is a theme of discipleship and rejection.
• These verses look at the temptation to use violence to achieve right.
Luke 9:51-62 – New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”[a] 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then[b] they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and 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 he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus[c] said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—Pastor Pam
What distracts us from following Christ? These verses in Luke remind us that anger and violence can be our go-to response when we are offended or tempted to pass out judgment even over matters of faith.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he has a laser focus as he keeps his intentions on his mission. When he and the disciples arrive in a Samaritan town, they are not welcomed. Is it because Jesus is only going to stay for a while? Why are the Samaritans upset because the focus of Jesus is on Jerusalem? Does the short stay of Jesus reinforce the enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans that goes way back over religious disagreement?
In any case, he is not received, and the disciples’ response is to ask Jesus if they should command fire down from heaven to consume the Samaritans. Which, incidentally, is a most amazing suggestion that the disciples had such a power!
Maybe the human response to danger or a sense of un-welcome is to cut down or destroy. Perhaps it is a survival skill wired into us when humans were in survival mode in the elements. But Jesus rebukes the disciples for their gut reaction to do harm and they move on.
Readers may struggle with the remaining elements of the story that settle on following Jesus. One person wants to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus gives a cryptic response about not having a place to lay his head. He is always on the move. Another wants to follow but needs to bury his father. Jesus responds that discipleship is about looking forward and not back.
Perhaps Jesus seeks to reinforce in all who seek to follow him that we must do so with a forward focus on his teachings of life-giving and loving ways. We leave desire for vengeance and regret behind and follow him into future places of life we can’t begin to imagine.
Peace and Grace,