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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 9:51–62

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 6, Proper 8, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jun 26, 2016 

Todays Gospel begins with the words: When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51) This interesting figure of speech means that Jesus focused His energies on going to Jerusalem.  Every step that He takes brings Him a little closer to Jerusalem.  He focused on Jerusalem because there, in Jerusalem, He had an appointment with a cross.

Jesus made this appointment in eternity before He even participated in the creation of the world.  We learn this from the inspired words of Paul to the church in Ephesus: [God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:4) He also wrote to Pastor Timothy and reminded him, [God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. (2 Timothy 1:9) He also greeted Pastor Titus with similar words, Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of Gods elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. (Titus 1:12) These Bible passages and others like them tell us that the Son of God made His appointment with the cross before the creation of the world.  Indeed, God made the promise to save us before He even created time itself.

The fact that God already had a plan of salvation in place reminds us once again that God knew we would sin before He even made us.  God wasnt surprised when Adam and Eve sinned in Eden.  The plan for saving Adam, Eve, and all humanity from sin was already at work.  The Son of God had already made His appointment with the cross.  So it is that about 4,000 years before the Son of God would take up His humanity in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He was able to appear to Adam, Eve, and the serpent.  It is because He already had an appointment with the cross that the Son of God could proclaim the first gospel even as He condemned the serpent and said, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15) With these words, the Son of God proclaimed that He would take up His own humanity in the womb of a virgin as the seed of the woman who would crush the serpents head.  He could say this because He had already made His appointment with the cross.  The entire Old Testament points forward to the time when the Son of God kept His appointment with the cross.

Jesus knew that this trip to Jerusalem was a trip to His death.  As he set his face to go to Jerusalem, He organized a farewell tour from Galilee in the North to Judea in the South.  He set aside time to stop in the towns and villages along the way to proclaim the Gospel.

So how did the world respond to the Savior making His farewell tour to Jerusalem to die for all the sins of all mankind?  Lukes account of the Gospel indicates that most people were clueless.

The Samaritans objected to Jesus on the simple principle that they objected to everyone who went to Jerusalem to worship.  Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim, and rejected Jerusalem as the proper place of worship.  Therefore, they did everything they could to make life uncomfortable for those who traveled to Jerusalem for worship.

The disciples responded to the Samaritans resistance with a demonstration of their own ignorance.  When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them? (Luke 9:54) Here the disciples demonstrate that they are looking for a kingdom of power and glory instead of a kingdom of mercy and grace.  Jesus did not come to destroy sinners, but to redeem them.  That is the reason He set his face to go to Jerusalem to go to the cross.

Then there are examples of people who came forward to express their desire to be disciples.  They also demonstrated that they did not understand.

As they were going along the road, someone said to [Jesus], I will follow you wherever you go. (Luke 9:57) Did this person understand that Jesus was en-route to Jerusalem to die on a cross?  Did this person understand that Jesus carried the sins of the world and that His suffering on the cross would also be accompanied by enduring the fire of Gods wrath against the sins of the entire world?  Jesus responded to this man by informing him that following Jesus will not lead to success according to the judgment of this world.  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. (Luke 9:58)

There are those who teach that once a person becomes a Christian, their debt will go down, their wealth will go up, the quality of their marriage will improve, they will get more respect in the work place, and their rebellious children will suddenly rise up and call them blessed.  I have even seen presentations that seem to say that Christian football coaches are more likely to win than their non-Christian counterparts.  There are many who teach that the way we can know that the Kingdom of God is near is that everything in this world will go our way.  Such teachers may become multi-millionaires, but they are not teaching what Jesus taught.

The next two people have a different problem.  They want Jesus to change His priorities to match their priorities.  Notice that Jesus called them, but they both had things that they had to do first.  The first person said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father, (Luke 9:59) and the second person said, I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home. (Luke 9:61) It is that little five letter word first.  There was nothing wrong with what they wanted to do.  It was that they wanted these things to have priority over following Jesus.  Jesus told the first of these two people, Leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Luke 9:60) He told the second, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62) In another place and time Jesus said, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:3739)

Martin Luther had this to say about getting priorities straight: I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust is right, then your god is also true. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God [Hebrews 11:6]. Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god. (Large Cat.: Commandments, art. i) There are many good and wonderful things to do in this world, but if we set our heart on these things, they can become just as much an idol as any pagan statue.  In todays Gospel, Jesus even shows us how even family can become an idol and push God off His throne.

If we are honest, we have to admit that there have been many times that we have set our hearts on things below instead of things above.  We have loved ourselves more than we have loved God.  We have turned our family members into idols by setting our hearts on them.  We have followed our own thoughts and feelings instead of Gods commands.  We have let the peer pressure of this world set our agenda.  The comforts and pleasures of this world have overridden the standards found in Gods word.  We often make decisions based on what is fun and boring instead of on what is right and wrong.  We have obeyed God only when it is convenient.  We have earned Gods eternal wrath in many, many ways.

Fortunately, the one who set his face to go to Jerusalem invites us to follow Him.  Jesus loved us so much that He offered up His perfect life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world.  He even atoned for the idolatry of our upside down priorities.  He took the punishment we deserved when we substituted our agenda for Gods agenda.  Not only did He take away our sins, but He also gave us His righteousness.  Even though we are sinners, God the Father looks on us and declares us righteous.  Jesus certified all this by rising from the dead.  With His resurrection, we receive the promise of a new eternal life with Him forever.

The one who set his face to go to Jerusalem sends the Holy Spirit to establish and sustain our faith through the power of the Gospel.  He is preparing a place for us in the presence of His Father and the day will come when He will call all His followers home to be with Him forever.

In the mean time we follow the instructions Jesus has given His church Go and proclaim the kingdom of God. There are many who are still dead in their trespasses and sin.  They need to hear about the eternal salvation that Jesus has earned for them.  There are still many who need to hear about the one who set his face to go to Jerusalem.  Amen

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