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Luke 9:51-62

“Running toward, or running away?”

Introduction Shots rang out in a Baltimore neighborhood. Instantly, a nearby police officer ran toward the sound of the gunfire. A landlord-tenant dispute had turned ugly, and two men lay bleeding on the ground. The officer encountered the suspect, ordering him to put his gun away and lie on the ground. The suspect complied, and the arrest was made. Body-cam footage captured the heroic action that saved lives. Baltimore Police spokesperson T.J. Smith commended the fast-acting patrolman: “The officer didn’t hesitate at all to run into danger…His performance was exemplary and his decisiveness ended an immediate threat.” (Source: June 12, 2018 article at policeone.com)

Running toward: “He set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51) Like that police officer, Jesus ran toward the danger. Our Lord had no delusions about what he would be facing in Jerusalem; he knew what was at-stake. Matthew and Mark record Jesus predicting his own death not once, but twice. (See Matthew 16:21-23, 20:17-19; Mark 9:30-32, 10:32-34). In Luke’s Gospel, the single warning of his impending doom comes just before our passage – see Luke 9:43-45. His disciples didn’t understand what he was talking about (v. 45), but Jesus knew all too well what lay ahead. Despite the shadow of the Cross, Jesus ran toward the gunfire. He “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51).  

Opposition on the way: Transit through Samaria (vv. 52-55) Fulfilling his mission took Jesus through hostile territory. Hospitality was a considered an important duty in the ancient Middle East, particularly for weary travelers (Genesis 18:1-8). Dennis Bratcher notes that “a traveler would interpret a resident’s failure to provide food and amenities as a hostile act” (see Bratcher, “Travelers and Strangers,” http://www.crivoice.org/travelers.html). This explains James’ and John’s explosive reaction, asking Jesus whether they should “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them” (v. 54), a seeming allusion to Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s destruction due to their hostility toward the angelic visitors (Genesis 19:1-28). The Samaritans rebuffed him because of his Jewish nationality: “They did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (v. 53). But Jesus refused to play along with the ancient blood-feud; he had no use for distracting dramas. Jesus knew that his mission was one of love, not hate. He refused to destroy unwelcoming Samaritans by fire, but kept his focus, moving on to Jerusalem where his own fiery trial awaited him.

Running away: Refusing the journey to the Cross (vv. 57-62) Immediately after the first prediction of his death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21-23),