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SERMONS 2005 - 2007

16th July 2006 

JESUS RESOLUTELY SET OUT FOR JERUSALEM   Pastor Linton Smith

When I was much younger I helped my father on the farm and that sometimes meant ploughing the paddocks. I would drive the tractor round and round the paddock.. trying to keep the right hand side of the plough just overlapping the previous ploughed soil. I quickly learned that if I looked behind.. to keep my eye on the plough.. I would soon be off course. If my mind wandered.. the result was the same.

The only way to proceed was to look ahead.. and keep the tractor wheels the right distance from the ploughed soil.. to concentrate.. and to keep on concentrating.. whatever I did I could not hurry up the work.. just had to keep on keeping on.. round after round.

It is like that with the Christian life. Once we get started.. it is a matter of looking ahead.. and keeping on.. keeping on.. a matter of being resolute.

In Luke 9:51-62 we see Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem. Around Him we see people who are very different. Jesus stands out.

He stands out in contrast to..

o        PEOPLE IN THE GRIP OF A GRUDGE

Luke writes.. Luke 9:51-53.. As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.

Jesus set out for Jerusalem. He knew where He was headed.. and what awaited Him there.. there He would be taken up to heaven.. He would be crucified.. buried.. rise again.. and ascend to heaven.

Instead of going around Samaria.. He decided to go through Samaria.. and sent messengers on ahead to arrange hospitality. But the Samaritans discovered He was going to Jerusalem.. and refused to welcome Him. Had He been planning to stay there and worship at their place of worship they would have welcomed Him.. but He was going to Jerusalem.. and that aroused their deep resentment. They were in the grip of a centuries old grudge.. and refused Him hospitality.

How Jesus stands out from them! Was he caught up in the feud? No. On another occasion He went through Samaria.. came to Sychar.. sat by the well.. and shocked a Samaritan woman..

John writes.. John 4:7-9.. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

What a challenge He is to us to rise above our grudges, to behave like Him.

He stands out in contrast to..

o        TWO MEN BENT ON RETALIATION

James and John were not impressed with the Samaritans..

Luke 9:54-56.. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.

These two disciples had absolute confidence in the power of Jesus. If He chose to.. He could authorize them to call down fire from heaven. And that is what they wanted to do. They were bent on retaliation. But Jesus rebuked them.. and they went on to another village.

Jesus was not one to retaliate..  take revenge.

When He suffered on the cross He hung there an innocent person.. in great pain.. and people were hurling insults at Him. How did He respond? He prayed for them.. again and again.. Father, forgive them.. Father forgive them..

Many years later Peter looked back to that time.. and wrote..

1 Peter 2:23.. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

What a challenge Jesus is to us to resist the urge to hit back.. to behave like Him.

He stands out in contrast to..

o        A GLIB VOLUNTEER

Luke 9:57,58.. As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

This man had false expectations.. and possibly wrong motives.

He thought of Jesus as the Messiah.. King.. ruling a free Israelite kingdom.. and was keen to follow Him.. and share in His kingdom with all its power and riches. Jesus set him right. Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Many were poor in those days but very few were homeless. Jesus was homeless.. depended on the hospitality of others.. This man had completely the wrong idea of Jesus and what it meant to be the Son of Man.

Not long before this Jesus had told His disciples He would be rejected.. suffer.. be killed.. and rise again

Later He would say..

Matthew 20:28.. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Kenneth E. Bailey says, “Jesus is the Son of man, but his ministry is a suffering rather than a triumphant fulfilment of that title.. this volunteer mirrors those in every age who glibly offer to follow Jesus with no serious reflection on the price or the implications of following a suffering, rejected master” [Through Peasant Eyes p25].

How Jesus stands out! There is nothing glib about Him. He resolutely sets out for Jerusalem.. fully knowing what lies ahead.

What a challenge He is to us to follow Him regardless of the cost!

He stands out in contrast to..

o        AN UNWILLING RECRUIT

Luke 9:59,60.. He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

The man’s response sounds quite reasonable.. and Jesus’ response unreasonable. Not so.. not in that culture.

Kenneth E. Bailey says that he has heard this language used again and again among Middle Easterners discussing emigration. A person in his 30s is talking about his plans to emigrate.. and at some point in the conversation someone will say, “Are you not going to bury your father first?”  [Through Peasant Eyes p26]

In that culture it was expected by the community.. that a son stay at home.. care for his parents.. until they are laid to rest respectfully.. then he could go away.

This recruit was saying.. I will not come at this time. I must do what my community expects of me.  Was he thinking.. When I am free of those requirements.. then I will come?  Perhaps.. but by the way Jesus responds to him.. it seems he was thinking.. if I can get out of it now.. I will never need to follow Him. Deep down he just wasn’t willing to follow Jesus. Why? Because of peer pressure. He is like the person who says, Yes, I would like to come. Let me talk to my wife about it.. and later says, Sorry, my wife had made other plans!

Jesus will have none of this. You do not belong back there. You have been hanging around Me and My followers.. you have got a taste of real life.. kingdom life.. let those who don’t know about this life.. care for your parents. Be willing! Come right now and proclaim the kingdom of God.

The night before He suffered Jesus set the example..

John 14:31.. The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave.

What a challenge Jesus is to us - to be willing!

He stands out in contrast to..

o        A RELUCTANT VOLUNTEER

Luke 9:61,62.. Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Again the request sounds reasonable.. and Jesus’ response a little harsh.. But again it is a matter of the culture and customs..

Kenneth E. Bailey points out that the Greek word translated ‘good-bye’ is found 5 times in the New Testament. In all four other places it is translated, ‘take leave of’ and should be translated that way here. He explains..

“In Middle Eastern culture.. the person who is leaving must request permission to leave from those who are staying.. the volunteer is asking for the right to go home and get permission from ‘those at home’ (i.e., his parents). Everyone listening to the dialogue knows that naturally his father will refuse.. Thus the volunteer’s excuse is ready-made. Shedding crocodile tears he can loudly protest that he wants to go but his father will not permit him” [Through Peasant Eyes p28].

Deep down this man was almost as unwilling as the previous man.. but he did volunteer to follow Jesus.. reluctantly. 

Jesus knew he was not wholehearted and would be constantly looking back.. and challenged him.. No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

If it is difficult to keep a modern plough in the right furrow.. it was much harder then.. just a single plough.. it had to be kept next to the last furrow.. and you could only do that.. by looking ahead.. keeping the oxen’s feet in the right place.. and your weight on the plough. A follower of Jesus.. must not be reluctant.. ever looking back.. but committed.. resolute.. determined!

Again Jesus sets the example..  He had set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem..  and the night before He suffered He really struggled..

Luke 22:41-44.. He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

He felt the full weight of what He was about to go through. But He pressed on.. How? His eyes were fixed on what was ahead.. not only the cross.. but His resurrection.. and ascension..

What a challenge He is to us to be resolute followers!

Be a true disciple! Rise above grudges. Rise above retaliation. Follow regardless of the cost. Be willing. Be resolute.

How? Draw strength from Jesus!

In the words of Hebrews 12:2,3.. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.