2 Kings 5.1-14; [Psalm 30]; Galatians 6.(1-6) 7-18; Luke 10. 1-12 (13-16) 17-24
ON THE ROAD
Introduction: The reality of being ‘on the road’ has figured in the experience of many. Some cultures demand that the adolescent male prove his manhood by undertaking a journey, perhaps with a number of tasks to complete. The ‘growing up’ journey of many first novels, or the epics that are so often the founding literature of a culture (from Homer and Virgil to Wordsworth and Byron to DH Lawrence and Jack Kerouac) suggest how powerful the journey is as a metaphor for life: the journey is not so much the visible wandering or quest as it is the interior discovery of oneself and one’s human calling. Doubtless you have reflected on your own inner ‘journey’, whether or not it was driven by a geographical one, (as with so many refugees or migrants).
The earliest Christians described themselves as followers of ‘the Way’. The term ‘Christian’ appears to have been a sarcastic reaction to the new sect’s confidence that Jesus the itinerant preacher and healer was ‘the Christ’. But for the believers, it was a journey in the footsteps of Jesus, who they now called Saviour and Lord.
The Gospel passage before us today sets a pattern. The believer’s experience is to be understood as one of being ‘on the road’. Indeed, from Luke 9.51 to the end of chapter 19, ten chapters, Jesus is ‘on the road’ to Jerusalem and what awaits him there, and Luke draws our attention to this repeatedly. The disciples observe how focussed Jesus is ‘on the road to Jerusalem’, and it sometimes scares them. (Mark 10.32). As the gospel reading Sunday by Sunday will trace this road for the next four months, it seems appropriate to draw attention to this background.
- The Turning Point: in the first three gospels the ministry of Jesus falls into two halves. The turning point is Peter’s ‘confession’, where, in answer to our Lord’s question ‘who do you say that I am?’ Peter replies ‘You are the Christ /Messiah of God’ [Matthew 16.16; Mark 8.29; Luke 9.20]. Jesus binds them to silence, speaks of his coming suffering, and indicates that the way of discipleship will be the way of the Cross. The Transfiguration gives Peter, James and John a confirmation of the true identity and coming glory of Jesus, and Jesus then quite deliberately turns his face to Jerusalem: Luke 9.51: ‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.’ Should we or the disciples have any doubts as to the kind of journey this will be, we hear some interchanges with would-be disciples: Luke 9.57-62: ‘As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 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.’ To another he said ‘Follow me.’ But he said ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me say farewell to those at my home’. Jesus said to him, ‘No-one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ The reading today follows directly after these interchanges.
- The Mission of the Seventy: Let us briefly identify the features of the way of discipleship in this blueprint; some will seem quite alien; others more familiar:
(a) It is a big job (v.2): ‘the harvest is plentiful, but…’
(b) You will be like lambs in the midst of wolves (v.3)
(c) You are to be purpose-driven (v.4): no baggage, or pleasantries
(d) Take advantage of whatever opportunity you get to talk about the Kingdom (v.5-9)
(e) You will be unpopular, but it is the message rather than you (v.11-16
(f) The reality of your experience is profound, but it is not about you (v. 17-20)
- Walking with Jesus: as we hear these coming chapters of Luke’s Gospel, I hope we will keep this larger context in mind. We will encounter much of the New Testament record of Jesus that is unique to Luke, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan next week, and we will be regularly challenged about our attitude to our possessions. Our services will provide a setting for us to reflect, prayerfully, and in the presence of God, on what our Lord seeks for us in our own contemporary situation. It will help to keep in mind that we as disciples are on the road, taking a great and significant journey, following in our master’s footsteps.