Tuesday, April 8, 2014


The central section of Luke's Gospel devotes much material to Jesus' training of His disciples - not only the 12, but a much larger group.  His training program was not the sort of training program we'd see inaugurated in our day when the emphasis is on leadership and the qualities required.  Jesus rather emphasized what we could call "followership."  As a matter of fact, His methods would undoubtedly have been just as out of place in His day as in ours.

Look at His recruitment program and how He dealt with three would-be apprentices:
          "As they were going in the way, someone said to Him, 'I'll follow you wherever you go!'
          Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have dens and the birds of the sky nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place where He may lay His head.'
          He said to another, 'Follow Me.'
          He replied, 'Lord, first permit me to go to bury my father.'
          He said to him, 'Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.'
          Another also said, 'I'll follow you Lord - but first permit me to say goodbye to those in my house.'
          Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks behind is fit for the Kingdom of God!'"
          Luke 9:57-64

We're not told whether or not any of the three signed up.  Elsewhere in the Gospels we do read of similar calls and that some did respond.

As we discussed this passage in our Sunday morning Bible study, I felt that all of us (myself included) felt some discomfort with these demands.  Someone made the statement that these demands were unreasonable and most of us agreed that by this world's standards they definitely were.

Someone else brought up the fact that we who follow Jesus are citizens of two kingdoms - the Kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  These demands are unreasonable by the thinking of the Kingdom of this world, but not by that of the Kingdom of God.

The demands Jesus makes are unreasonable, if we begin our reasoning with the premises of this world.  But they are reasonable if we begin with the premises of the Kingdom of God.

And what are those premises?  I do not intend to look here at all of them and to compare those of the two contrasting Kingdoms, except for a few basics.

If I may speak in generalities, this world is based on self-centeredness.  The goals are personal happiness.  We seek for fame, wealth, possessions, power, and position in order to bring about this happiness.

The premise of the Kingdom of God is God-centered.  He is to be the center of our concern, our worship, and our service.  And this concern is to work itself out in service to others.  Self takes a back seat.

After this recruitment program, Jesus sent 70 disciples out in pairs "to every town and place where He was going to go" (Luke 10:1).  Who these people were, we're not told,  though their number probably included the twelve.  Did it also include raw recruits like the three just mentioned?  Their assignment and methods are spelled out in this chapter although the history of their mission itself is not described.

We read that "the 70 returned with joy saying 'Lord even the demons are submitted to us in your name'" (10:17).  They are filled with excitement over the newly gained power and authority.  After a few words concerning their new powers and their place in God's program, Jesus apparently wants to bring them down from this excitement.

"However don't rejoice in this, that the spirits are submitted to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the Heavens!" (10:20).

Often when reading a passage such as the above, we stop and package it up by itself, pulling it out of its immediate context.  We then pick up the following passage at some other time and do the same with it, failing to see the connections.  We may especially do this with the one that follows this story.  We want to meditate on Jesus' prayer to His Father, without considering that it was apparently uttered in the presence of those 70 who had just returned from their mission.

"At that same hour, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I praise You Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to children.  Yes Father, because this was pleasing in your sight!  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.  And no one knows Who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him'" (10:21, 22).

I have pondered the deep theological implications of Jesus' prayer many times, but have failed to recognize when He uttered it.  It says, "At that same hour."  In other words, immediately after the 70 had returned with reports of their mission.  They were on a high from seeing success occur at their hands.  Jesus had just assured them of their place in heaven.  But then, instead of building up their self-esteem, He turns to His Father and thanks Him for using these "children" - while they were apparently listening.  I can imagine the wind going out of their sails.  They stopped high-fiving and probably were pretty bewildered.  Surely Jesus could have given them a little bit of praise?  Is He being unreasonable again?

I like recognition, even when it's flattery.  It seems as though that is the way we're made.  We love a little pat on the back for what we've accomplished.  But somehow Jesus seems to love to burst our bubbles.  God doesn't use us because we are so well qualified.  He uses us because we are not qualified!  The praise goes to Him.

Anyway, Jesus does end this with a bit of encouragement.

"And turning to the disciples privately, He said, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see, for I'm telling you that many prophets and kings have wanted to see what you see and haven't seen and to hear what you hear and haven't heard'" (10:23, 24). 
The logic of the Kingdom of God makes sense if we start from the premises of the Kingdom. It makes no sense if we begin with the premises of this world.

No comments: