Date: 12 Jun 2022
Sermon Text: Luke 9:51–10:42
Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Last Sunday, we came face to face with this question of who Jesus is. Like Peter, is Jesus the Christ of God? Is Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one, the promised one whom God has sent?
For many of us in Hermon, we would respond with a resounding Yes! Yes, to me, Jesus is the Christ.
And so there are implications to that confession. And that is encapsulated at the transfiguration. There, God the Father affirms who Jesus is and says ‘this is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him’.
In Hermon, we are setting a tradition that the Sunday Service ends not with the Benediction and the 3-fold Amen but after we have had time to dwell on the reflection questions. This is how we want to listen.
If not, may I submit we are like those who look at a mirror and immediately forget what we look like the moment we turn away from it.
The whole worship service provides us a biblical lens to see ourselves clearly and so it is necessary for us to spend some moments in reflection.
If not, God’s Word washes over us like water over a duck’s back and we do not allow the transformative work of the Holy Spirit to begin in us.
So let’s give ourselves the opportunity again to reflected on one of last Sunday’s questions:
“Following Jesus entails total surrender of self and a corresponding humility. Have you taken seriously the demands of discipleship? What is most difficult to surrender in your life and attitude right now?”
May I invite us to keep this at the back of our minds even as we go through today’s Scripture text.
Jim Elliot, born in 1927, was murdered in 1956. Elliot was an American missionary seeking to evangelize the people of Ecuador.
Elliot grew up in a Christian home, his parents raised their children according to their Christian belief, taking them to church and reading the Bible regularly.
After obtaining the skills of translation at Camp Wycliffe, in 1950, Elliot remained unsure about whether to go to Ecuador or India.
His parents and friends wondered if he might instead be more effective in youth ministry in the United States, but considering the home church "well-fed", he felt that international missions should take precedence.
Elliot arrived in Ecuador on February 1952.
Soon Elliot and his group of 4 others begun to make contact from their airplane with a particular village using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts.
Encouraged by these friendly encounters, they began plans to visit.
They landed their plane and were greeted by a group of about 10 village warriors. Elliot and his four companions were killed on January 8, 1956.
After his death, in less than two years his widow Elisabeth, her daughter Valerie, and Rachel Saint (the sister of the pilot) were able to move to the remote village.
The Lord used them to evangelise many in the village.
During his life, Jim Elliot longed for more people to become missionaries. In his death, however, he probably inspired more people to go to other countries to share the love of Jesus than he ever could have in life.
A meaningful quote from Jim Elliot is “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Eugene H. Peterson was born in 1932, 5 years after Elliot and was called home to glory 2018. Peterson was a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. He wrote more than thirty books, including his paraphrase of the Bible -The Message.
Peterson was founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Maryland, where he served for twenty-nine years before retiring in 1991. He also served as professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, retiring in 2006.
On Peterson’s death, Russel Moore wrote a tribute to Peterson in The Gospel Coalition website.
That Peterson was a one sermon pastor (and he meant it in a complimentary way) and that one sermon came in many different forms.
Moore summaried that Peterson’s one sermon was about the way the Word of God, revealed in the story of Scripture, speaks to and reshapes the human imagination.
Basically, Peterson’s one sermon pointed always to Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb! He who brings forgiveness of sins for the world!
A meaningful quote about Peterson is taken from the title of the book which he wrote - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.
To the question the demands of discipleship, Elliot and Peterson shows us from 2 different viewpoints. One had life cut short while the other lived for 86 years.
Today, we continue on this journey of understanding discipleship. And the testimonies of Elliot and Peterson I submit, follow that of their Master whom they loved and served.
May I capture that in the title of today’s sermon, which is a quote from Luke 9:51 – Jesus Set His Face towards Jerusalem.
Our discipleship is patterned after Jesus Christ who set his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus was determined to fulfil God’s will by His sacrificial death at Calvary.
Luke 9:51 is a pivotal turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Up to this point, Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee. From v51 to Chapter 19, Luke will record Jesus’ movement to Jerusalem.
Next year when we preach through Acts, we will see Luke show us how the Gospel will move from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Lk 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Already in Luke 9:51, Luke gives the reader assurance that though the journey to Jerusalem will end in crucifixion, there will be victory. For Luke says, ‘when the days drew near for him to be taken up’.
