Unfit for the Kingdom of God? Reflections of St. Luke 9:51-62

Jesus taught in parables. His manner of teaching is taught as fact, and then ignored – or perhaps only understood by a few ? can be distracting at times. I sat listening to a talk in which this reading was explained in the literal sense. I found my lips moving (thankful the voice box was off!) saying “oh, no – that is not what Jesus said”.

What is Jesus talking about in these readings? It sounds scary (what is it about some readings that cause people to tense, become fearful and say… um no???”). Presentation. So, lets take a look at  our master teacher Jesus, and His parables.

Gospel Lk 9:51-62

“When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village”.

If we look back to Luke 9:2-5 which I have discussed in my post The Mission of the Twelve we read; 2and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick]. 3He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. 5 And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” So, it would be natural for Jesus not to be surprised that they were turned away from any location and to chastise His disciples – their reaction was out of line with His teachings.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Parable? Right. Traveling along on this mission, it’s clear they were turned away from lodgings. We already know He did have a Home as did the rest of the Disciples. In this case – they were traveling.

And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Here, Jesus in His normal teaching style is saying “Follow me”, I can almost picture Him standing among a group of people or sitting on a boulder, getting off His feet for a bit and having a refreshment. Right? Casual discussion, important lessons. We know He is the fisher of men. He knows not all will follow. Here, we see a frank exchange, a discussion. “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” Christs reply? “Let the dead bury the dead”. Another states “let me first say farewell to my family at home” Christs reply? “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom.”

Say … what? Jesus is pulling in His net, let’s see which fish He has caught. “Let the dead bury the dead” is stated in translations as let the spiritually dead bury the dead. Now while that is quite possible, I tend to see this more as a case of “don’t use your aging father as an excuse to not spread the “word”. We really are not give a lot to work with here so it is purely speculation. However, when we consider the next sentence “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom.” It is clear, Jesus is saying “Look here folks, if you really are going to follow me to our Father then stay on task, you’ve put your hand to the plough – don’t back down now. Carry forward. You are called to be a disciple”

We are not being told we have to give up our families. We are not being told we are to give up our friends or home. In fact, what we are being told – clearly is; If you say you will follow me you will spread the word of God. In those times (as even today) it can be dangerous to travel to certain area’s to spread the word but we can do so and we can go with our families too.

In the Church of Latter Day Saints, young adults “How long is a mission for a Mormon? Many missionaries learn a new language at a missionary training center as part of their assignment. Missions typically last two years for males, 18 months for females, and 6 to 18 months for older couples. The LDS Church strongly encourages, but does not require, missionary service for young men.” I remember reading about this when I was younger, and it came to mind again when I came across an article on Elizabeth Smart and that she and her husband met abroad, on “mission”. – My Christian (Protestant) grandparents used to offer financial and emotional support to missionaries. They assisted several couples over the years (some whom I had met).

It is I think a sad thing, that the simple words of Jesus, taught in parables are too often taken literally. In reality, our loving Father did not create His children only to directly serve Him. Love (God) created love. He who created us, did so in a manner that we would be drawn to loving and helping each other, in peaceful and loving relationships. Yes, that parable of Adam and Eve does explain free will (which is not all bad) but we also have the Holy Spirit within to guide us and help us grow through life with each other, in God, toward our Heavenly Father.

In what ways do you serve as a Disciple of Christ?

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