Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday June 26th 2016 - / Luke 9:51-62 / A Jesus Didn't Look Back
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 26th 2016: The Season of Pentecost, Luke 9:51-62. "Jesus Didn't Look Back"
When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, [Jesus] set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers ahead of Him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for Him. But the people did not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But [Jesus] turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” To another He said, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There is an Advent hymn that we sing almost every year and it's an old one in fact it's one of the oldest hymns in the Service book. This Hymn, "Saviour of the Nations, Come" is attributed to St. Ambrose who was born in 340 AD. Consider verse five, “God the Father was His source, Back to God He ran His course. Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.” We aren't singing it today but what it gives you is the big picture of the race, a big picture of the course, that the Lord Jesus is running. Starting with His incarnation by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary where He was made man Jesus followed the course. Running from this miraculous conception the road broke forth and He walked it without sin, without fault, without stumbling in the law, every step flawlessly placed. This was devotion, and dedication and discipline the likes of which the world had never seen and would never see again. Jesus knew where this course would take Him, He knew where all His devotion, and dedication and discipline along this road would lead Him. It would lead Him to a day, a Friday in Jerusalem, where death with every nail, with every thorn, with every insult, would wrap Him in its strong bands and seek to hold Him forever. Death would try to hold God, would try to swallow God up and lick its lips.
A little later in our Gospel from St. Luke we hear Jesus say as He looks with compassion on the city of Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" Jesus had over and over again told His disciples how, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Our reading in the Gospel of Luke today marks the point where Jesus turns from His time of healing and teaching in the countryside of Galilee to press on to Jerusalem the very place where He know that this would all happen.
When Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem He didn't drag His feet as he went, He didn't take the long road to avoid what He knew was coming when He arrived, no Jesus had been sent and in His sending He faithfully pressed on. The time had come to complete the course. There had, however, been times when people wanted Him dead but it hadn't been His time or it wasn't the proper place. One time in His home town His fellow Nazarenes, "rose up and drove Him out of the town and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went away." It wasn't His time that day but now as He set His face toward Jerusalem Jesus knew that His time had come and there was going to be no turning back.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a famous Lutheran pastor of the last century who died in WWII as a result of being involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, once said, "If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction." Basically he's saying that the train is still going to go where it's going to go. The same can be said if you've boarded the right train. Once you're moving in the right direction it is better to keep doing so, turning back will be of no advantage in that case either. This is the key to this passage. Jesus is having all of these interactions with people who want to avoid getting on "the train" that Jesus is on, they want to avoid joining Jesus on the way to the Cross, they don't want to run the race He is on or follow the course laid out before Him. A little earlier in the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" Run these conversations that Jesus has through this teaching of taking up your cross daily and follow Jesus:
Someone said to [Jesus], “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
There is no promise of a comfortable life in these words - Jesus is acknowledging that pain and suffering and self denial are the traveling companions of those who take up their cross and follow Him. That walking the road will require re-evaluate things like a roof over your head; looking at such a thing no longer as a necessity but as a luxury. Now for those who consider a roof over their head as a luxury in life they will naturally have a better time being content because they will not see the roof as something owed to them by society or by their hard work but rather they will be able to see it as a gift, a mercy.
To another [as Jesus walked the road to Jerusalem, Jesus] said, “Follow Me.” But [the man to whom Jesus said this replied to Jesus], “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
This on the surface seems to be rather heartless, and hard. Surly Jesus would allow someone to bury their father? It's easy to apply this reading first to ourselves, because in our personal selfishness and pride and ego everything is about us. How about if we first look at this passage as it applies to Jesus. The Gospel of Mark tells us how Jesus had come "into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, ... saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus was not about to be distracted or tempted away from His task by personal concerns. These words from Marks Gospel come hot on the heels of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by hunger, by power, by entitlement. Proclaiming the kingdom of God for Christ Jesus had to come before personal dignity or family honour.
Yet another [one called out to Jesus, as Jesus walked the road to Jerusalem, saying], “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Do you feel the pressure yet? This walk to Jerusalem seems to grow harder with every step. For I am not as disciplined and dedicated as Jesus, my devotion to The Way, the path, the road, the course laid out a head of me is poor indeed. The harder I try to take up the cross to follow Jesus the more it seems to slip through my fingers. With my hand on the plow I look back, with my hands of the shovel I burry my father, with my head on my pillow I slip into sleep without even a 'thank you' to God the Father for all that I've been given. Weak, ungrateful, undisciplined and in my sin - full of rejection for what God has called good - I can almost hear James and John saying to Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume [this good-for-nothing reprobate]?”
But what does Jesus say to these Sons of Thunder? He rebukes them. He rebukes them in favour of mercy, love and patience. And while the only thing I'm entitled to in my sin is destruction Jesus instead gives grace. Instead of destruction the Holy Spirit graciously brought you here today to listen to the public reading of Scripture and the preaching of the Gospel, He brought you and I here today to the place where the kingdom of God comes from heaven to earth in the Holy Sacrament of Communion with Christ. For each of these conversations Jesus has, as He presses on to Jerusalem, it is Jesus Himself who fulfils them. He fulfills the requirements of the Law of God with every step, every thought, every word, every deed. He carries the cross faithfully in your place. And from the cross Jesus sets His face toward you. With His head wreathed in a crown of thorns Jesus says, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do," and to you - you and I, men, women and children - who plead along with the thief who was crucified with Jesus saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus says to him, and you, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus sets His face toward this man and says this to him not because this thief had perfectly walked the road, or faultlessly completed the course laid out for him in God's law but because Jesus had done so.
As Jesus looked out from the cross He could see that the foxes had their holes, and birds of the air had their nests, but He the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head crowned with thorns. In fact soon He wouldn't even be able to burry anyone's father it would be mortal men who would take His body down from the cross and lay it in the tomb and had His mother not been standing at the foot of the cross with St. John Jesus would not have been able to leave the cross to go to her, to say goodbye to her or to anyone at His family's home. With His hands nailed to the cross furrowing salvation for you and me with every drop of His shed blood and with each laboured breath Jesus didn't look back.
And now from the cross He looks out to you with blessing, "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord look upon you with favour and give you peace." Jesus having accomplished all He was sent to Jerusalem to do sets His face toward you. And on Easter morning the risen Lord Jesus breaks the bondage of deaths strong bands triumphantly He stands with hell in subjugation beneath His nail pierced feet. The face of Christ set towards you in love becoming eternal sunshine to your heart. And in His ascension His crown of thorns is exchanged for the crown of life. A crown He gives to you: “God the Father was His source, Back to God He ran His course. Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.” When you fail in your devotion, and dedication and discipline to Christ Jesus, when you are tempted off of the way laid out for you, when you fail to head the voice of Jesus calling "take up your cross and follow Me," remember as a baptized child of God - who has been given the gift of faith - to set your face toward Jesus in repentance for He has set His face towards you in love and forgiveness. He is your forgiveness and your salvation. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 13:34
 Luke 9:22
 John 10:22-42
 Luke 4:29-30
 Luke 9:23-25
 Mark 1:14-15
 Luke 23:42-43