This speaks of the ascension of Jesus. This tells us of his victory over sin and death. This encourages us that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God.
The way to the crown is via the cross. And that too is the way of discipleship for us.
Let’s begin with v51 to v62. Speaking about discipleship, there are some inconvenient truths that we are to know.
V51 – 55 speaks about Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritans. When Jesus began his ministry in Galilee in chapter 4, we see that he received rejection in the synagogue at Nazareth.
Now here in chapter 9, as he begins his ministry journey towards Jerusalem, he again faces rejection and this time from the Samaritans.
Why did they reject Jesus? V53 tells us that it was because Jesus’ face was set towards Jerusalem.
2 things we can note here. One is that the Samaritans did not agree that worship should only be in Jerusalem.
As highlighted by the Samaritan women at the well in John 4, the Samaritans believed that Mt Gerizim was the place where Yahweh is to be worshipped.
The 2nd issue was that of Jesus’ understanding about discipleship. That it was cross-shaped.
So, the Samaritan’s cancelled Jesus. He had no platform to preach and teach in this Samaritan village.
James and John saw this as dishonouring Jesus their master and so honour-rejection needs to be dealt with and dealt with severely. They needed to be taught a lesson.
The inconvenient truth is that the gospel message will often times be rejected and that the response to such rejection should not be fire and brimstone.
Maybe for some of us, to our gospel presentation, we may receive curt responses, polite but firm rejection or even argumentative tirade. These hopefully we are able to graciously accept.
But in some nearby countries, they may puncture your car tyres, burn your church building or kidnap your church leader. Would we then, respond like James and John?
May the merciful heart of Jesus be our guide instead.
Some churches tell you that when you become a Christian, you should expect the blessings of health and wealth. God surely does not require any inconveniences. It seems, apparently that v57 to 62 are omitted from their version of Luke.
On these verses, Ps Luwin in today’s editorial has written an atypical pastoral letter which I hope we will take time to read.
In v58 Jesus instead speaks about material insecurity and definitely not a life of ease. The son of man has nowhere to lay his head. Disciples are thus to be pilgrims on this journey of a narrow road.
To the second excuse in v59, we see that if we want to be a disciple, even family obligations take 2nd place to God’s kingdom. In those days, to bury the death would take up to 1 year.
It’s basically saying, till my family obligations are all done, then I will follow Jesus as His disciple. To that, Jesus says, His Kingdom takes priority.
What do you think this says to us, when we use our children as a shield against the invitation to participate in regular CG meetings?
Finally, not just family obligations, but everything in life should be of lesser priority to that of Kingdom’s demands.
Elijah allowed Elisha to go back and say goodbye but Jesus who is greater than Elijah says, no. Do not look back when you are ploughing for God’s kingdom. Do not have an undivided heart.
Even if Jesus allowed us to be like Elisha, would we like Elisha kill the oxen and burn the plough?
Discipleship demands all of life commitment. It requires a clean break from our past and full-on focus to live for Jesus.
First generation Christians I believe understand this. But many of us who are 2nd generation, we lack the opportunity to live out our faith conviction.
Our experience of conviction is limited to just setting aside Sunday mornings to attend service and giving our tithes and offerings. And even that, is now to some, a struggle.
Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, he endured whatever it took to fulfil God’s will. The inconvenient truth is that discipleship is challenging for it means God’s priorities trump our self-interest.
At the beginning of Chapter 9, Jesus sends out the 12 Apostles. I wish Chapter 10 were not recorded.
Then we can say, well the mission to proclaim the Gospel is for the Apostles only.
Now maybe we can say it is for the missionaries, the evangelist, the selected few.
But Chapter 10 speaks about 72 other disciples. And it assumes that these are all who followed Jesus. It shows us that no one is excluded from the obligations of mission work.
The mission of Gospel proclamation is inescapable for all disciples. Even as Jesus sends out the 72, he is telling them, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
So, it’s not one set of disciples pray and another set go. It’s all disciples go and pray at the same time.
19% of people in Singapore consider themselves Christians. That means we live in a country where over 80% are yet believers.
What a wonderful mission field God has provided for us. The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.
What then is our motivation for missions?
