Why does Jesus make being a disciple so hard in Luke 9?

The lectionary reading for Trinity 2 in Year C is Luke 9.51–62. It consists of a brief narrative of rejection of Jesus, following by a collection of three sayings about the challenge of discipleship—but the significance of this passage also derives from its place within Luke’s overall narrative.

Luke 9.51 signals the beginning of Luke’s central ‘journey’ narrative in his gospel, which continues until Jesus’ arrival on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Luke 19.44 at the moment of Cloak Sunday (in the other gospels Palm Sunday; there are no palms or branches mentioned in Luke). Luke doesn’t appear to be telling us anything literal or historical about Jesus’ journeying, since many of the geographical references within this narrative are either rather vague, or in fact don’t really make sense; for example, long after Jesus leaves Galilee and enters Samaria in this reading, we read in Luke 17.11 that he is journeying ‘through the region between Galilee and Samaria’. (Joel Green, NIGTC commentary on Luke, p 398)

The focus, then, is on journeying as a way of understanding what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Right at the beginning we have heard that the ‘dawn from on high’ will break upon us to ‘guide our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1.79), and in Acts we learn that those in the early Jesus movement were known as people of ‘the Way’ (Acts 9.2, 19.9, 23, 22.4, 24.14, 22). The two disciples in Luke 24 meet Jesus on the way to Emmaus, and in this section discipleship is summarised as following Jesus on the journey he is taking. But this journey is not just about the process; it also focussed on the destination: Jerusalem. This is yet another aspect of the focus on Jerusalem in Luke’s gospel and in Acts, the central place in God’s actions from which the gospel then goes out to all the world.

The journey to Jerusalem is a new exodus, by which Jesus forges a redemptive path to the glory of the Father. The way of Jesus becomes paradigmatic for Jesus’ followers… (Mikeal Parsons, Paideia commentary on Luke, p 163).

The material in this long section does include an account of Jesus’ mighty words and deeds—but the main focus is actually on Jesus’s words, his teaching, and in particular his parables. Much of the material unique to Luke is in this section, including the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the rich man and Lazarus, and, as elsewhere in Luke, the overall shape is carefully structured, with 12 parables before and 12 parables after the central parable of the wedding guests in Luke 14.7–11 (Parsons, p 164). This in turn highlights a consistent theme in Luke, which was first expressed in the Magnificat: the great reversal, by which those included become excluded and vice versa, the rich become poor and the poor blessed, the proud humbled and the humble exalted.

Although many English translations begin our passage with language of ‘the time approaching’, Luke’s language actually talks of the ‘days being fulfilled’. This implies a sense not just of time passing, but also the fulfilment of prophetic anticipation. This could be understood as a reference back to the anticipations of the birth narratives in the gospel, but also a sense that this is the fulfilment of the longer purposes of God set out in the scriptures of our Old Testament. After all, earlier in this chapter, in the Transfiguration, we have heard the (uniquely Lukan) language of Jesus completing his ‘exodus’ in Jerusalem; and when his journey has been completed, he explains to those on the road to Emmaus what ‘Moses and all the prophets’ say about him (Luke 24.27).

The fulfilment will be accomplished by Jesus being ‘taken up’; English translations add the qualifier ‘to heaven’ by way of explanation. The word here only occurs at this point in the New Testament; although it might seem vague at first, it appears to be one of several allusions to the story of Elijah, and his being taken up to heaven in 2 King 2.10–11. Luke is quite clear that the Ascension marks the completion of Jesus’ own ministry, which is then continued by the apostles once the Spirit has been poured out—so we have (as typical in Luke) an early anticipation of how the whole narrative is shaped and concluded.

Jesus then ‘sets his face to go to Jerusalem’, a (Semitic?) metaphor for resolute determination. Again, ETs tend to translate this colloquially, though this means that we might miss the way that this phrase percolates through the following verses: in the next verse, he sends messengers ‘before his face’; the Samaritans reject him because ‘his face was going to Jerusalem’; and the 72 are sent out ‘before his face’ in Luke 10.1.

The rejection by the Samaritans assumes knowledge of the historical animosity between Samaritans and Jews, an assumption that is revisited in Jesus’ teaching about loving one’s neighbour in the next chapter. That animosity did lead to actual violence, which makes the question of James and John less surprising—and their mention of calling down fire as a form of judgement is another allusion to the Elijah narrative, in which he calls down fire on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. But within Luke’s narrative, it highlights how far the disciples have still to go in their understanding of Jesus and his ministry; though Luke does indeed focus on issues of power, the power of Jesus is used in quite a different way. Jesus’ willingness to accept the rejection of the village, and move on to somewhere that will accept him has already been seen in his willingness to leave the Gerasene region in chapter 8, and anticipates his instruction to the 72 in chapter 10.

