Good morning! In today’s passage (Luke 9-10), we explore a characteristically Lukan vein of Scripture, namely the real-world applications of a discipleship way of living. Here Jesus equips and sends forth two sets of twelve and seventy disciples respectively, demonstrating in his instructions to them what his highest priorities will be for the Christian life. God calls disciples to ministries of compassion and liberation. It’s for these reasons that Jesus does the other main thing found in today’s reading—he sets his face toward Jerusalem, which is where we’ll find him for the next ten chapters.
At the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus sends his closest disciples out “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” As we’ve discussed before, their marching orders include total reliance on their hosts in whatever town they find themselves. Equipped to do as Jesus does, the disciples find success with it. Their excitement builds and brings them back together again, when Jesus tests their faith with a commandment to feed thousands. They balk at the prospect, he demonstrates God’s power to reveal more than meets the eye, and then he teaches them about the importance of denying oneself in order to serve God’s mission in the world. The account of the transfiguration underscores this emphasis on the reliability of his witness. On his way down the mountain, Jesus casts out a stubborn spirit and reiterates the importance of following God despite the ways it will cost his very self. In all these ways, he sets the example first for the self-denial he asks from others.
Most scholars of Luke understand that verse 9:51 is a hinge moment for Jesus in this gospel. “He set his face to go to Jerusalem,” and the next ten chapters will slowly describe what happens along the way. Jesus’ activities in this middle section of Luke have more in common with Matthew than they do with Luke (suggesting to some that another early collection of stories—“Q”—existed parallel to Mark and served as another primary source for Matthew and Luke). One of the things I appreciate about Jesus in this part of the gospel is his disregard for strict clarity between who’s “with us” and who’s “against us”. Though the Samaritans aren’t receptive to Jesus, he doesn’t call for their smiting but simply moves on to the next village. (Samaritans traced their ancestry from the northern kingdom of Israel rather than Judah. They were kin to “the Jews”, but not insiders—most were viewed with suspicion.) The seventy apostles (literally, “the sent ones”) are dispatched according to the mission of Christ, because their witness makes sure that whatever happens in Jerusalem, the message is getting out regardless. When they return, rejoicing, Jesus shares their joy in a Spirit-filled prayer of thanksgiving to God. I find this section instructive, in that *joy* serves as a marker of what works well in them and for the realm of God. In that spirit, happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Luke 11-12. Thanks for reading!