Luke 9:51-62; Galatians 5:1, 13-25
There’s a lot in this gospel story today. This is the point where things shift in Luke’s gospel from Jesus the wandering healer and preacher to his intentional journey toward the cross. When he sets his face to Jerusalem, everything changes. It’s not as though everything before hasn’t mattered, but it’s been the prelude to things greater and ultimately more important.
Some might say this is where Jesus goes off the deep end. He should have just stayed a miracle-worker in Galilee. It might not have gotten him killed, but certainly no one in our day would have ever heard of him.
But, this is where he fully comes into his own mind and he starts following his calling. It makes people uncomfortable to see someone so determined and so passionate. And it makes his disciples just that more ready to defend and protect him from those who would get in his way…at least at this point in the story…since I doubt they have any real idea where he’s headed.
So, the thing that jumped out at me most in this whole piece is when James and John saw how the Samaritans had rejected Jesus and they say, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
Scripture can be so revealing and stripped-down honest about human nature. “Yeah, we hate the Samaritans! We’ve got all this power! Let’s take ’em out, the no-good scum.” Don’t you love it!
Why is it that when people differ from our sense of the way we think things ought to be, we first view them as opponents to be challenged and if they don’t give in, we want to destroy them?
This becomes easier when those who are not “cooperating” with us don’t see things the way we do or do what we want or are different from us.
Our tendency to label someone as “other” – whether in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whatever, confers an evil permission to treat them differently. And if you’re different, then I don’t have to treat you like an equal. I can regard you as less than human, or at least less human than I am. And ultimately, I can destroy you!
In our baptismal covenant, we promise to respect the dignity of every human being, but if you’re not a human being, then all bets are off.
But Jesus turned and rebuked them.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he refers to Jesus’ great law that says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And then he goes on, “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” And here we are! There are such great and terrible consequences to our actions. Thank God, Jesus rebuked them!
Jesus’ whole life and mission are a rebuke of our penchant for solving problems with violence, to define people as different, and to assume that some are in and others are out. Sadly, it doesn’t take much.
And by setting his face toward the cross, he will be made to be the other by of a group of people who fear him and decide the best thing to do is command fire to come down from heaven and destroy him? Or at least that’s what they believe.
This is someone else’s thought, but “What if Jesus’ cross and resurrection are less about “forgiveness of sin” in some abstract sense and more about God’s promise to enter into our chaos and fear, stand with us through all that frightens us, remind us that God will not abandon us, and bring us to life on the other side?
The antidote to fear, Jesus shows us, isn’t power or weapons or security, it’s courage, compassion, and trust.” *
Back to me…That is what the cross is for me. We are a people in great need of forgiveness, it is becoming so much more central in my being a follower of Jesus.
Our society, our governments, our schools, even our environment are falling apart at the seams. We seemingly without thought, destroy others by naming them as other because they are not thin, a different, a different sexual orientation, and they can’t concentrate in school. What have we become?
Our greatest gift is that we can name things, people, ideas. It is the first gift God gives Adam when he gives him the privilege of naming the animals. And it is our greatest sin, because with such amazing power, we can so easily create the ‘other.’ And we have done so with great abandon. And it has been to our peril.
Where do we go from here? It sounds simplistic, but I think we need to be rebuked by Jesus. We need to get on our knees and ask for forgiveness. We are all complicit, we are all guilty. And we should all consider the places and times when, not only should we, in the name of God, ask if we should call upon heaven to consume those unlike us…but we actually do so.
The church, even in her brokenness, offers us this chance. May we do that this morning, with purpose and intention. If Jesus can go to Jerusalem and the cross for us, can we do less than follow him there?
* David Lose, “In the Meantime” blog posted on June 22, 2016 at
(C) The Reverend Patty Baker
St. Clare Episcopal Church