The three sayings of Jesus that follow take the form of chreiae, useful sayings included to make a point, often gathered together in the context of teaching material, in which a brief saying is attributed to someone in the context of discussion with another. Luke is once more demonstrating his knowledge of ancient literary conventions.

The first two of these exchanges is found in the other synoptics, but the third is found in Luke alone. The three are arranged carefully, so that the first and third involved a person offering to follow Jesus, but wanting to qualify their commitment, whilst the middle one starts with Jesus’ own challenge or invitation to follow.

In response to the apparent willingness of the first person, Jesus highlights the cost and inconvenience of being a disciple; it involves embarking on a journey which will involve being unsettled and experiencing rejection—precisely as Jesus himself has just experienced. In the second saying, it is Jesus who takes the initiative, but the respondent points out the important commitments he has which might limit his ability to follow. There does not appear to be any specific Mosaic command to be responsible for burying one’s parents, but this could certainly be seen as fulfilling the command to ‘honour your father and mother’, and there would at least be a social expectation of this duty. But Jesus now adds that following him might not only be inconvenient; it might also involve disregarding common social conventions, and risk causing offence. His saying here is often interpreted as meaning ‘let the [spiritually] dead bury the [physically] dead’, in other words, leave these conventional responsibilities to those who have not taken up the demanding invitation to follow Jesus as disciples. Joel Green (p 408) notes that the Jewish practice of interment followed by reburial of bones in an ossuary would allow a more literal interpretation: let the dead (already in the tomb) bury the other dead who arrive after them. This is, of course, literally impossible, but makes the similar point that these mundane duties cannot be allowed to distract from the demands of following him.

In the third saying, Jesus is quoting a well-known proverb in the ancient world which is based on the real demands of ploughing a field, and serves to summarise the message of the previous two. If you are ploughing a field with oxen, then (as with riding a bicycle, or driving a car, at least in the early stages) you need to have your focus ahead on where you are going in order to plough a straight furrow. If you become distracted, and look around or to one side, the furrow you plough will also veer to the side as you fail to steer the team in a straight line. This metaphor then connects back to the opening verse, where Jesus metaphorically sets his sights on Jerusalem, and will not allow anything to distract him from his goal. Jesus is ploughing his own faithful furrow in line with the purposes of God.

So much for the details of the texts; what we are left with is a bigger question about why Jesus makes discipleship so hard. If his aim, in his ministry, was to make the grace of God known, and to invite as many as possible in, why does he appear to put obstacles in the way of those who seem to want to follow, even if that is in a qualified way? If God ‘wants all people to be saved’ (1 Tim 2.4), why does Jesus make it so difficult? (Saying that ‘all’ here simply means ‘all kinds of people‘ is a bit of a poor cop-out.)

First, it is worth noting that the idea that the kingdom of God is difficult to enter is a consistent theme of Jesus’ teaching, which we find in the language of the ‘narrow gate’ in Matt 7.14 and the ‘eye of the needle’ in Matt 19.24 and parallels. Jesus is not simply in the business of creating an inclusive social community, where all belong and are included in order to make them feel better; he is concerned with inviting people into the demanding journey of entering and growing in the kingdom of God, because that alone is the way of life. The journey is demanding because it is a journey with Jesus, and he has followed this demanding path himself.

Secondly, the idea of refusing to conform to social norms becomes a key issue of discipleship once this Jewish gospel begins to make its home in gentile culture. We live in a world where religion and social convention still do have some connections, but don’t go hand-in-glove as they did in the ancient world. To refuse to worship the pantheon of the gods was to risk causing social offence, and would even bring economic hardship, since practising your trade usually depended on this element of social conformity. We see this throughout Acts, and we find it as the issue behind a number of ethical discussions in Paul. We need to read the apparently ‘conservative’ social ethics of the NT letters in the context of this issue.

Thirdly, we need to reflect on the relationship between Jesus’ obvious attractiveness to the crowds along with these challenging statements. There was clearly something compelling and inviting in Jesus’ ministry, in the way he responded to people with dignity and compassion, which meant that people of all backgrounds were drawn to him. I wonder if it is only when people find the contemporary church similarly attractive that we are free to make similarly demanding statements—and of course we need to model living out the reality of these demands ourselves.

Lastly, it is worth noting that including these challenges is not something we find easy, or for most of us comes naturally. But it appears to be a vital part of healthy preaching and teaching that leads to healthy church growth, particularly amongst men. The invitation of Jesus is an invitation to healing and wholeness, forgiveness and community, but it is also an invitation to challenge and adventure, and to embark on a journey whose destination might well be unexpected and surprising.

Look out for the video discussion in the following post.

