A Matter of Priorities

John I. Carney
12 min readJun 30, 2019

First UMC Shelbyville
June 30, 2019

Luke 9:51–62 (CEB)
As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, he determined to go to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead of him. Along the way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival, but the Samaritan villagers refused to welcome him because he was determined to go to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to consume them?” But Jesus turned and spoke sternly to them, and they went on to another village.

As Jesus and his disciples traveled along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One has no place to lay his head.”

Then Jesus said to someone else, “Follow me.”
He replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and spread the news of God’s kingdom.”

Someone else said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say good-bye to those in my house.”
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.”

Today’s Gospel passage is from late in Jesus’ ministry, as he’s getting ready to make his way to Jerusalem, where he will be welcomed by the common people but then put to death by the religious authorities. He sends some of the disciples on ahead of him to make arrangements, maybe to arrange for a place to spend the night, but in the Samaritan villages, the advance team was not well-received.

You see, the disciples who had been sent on ahead happened to mention that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. And that was the whole sticking point between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Judaeans believed that the true temple, the place to worship God, was in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were an offshoot of the Jews, but they believed that Mount Gerizim was the chosen site for God’s temple. So they weren’t inclined to be hospitable to pilgrims passing through Samaritan territory on the way to Jerusalem.

James and John take note of this, and they ask Jesus if he wants them to try to call down fire to destroy the inhospitable Samaritans. All the Bible tells us is that Jesus spoke sternly to them; we can imagine what he said. “Haven’t you been listening?” he might have asked them. “Haven’t you paid…

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John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at http://www.lakeneuron.com/dislike