Responding to Rejection (Luke 9:51-56)
Jesus is now leaving Galilee and heading towards Jerusalem. We will see three different characters/groups (Jesus, Samaritan Village, James & John) with three different purposes. I think the goal is to evaluate whether our own mission/purposes are aligned with Christ’s kingdom purposes. We so easily focus on our own agenda to the neglect of Christ’s mission. This will also be the theme of the passage that follows.
It also complements our text this morning. Take the basic principle that we are to be in the world but not of the world. If the love of Christ compels us to guard against worldly corruption, that teaches us how to keep the world from getting into us. Holding fast to the name of Christ is not incompatible with living in a corrupt world, but how are we to treat those indulging in worldly corruption? In our rejection of worldly corruption, what is the Christian called to with regard to worldly people.
This passage calls us to a compassionate response. Show compassion in the face of a hostile culture, for the sake of the gospel. I don’t think this is easy to practice, but it is consistent with the whole counsel of God’s Word.
Read Luke 9:51-56.
I. Determined to Die (51)
The “days drew near” clearly places this passage in the context of Redemptive History. Luke wants you to have the fulfillment of messianic prophecy on your mind as you read this episode. “Taken up” is a reference to his ascension, but the idea that he “set his face” implies his resolve to die first. He didn’t need courage and strength to ascend to his Father, but the thought of being separated from his Father–as he bore the weight of our sin–was a source of angst. He is facing his death with determination. This highlights our Lord’s commitment to the covenant of redemption. Jesus is the “founder and perfected of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” (Heb. 12:2). The cross comes before the crown.
Isaiah 50:5-9 speaks of the suffering servant setting his face like flint, determined to endure the pain of his scourging and mockery with God’s help. It ought to heighten our appreciation for Jesus if this prophecy was on his mind at this time. And I think it was.
Has the heart of the Savior captivated your own heart? Has his mission taken precedence over your own agenda? Paul told the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). We might all be called to very different things, but we are all fundamentally called to glorify God whatever our vocation might be. We fulfill our kingdom purposes as we do our best work for his glory. We have seen this theme several times already. As Christ was determined to die for us, we ought to be willing to die to ourselves.
Unfortunately, that was not on the minds of the Samaritan village who was…
II. Determined to Divide (52-53)
The Samaritan village noticed Jesus’ determination to get to Jerusalem, so they did not want to provide provisions for him to stay with them. Jesus did possess a greater interest in Israel (Mt 10:5-6), but that had nothing to do with the cultural tension.
King Omri, ruling the northern kingdom of Israel, bought a hill and named it Samaria, after its previous owner, Shemer (1 Ki 16:21-24). Within this region, upon Mount Gerizim, was eventually established an alternative site for the people to worship (Jn 4:9, 19-23). Jews considered Samaritans half-breeds because they intermarried with the pagan nations.
An unwillingness to show hospitality was a tremendous insult. And this was not uncommon for Samaria. But the hatred was from both directions.
Josephus describes how those from Galilee would often travel through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem during festival seasons. On one such occasion, the Samaritan village of Ginea provoked a fight with the Galileans and killed many of them. The Jews responded by attempting to hire a hitman who would avenge the murders, but the Samaritans had already paid the man off in order to keep him out of it. So the Galileans took up arms themselves, and gained the support of a man who survived in the mountains by robbing Samaritans. When the hitman heard about the plan of the Galileans he gathered four regiments of footmen and armed the Samaritans and led them out to fight the Jews. This left many more dead. It took the discouragement of some influential Jewish leaders to end the violent retaliation and instead enter into a time of mourning.
Calvin, “Many will be impelled by the warmth of their zeal, but if the spirit of prudence be wanting, their ebullitions end in foam. Frequently, too, it happens, that the impure feelings of the flesh are mingled with their zeal, and that those who appear to be the keenest zealots for the glory of God are blinded by the private feelings of the flesh.”
Zeal must be tempered with wisdom and prudence. We cannot trust our gut reactions to every sense of injustice we face. Both the Jews and the Samaritans were so busy hating, that they were blinded from the love of Jesus. Samaria’s hatred for Jerusalem kept them from receiving the Savior. Jerusalem’s hatred for their Savior led to his crucifixion.
How are you dealing with any remaining hostility in your own heart? Is there any sense of distrust or division that is isolating you from the Savior and his means of grace? We come to church to receive mercy and compassion from our Lord. If anything comes in the way of that, we ought to question whose mission we’ve actually adopted.
This zealous response of retribution and vengeance, that results from division, was precisely what the disciples were expecting. In this case, James and John speak up and reveal that they are…
III. Determined to Judge (54-56)
Luke is writing to Christians who are struggling to believe in the face of cultural hostility. The response of the Samaritan village is not surprising as we’ve already seen. Luke highlights the lack of compassion from James and John. But, even their response, should not be surprising.
Illustration: Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume the army sent from Samaria by King Ahaziah (2 Ki 1:1-18). James and John were probably thinking they ought to be commended for their zeal. But context is everything.
Jesus’ purpose was not to bring judgment, but salvation. His meek response to the rejection of this Samaritan village is contrasted with the harsh response of the disciples.
Sproul, “The day of woe will indeed come, but the difference between God and the disciples is the difference between a God who is slow to anger, who is patient, gracious and long-suffering, and sinful disciples who were quick to anger, impatient and short-suffering. They were ready to bring swift and sudden destruction to the first act of disloyalty to Jesus.”
How should we respond when the culture rejects Christianity due to its moral stance? Do we call for fire from heaven to consume our adversaries? Does the world see our angry defiance more than our gentle compassion? Maybe we aren’t all called to have the demeanor of Mr. Rogers, but neither are we all called to model ourselves after zealous political talk show hosts, that I will refrain from mentioning by name.
What is your default posture to those who reject you and your Christian morality? Do you thumb your nose at them and chalk it up as another example of the hatred we must endure? Do you foment anger and gather the troops to respond with a boycott? A compassionate response might be much closer to the heart of Jesus. And that means we slow down and prayerfully consider how the gospel might change both our demeanor and our actions towards our opponents.
Bock, “This perspective indicates how the church should handle rejection. Since God will exercise justice at some future time, vindication is not called for now. As long as the era of grace continues, the church should continue to minister and offer her message of hope. To be a servant of the gospel is not to highlight judgment or long for execution, but to seek to save lives as long as God allows.”