Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51, 53). This is his purpose and goal, and the time has come for him to go in that direction. It is good to have a goal, for without a goal you cannot accomplish much. But while it is good to have a goal, it is no good to have a wrong goal; there is nothing to be gained by efficiently moving in the wrong direction. Jesus has a goal, but it is more than an example of a model of focus and commitment to an end point to plan your life. This shows us that at the heart of Jesus’ ministry is the cross. So many people want to make Jesus merely the good teacher, or the wise philosopher, or the miracle worker; but above all Jesus is the crucified one. And Paul was right to emphasize only Christ and him crucified. When we talk of Jesus, let us not leave it long before we focus on where he focused: the cross.
The Samaritan village rejects him because he is going to Jerusalem. For them they merely associate the city with a religious heritage that had rejected them, and so they reject it and anyone who was going towards that city. The disciples, James and John, want to call down fire from heaven and consume the Samaritans (9:54). But Jesus rebukes them (9:55). There is such a thing as too much zeal, or being all truth without any love. The Samaritans may have deserved the end which James and John had planned for them, but then we all deserve far worse than we receive. Let mercy rule our judgments, and love our policies, for we serve the King of Love.
Now come three great principles of what it means to follow Jesus. First of all, a commitment to go where he leads, even if it means that we leave home comforts (9:58). It is amazing when you put this in the light of eternity, but there are people who refuse to follow Jesus because they do not want to miss their favorite TV show, they do not want to get out of bed on Sunday morning, they do not want to have to leave their home city. Remember what you gain when you follow Jesus: eternity in the presence of Jesus himself. What is a home in this world compared to that great reward, and the presence of Jesus himself now?
Then there is the barrier of family (9:60). It seems a harsh saying, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead,” but the man was probably asking to have permission to stay where he was and not follow Jesus until his father had died. He was probably very much alive at the time, and it could be a long wait before he followed Jesus. But Jesus asks for a higher loyalty than even that asked by Elijah of his disciple Elisha. There is no time to bury the dead. He must go and follow Jesus now.
Finally, there is the principle of looking back (9:62): “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” How tempting have God’s people always found this! It was not but a few days out of Egypt before God’s people were longing to go back to Egypt! It does not take long after we have been rescued from some horrible calamity before we forget how miserable we were and start to be discontent with where we are now. We live in an age of “more,” which means we live in an age of discontentment, which means we live in a deeply unhappy age. Accumulation can never buy you happiness by definition; happiness is contentment with what you have; greed will only ever make the purchaser miserable. Don’t look back in envy; put your hand to plow and move on in your journey with God.
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