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63 thoughts on “Why does Jesus make being a disciple so hard in Luke 9?”

  1. Thanks Ian.

    I think that a great number of our problems arise from a failure to preach a gospel that demands full costly commitment. We have a merely therapeutic gospel that has airbrushed out taking up the cross.

  2. Sir

    ‘Lastly, it is worth noting that including these challenges is not something we find easy, or for most of us comes naturally. But it appears to be a vital part of healthy preaching and teaching that leads to healthy church growth, particularly amongst men.’

    That’s more like it!

    Women like to talk about relationships.

    Men like to talk about taking action.

    Attract the men into church and you’ll find wives, sons and daughters following.

      • It is little wonder that this blog is now considered by many I know to have become seriously discredited. Many Comments on the thread about the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda and comments like “Women like to talk about relationships. Men like to talk about taking action.” read like something from the mouthpiece of Donald Trump. Christianity is about relationships. The summary of the law is all about relationships. Love God. Love your neighbour. Love demands relationship first.

        • Thought you welcomed and loved all, without limits!
          And God is love,, is found only in scripture; only flowing from the pre_creation, eternal Triune God.

        • Good on yet mate!

          “Men, you must not have sexual relations with another man as with a woman. That is a terrible sin!”

          That too is part of relationships, law and love.

        • Does one judge a blog by those who choose to comment on it?

          For my part, only occasionally can I look at comments, and possibly attempt a helpful contribution. When threads get long and fractious being helpful seems difficult.

          So, if you respond to this, and I do not respond to you, please do not take offence.

          As for “Women like to talk about relationships. Men like to talk about taking action.” This has roots before Trump. It seems to be a distortion of what I am told was written in “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” (clicky-clicky…from 1992). Those who read it told me that it says something like, “women talk to relate while men talk to reach a goal.” There is perhaps a little truth in this from what I have observed, in the same way that it is true that “men are taller than women.” I.e. there are probably plenty of men who talk to relate, and plenty of women who like to talk to reach a goal.

        • How bizarre to think that people evaluate my writing by what a random collection of sometimes opinionated people say about it!

          It’s akin to deciding the value of what I say by asking someone random in the street.

          And sorry to hear that some of your friends think it is ‘discredited’. Traffic numbers fortunately say otherwise.

          • I don’t think your own writing is discredited. But for reasons somewhat different from Andrew’s, I do think the comment section has degenerated, being now dominated by a few voluble names who are using the space as a chat-room. They clearly have a lot of time on their hands, but I for one have ceased to spend mine trawling the contributions – now commonly several times longer than the blog in total – in the hope of finding a fresh insight.

        • Andrew – I was also somewhat shocked by the comments below the line on the Rwanda blog.

          I’m pretty sure, though, that if you were to ask around among the people who come to the church where you are a priest that their response will be pretty much the same as the response below the line here – alarmingly, I think this may be representative.

          Ian Paul is actually doing something about it – i.e. putting up a blog post where he articulates and supports the C. of E. position. It may fall on deaf ears, but he has done something.

          What are you doing to try and convince people?

          By the way – the comments below the line on blogs are usually well worth avoiding. I follow Craig Murray’s blog. He usually writes sensible things (except when he tries to support the idea of independence).

          In his most recent piece


          CM (quite rightly) criticises the prison system for doing absolutely nothing about trying to educate prisoners about a better way – and then people wonder why people re-offend when they get out of jail.

          The comments below the line on his blog are often insane – much worse than those you find here. It’s an unfortunate aspect of blogs and (as Ian Paul points out) it isn’t sensible to judge Ian Paul’s contribution from the comments below the line.

    • If you dont like female ministers, could I suggest you stick to churches that only have male ones. That might solve your issue.

      • Seconded.

        The Church of England provides such churches, and in my view that’s fine.

        What I find sad are demeaning put downs of devoted women who have been accepted and received in the church as priests.

        Not ‘priestesses and vicarettes’.

        He is disrespectful.

        I just find his uber-masculine, stereotypical posturing rude and consciously offensive.

        He has a 1950s view of the role of women… a call in previous posts for women to stick to ‘washing up’… ‘flower arranging’ etc etc.

        To be plain: women priests devote their lives to the Church of England. They are here to stay. Many of us (most of us) believe we have enhanced and added to ministry in the Church of England. That said, it’s fine to believe, theologically, in all-male priesthood. I respect that view. But disrespectful discourse – demeaning female priests, and arguing for outdated roles for women… apart from extremely dubious theology, it contravenes the ‘Five Guiding Principles’ which hinge on the need to work for mutual trust and respect. That’s not the same as acceptance.

        Women priests: “deserve due respect and canonical obedience” where they are placed in the Church and serve. That is the position of the Church of England.

