Friday, June 28, 2013

Nowhere to Lay Our Heads: On the Road with Jesus (Luke 9:51-62)

On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them.” Then they went on to another village (Luke 9:52b-56, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

Sometimes people do not act as we expect or even like. Here some people have actually refused hospitality to Jesus Christ Son of the Living God. How rude is that? Evil enough, James and John believe, to justify their sudden death and perhaps even their eternal damnation.

Happily, a different spirit animates Jesus. He embodies the one odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality. He came to give live and not to take it.

As witnesses to Jesus, we seek to liberate destructive human beings not by harming them but by breaking the spell of the Olympian gods that drives them to destruction. Of course, to break that destructive spell we must begin with ourselves. Jesus invites us to do that today through these words from Luke.

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” (9:57-58).

Jesus never says much about the challenges he faces. Here he does, so it must be important. He tells us he has no place he can call home. He also tells us, if we follow him, then neither will we.

As witnesses to Jesus, we might think of ourselves as knights-errant. In days gone by, these individuals left behind the comforts of home to seek unexpected adventures on the always more demanding road.

We may not always find these words—that we have nowhere to lay our heads—literally true. Sometimes we may find ourselves with a reasonably safe and comfortable place to live. At those times we may rightly give God thanks.

But as long as we remain devoted to Jesus, these words will remain spiritually true. Our attachment to Jesus will always remain stronger than our attachment to the place we are. We will live there lightly because we will never fit in.

The reason is simple. When we share the truth, freedom, love, and vitality of the one odd god with others, some people are really grateful. Others, however, devoted as they are to very different gods, are resentful. When their rage toward us makes any further sharing with them impossible, then it will be time to move on if we’re going to stay near Jesus.

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God (9:59-60).

We all live in Olympia. Our universal context is an Olympian society and culture wholly dedicated to the six destructive but conventional gods of Olympianity. Jesus enables us, each day, to stop expressing our Olympian personalities just long enough to share a little of his truth, freedom, love, and vitality with others. When we do, we manage to proclaim the kingdom of God, we manage to witness to the presence of Jesus, in that very alien context.

We will always have a thousand compelling reasons not to proclaim his kingdom. One powerful reason is our understandable commitment to Olympian relatives and friends. Jesus reminds us here that our witness to him as knights-errant should come first. Put that witness first, once or twice, and the idea of having nowhere to lay one’s head becomes much easier to understand.

Let us note, in passing, that Jesus does not call down fire from heaven or threaten this person with hell. Jesus invites this person’s participation in his kingdom. This person is free to accept his invitation or may instead misuse the freedom given, through the invitation, to refuse it.

The same remains true for you and me. Sometimes we hear the one odd god’s invitation to witness to the presence of his kingdom and we jump on it. Sometimes we hear it but allow our attachment to others to distract us from affirming it. Sometimes we don’t even hear it. Thanks be to God, he stays with us to invite us anew. Pray we extend the same graciousness to those apparently deaf to us.

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 a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (9:61-62).

We might paraphrase by saying, “No one who hits the road as a knight-errant but stays within sight of the castle witnesses much to the kingdom of God.” We will never respond creatively to the unexpected adventures of the road if we constantly recall the comforts of our Olympian castle and regret leaving them.

“I will follow you, Lord; but…” This is the minimalist approach to witness. This is the approach we take when we want to witness, yes, but only to a point.

Jesus never asks us to act in reckless ways. But witnessing to him is definitely demanding. To do it with any kind of consistency and clarity means developing a way of living wholly different from that which our Olympian culture and friends find normal or even good. We can’t do it as long as we place Olympian limitations on how far from the castle we’re willing to wander with Jesus.

Let’s be bold. Let’s take a maximalist approach to witness and see just how wild Jesus is willing to help us become!

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
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