Friday, September 3, 2010

Discipleship can mean being rejected.

51As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56and they went to another village.

Jesus instructs the disciples about the special nature of the time in which they live. It is not a time of judgment but of invitation. It is the hour of decision, and decisions about the disciples' message have everlasting consequences.
Knowing God is a blessing and life's highest priority. But that blessing is not automatic for every individual; it must be consciously entered into by embracing the hope the disciples offer. This period is so special that kings and prophets have longed to share in the blessings that the disciples get to experience through Jesus. To minister with power is exciting, but to know God and his grace is even better.
Jesus' path often leads to rejection. The lesson, however, is not rejection's presence but how we respond to it. Jesus sends messengers ahead to prepare the people for his arrival. Much like an advance public relations team, they were to help plan what would occur when he arrived. But the Samaritans did not welcome him. The explanation is that Jesus' face is set toward Jerusalem. In other words, rejection is his fate. Even though that rejection will occur in the capital of Israel, the Samaritan reaction mirrors that coming reality. The world is not responsive to Jesus; rejection is widespread.
The disciples react with the wish to use their connections and power to launch a retributive strike. James and John ask for the ancient equivalent of nuking the enemy: "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" The disciples understand the great power they have access to, but the question is whether vindictive use of this power is proper. Is their hostile reaction justified?
Jesus corrects them. The text does not tell us what he said. In a story that is a little unusual in form, it simply notes that Jesus rebukes them and they move on to the next village. Many Gospel accounts end with a climactic saying of Jesus, a pronouncement that is key to the event in question. Here Jesus' action speaks for itself. There is no saying; rather, the disciples' saying becomes a view to be rejected emphatically. The disciples are not to wield their power as a club of judgment. Vindication from God will come later, as he deals with those who reject him. In the midst of rejection, it becomes crucial to understand the nature of discipleship. The presence of the kingdom means not instant power and position but rejection by the world. It requires a focused commitment to be a disciple.
The call is to go and proclaim the kingdom of God. This is the responsibility of all disciples. All must be prepared to share the message of God's goodness in Christ. In being a disciple, all must expect at some time to be rejected by the world. But we can always take solice in the fact that Jesus is there with us in our rejection.

Peace and love,

"Then Jesus said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". (Luke 9:23)

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