This is where inescapable endings come in. This is the woes that we see in v12 to 20.
The inescapable ending is that of Sodom. Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in Genesis 19. They were cities of great sin and God completely destroyed them with sulphur and fire out of heaven.
That is the ending of those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus says, the endings of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum which are Jewish cities, will be worst than Tyre and Sidon, Gentile cities. This is because they have been exposed to the Gospel yet, have rejected Jesus.
Does this not strike fear in us Singaporeans? We who are privilege to have the freedom of religion where 19% are believers? Would God see Singapore like Bethsaida and Capernaum?
When the 72 returned to Jesus, Jesus said, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Thus, when the Gospel is proclaimed, the reign of Satan on earth crumbles. For the Gospel delivers one from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
We who have tasted of God’s goodness, grace and mercy, can this be our motivation, our conviction towards evangelism?
The 72 experienced the spectacular power of God in and through their ministry.
They cast out demons, they were not poisoned by snake bites and were able to heal the sick.
But Jesus said, what they are to rejoice in instead, is that their names are written in heaven.
Is this not what we want also for our loved ones, our colleagues, our friends and our fellow Singaporeans, that their names are written in heaven?
Since the inescapable endings will happen, may we as disciples be mission minded.
Jesus will warn in Luke 12:
Lk 12:48 Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
And Jesus says here:
Lk 10:23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Do you think we are in any less of a blessed position than the disciples? I don’t think so. We are now on the other side of Calvary. We have now the complete revelation of God in the 66 books of the bible.
Let us reflect humbly on the privilege that we believers in the 21st Century have. Scripture says we are in a better position that the Old Testament prophets and kings.
With privilege also comes responsibility. That too is an inescapable ending. We will one day have to account for our discipleship before God.
Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem to deliver His people from the inescapable woes of Luke 10. May this encourage us to be missional for Jesus.
I’m not sure if the lawyer of v25 heard Jesus’ pronouncement of woes, but he knew the appropriate follow up question to ask – if those who reject God end up in fiery hell, then what must he do to inherit eternal life?
To this, we have Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. And I’ve titled this inconceivable action.
It’s inconceivable action because it identifies the unbelieving heart of the lawyer. He was not willing to live out the implications of discipleship.
Both times, the lawyer could give the correct answer but both times, it was only head knowledge but not heart conviction.
To Jesus’ question about what is written in the law, he summaries the 10 commandments into loving God and loving others.
To Jesus’ question on who is the good neighbour to the victim, the lawyer rightly replied the one who showed him mercy.
Significantly, both times, Jesus instructs, go and do it. Do it and you will live.
The issue of eternal life is not intellectual understanding, but the issue is of a life transformed.
Knowing that Jesus can perceived the thoughts of man, we see that Jesus deals mercifully with this lawyer.
We are told, the lawyer did not ask it in good faith. He was doing it to test Jesus.
He was also very insistent to win the argument for he tried to justify himself with regards to who his neighbour should be.
I’m sure we are like this lawyer too. And so, we thank God that He deals mercifully with us too.
Like the lawyer, we rationalise what is sufficient to be a disciple. We say, its sufficient to just say the sinner’s prayer.
God’s grace forgives my sins, past, present and future right? So, once I have this salvation-insurance, I can live as my heart desires!
We say, Jesus’ words in the bible are just guidelines. They are appropriate for a past era. We now have to bring it up to speed with the 21st century. Thus, what the bible speaks about sexual purity, divorce, abortion, they are not relevant anymore.
Even gender identify needs to be refreshed.
We rationalize like the Priest and the Levite. The victim likely was dying if not dead. It would make them ceremonially unclean to be touching a dead man.
The parable however says, both the Priest and the Levite were going down the road. They were going down, means they like the victim, were descending from Jerusalem to Jericho.
That means they have already finished their religious obligations.
Therefore, if there was a possibility of becoming ceremonially unclean, it would not affect their service.
Basically, their actions display their lack of genuine love for God. For if they truly loved God, they would love their neighbour, as the lawyer had so rightly quoted.
Instead, it is the Samaritan who does the inconceivable action. And this inconceivable act was costly. It involved time, effort and money.
Loving our neighbours will be just as costly.
