Questions at the Crossroads
Week One: Where Are We Going? Make a Decision
Luke 9:51-62 (MSG):
When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?” Jesus turned on them: “Of course not!” And they traveled on to another village.
On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”
Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”
Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”
This Lenten season, or the 40 days leading up to Easter, we’ve been on a hypothetical road trip with Jesus. On Sunday mornings, we’ve been exploring the book of Luke, examining the questions and behaviors presented as Jesus prepared to make his final dissent into Jerusalem.
Our scripture this week encounters Jesus as he begins to realize where his journey will take him. It says that he “gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.” He didn’t just pack up and head straight into town, though. He continued to travel around Galilee, Samaria, and other key cities. Jesus centered himself for the internal journey he was on. He was physically carried back and forth, but mentally he was fixed on Jerusalem as his final destination.
Jesus was on a journey, and so are we. Faith is a process; one that can be easily described as a windy road, filled with stops along the way. At some point we’re all faced with those typical road trip questions: Where are we going? Who’s coming with us? How will we pay for it? What will we do when we get there?
This week, we’re going to be looking at three potential disciples that Jesus encounters on his journey. Each of them are faced with a choice on their destinations. All three make reasonable arguments about why they can’t embark on their faith journey right now, and all are met by Jesus with a counter argument.
The reality is, we’ve all got excuses. There will always be something that feels more important than exploring a journey of faith with Jesus. But, Jesus will always encourage us to refocus, to gather courage and steel ourselves for the journey, and understand that the lessons we learn here will impact every life stop we reach along the way.
BEHIND THE STORY:
In Luke 9, we encounter Jesus as he prepares for his impending death. He starts by commissioning his disciples to go forth and perform miracles and to share the Gospel. He explains to them that they should be humble in the process. They should share the good news of Jesus by forming relationships and relating to their communities, not by demanding flashy living arrangements or expecting high praise.
Then, Jesus and the disciples find themselves in a bit of a bind. Jesus was preaching to a crowd greater than 5,000, and all they had to eat were five loaves of bread and two fish. Here, we see Jesus instruct and empower the disciples to feed the crowd. After some strategic organizing, they were able to feed everyone and have an abundance in leftovers.
Jesus would go on to warn the disciples of his incoming death, but they were unable to understand at that time. He would then have a mystical and otherworldly encounter with Moses and Elijah on the side of a mountain, where he would further learn of his great “exodus,” or departure from this world. He again reminded them of his soon departure, and they were still unable to understand. It’s after this encounter that Jesus internally hardens and focuses himself to Jerusalem, and we step into our scripture today.
3 WOULD-BE DISCIPLES:
The Eager Disciple:
This first disciple approaches Jesus and asks to come along for the journey. They are eager to be a part of the team. Perhaps they’ve seen the impressive miracles, or maybe they’ve recognized the reputation and status that comes with following Jesus. They have an assumption about what it’s like to be a disciple, and they want to be in on the experience.
Jesus had to gently remind them that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. This journey isn’t always an easy one. We’re not exempt from the difficulties and hardships of life. Instead, by embarking on this journey, we’re choosing to surround ourselves with a common community. This way, when life gets hard and the road gets rough, we have a support system. We’re not on this road trip of faith alone.
Have you ever joined a group because of what you thought it was, only to realize it was different from the inside?
Can you think of a time that you were especially thankful for the community around you?
What are some misconceptions of Christianity, positive or negative, that might have prevented you from exploring faith earlier? - Have these ideals changed since you began interacting with the people in your Crew?
2. The Maybe Later Disciple:
The next disciple we encounter is asked by Jesus to come along, and they put it off because of extenuating family circumstances. Now, too often, this scripture is used to inflict damage. It can be used to say that nothing should come before God, not even our hurting family, in a way that is damaging.
Instead, this passage can be read as a means of helping us prioritize our lives. Jesus is reminding them that our lives should be ordered with the Kingdom of God (our journey’s destination) first. Who is to say that Jesus wouldn’t have sent this person home to their family with a renewed sense of purpose? It was, much like Jesus’ own journey, less about a physical location and more about an emotional and spiritual orientation that helps move us along.
Have you ever made excuses about why you can’t invest in your spiritual life? - What are some of those excuses?
How can you begin integrating faith and spirituality into those excuse areas?
Rather than compartmentalizing faith exploration for another time, how can you use what time you have now to begin processing what that might look like for you?
3. The Messy Life Disciple:
The final disciple Jesus encounters is focused on the state of their life. Like most of ours, it’s probably messy and broken and imperfect. They want to have their life more put-together before committing to journey with Jesus. But, Jesus reminds them to not procrastinate. He’s not looking for our lives to be perfect and blemish free. Rather, Jesus wants to walk with us as we navigate the messiness of life. His specialty is finding healing in the mess.
Where can you see yourself procrastinating in faith? Are you holding back in areas until you are “more stable” or “more established?”
How can you begin stripping away excuses and intentionally engaging with your faith this week?