Today, has God brought to mind someone whom He wants you to be a neighbour to? Is that person on your inconceivable list?
Today, Scripture says being a good Samaritan requires costly effort. Would that be inconceivable too, since helping others has always been at your convenience only?
It’s scary right, when Jesus links this to loving God and inheriting eternal life.
Now if we are realistic, we would acknowledge that we cannot live up to the ideals of the Good Samaritan. But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is the Good Samaritan.
Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
To inherit eternal life, we need to be the Good Samaritan. But because we can’t, Jesus became the Good Samaritan. Now when we put our trust in Jesus, His blood makes us right with God.
In Christ we graciously have been given the gift of eternal life.
Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem to fulfil the inconceivable action of the wages of sin. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, God now enables Jesus’ disciples to love others as He has first loved us.
Some have criticised the bible as regressive especially against women. But what we are about to explore with Jesus’ relationship with sisters Mary and Martha shows us that Christianity is actually progressive.
In the days when women and children were often treated as a lower class, Christianity has always deemed them equal.
So, it is interesting that there is some extensive detail about Jesus’ interaction with 2 female disciples.
In Luke’s description of Mary, we see that she models the attitude of a disciple. She is sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching.
Jesus says, that this is the good portion which Mary has rightly chosen.
Remember God’s words at the Transfiguration – this is my Chosen One, listen to him! Mary was doing just that. She is listening to Jesus as he taught.
In contrast, we see that for Martha, she was insisting that Jesus listen to her. Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?
In the busyness of our week? Do we spend the time to listen to Jesus? Meaning, do we spend the time to read and meditating on Scripture?
We carve out time to exercise, to watch our favourite movies, to indulge in the latest food trends, to fetch our children for enrichment classes. And it seems often these take up all the available time.
Is it too much for God to expect His disciples to carve out time to listen to Him through His Word? I pray it is not. And parents, we have the added responsibility for our children’s exposure to God’s Word as well.
Now some of us will say, yes I do carve out time to serve God and do church ministry, help out in our Community Services activities.
But the question before us is, have we carved out time to listen to Jesus?
Our church leaders have recently gone through this book Trellis and the Vine. It helped us to refocus on the key things we need to do.
Often times our ministry work is more Trellis than Vine. But Vine work is the key and building our relationship with Jesus is Vine work.
I submit, when trellis work overtakes vine work, we display the Martha syndrome. In our busyness of ministry, we display inappropriate priorities.
Martha’s is distracted with many useful things. She is busy being a good host to Jesus and his disciples. Nothing is wrong with that and there would be a time and place for such activity.
But Jesus was teaching and so Martha should be listening.
Do note that Jesus was only gently correcting Martha. If she was way out of line, he would be rebuking her like what He did with James and John.
Along the spectrum of priorities, how can we shift them to the right?
If you are not making Sunday Service and CGs a priority, may the example of Mary encourage you. As a church, we provide these 2 platforms for God’s Word to be proclaimed, explained and applied.
For those of us who are very busy with ministry, serving and caring for others, may the example of Martha be instructive.
Let not your service for Jesus distract you from spending sufficient time developing a deeper relationship with Him through Scripture.
May I take this opportunity to remind us as a church, we have this 3H triangle which we want to guide all our activity. We need to start with the Head, followed by the Heart and finally the Hands.
It is important that spiritual feeding begins before spiritual output happens. And it is critical that what is heard, is internalized before it can be executed.
So, when we move from Head, to Heart, to Hands, we will be convicted of why we do what we do. It will help us to be more confident in how we live for Jesus.
When we are feeding upon Jesus and His Word, we will then be able to persevere in living for Jesus and serving His body.
We will not run dry, for the joy of the Lord will be our strength.
Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem to reconcile us to himself. He thus requires that we reorientate our priorities so that fellowship with Him is preeminent.
Our lives might be as short as James Elliot or God may call us home only past 80 like Eugene Peterson.
May I leave you with their quotes as a reflection of the discipleship challenge that Jesus has put in front of us through the gospel of Luke this morning.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Life eternal is the gift that salvation brings. May we thus be missional for Christ.
“Discipleship is a Long Obedience in the Same Direction”.
Obedience means Jesus is Lord of everything. Let us run together with perseverance the race marked out for us.