        Now, if I am to play along with this correspondent’s fairly stereotypical view of manhood, then I’d appeal – through history – to those men, real men, who know ‘the gentleness that comes from strength’ and show ‘chivalry’ towards women. It involves good upbringing, or adopted values, of courtesy in discourse… especially towards women. It involves graciousness – in Christian terms, grace. Chivalrous conduct is part of being a very ‘manly’ knight.

        Mocking women priests seems churlish and unmanly – or perhaps, reflects sexual insecurity and issues – so one ‘bigs up’ one’s own masculinity, but somehow fails to match the inner qualities of real men, real knights. Do knights really rage about women? I don’t thing so.

        When my Godfather died – a fine Christian gentleman – the gathering after the funeral was at an officer’s mess for his (Scottish) regiment. What came across was the stunning courtesy, civility, attention to women, and – yes – chivalry, of a group of men who had served and seen action, were undoubtedly manly, and yet… knew the meaning of ‘gentillesse’.

        But anyway, as Peter suggests, just find a church with male leadership.

  3. What an excellent post, with much to ruminate on.
    But it is your embeded link near the end that I found distracting as it is important as stand-alone topic, possibly to be re-visted today, four years later.
    In that regard I wonder if there has been any research carried out on the effect on the declension or growth in faith, on church membership/attendance, following the ordination of women, of women in eldership roles? On vision and direction?
    On the making of disciples?
    Or is it of no effect?
    And I do wonder how much effect it has had, is having, on the SSM/ sex/ gender/ LLF cortex of kerfuffle.
    Alasdair Roberts, is a one who has thought deeply and widely and written and spoken much on male/female relationships and church roles.
    Back to the future, as we run the ultimate marathon race of Discipleship. Philipians 3: 1-26.
    As we sing : Yet not I but Christ in me.
    “What gift of grace is Jesus my Redeemer…”2018 City Alight music.
    As sung here, with lyrics.

  4. The kind of Jesus we are presented with from the pulpit is one that ’empathises’ with us. He feels our pain.

    We don’t want a Jesus like that. Imagine your house is on fire and your child has burnt to death – and Jesus comes along, runs into the burning house and then says, ‘See! I’m on fire! I feel your pain!’

    What good is a Jesus like that? He’s now busy dealing with his own pain and suffering. He’s not in a position to help us.

    I seem to half-remember an old puritan poem. One of its lines ran something like this:

    Here I am ploughing hard;
    Toiling and boiling under the mid-day sun;
    My God, He is at peace.

  5. Thanks for the reflection; I think there is more of the Elijah link here than you suggest.
    Elijah also called down fire on the men sent to take him to the king, that is he called don fire on his “enemies”. Elisha wanted time to go and say goodbye to his family, and then, the plough saying has a verbalconnection also with Elisha who showed his determination to follow by killing and boiling his oxen using the wood of the plough for a fire, and then distributing the meat to others. Elisha wanted to follow and receive the spirit of Elijah but was told it would be hard.
    Jesus in these three sayings seems to ask us to rethink the Elijah / Elisha disciple relationship; now, unlike for Elijah, we must not take the path of retaliation and aggression against our opposition, even though we might be itching to do so; if it was hard for Elisha to follow Elijah and costly, Jesus suggests it is costlier and harder for someone to follow him. We must be more committed than Elisha in other words.
    Two things I take from this – first the challenge but second the potential call for us to reconsider an earlier text, to hear Jesus’ take on it, and for us to work at it for what it means for us in light of what Jesus said. The road to Jerusalem, the way to go, is not easy, nor made easier when there are modern-day snipers taking pot-shots, aka spiritual trolling.

    • Elijah and Elisha: Compare and contrast wiith Jesus.
      Jeaus stood in the place of God’s enemies.
      Jesus had a baptism, that only he could undergo, satisfy, on the cross. Yet in our union with Christ, we too have died.
      Jesus had an anointing, which believers have with the same Holy Spirit, ( for it is Jesus who baptises in the Holy Spirit) and in our union with Christ, we too have been raised with him.
      The cross we carry includes to
      constantly realise that Christians live in that reality, rather than our own goodness, works, strivings, intellect.
      When will we ever learn to live in God, our thrice Holy, Triune God.?
      Instead, we resent, deep within human nature, the freedom of the gift of God. And we try to pay him back, so we may be free to do as we chose.
      Do we neglect the serious business of enjoying God?

  6. DS
    I can’t agree.

    I want a high Priest who feels my pain… one I’m sure understands when no one else can. I can only assume you have not yet experienced real vulnerability which made you run to Christ. Of course, I want him to be much more… i want him to be my strength, my wisdom, my righteousness, my redeemer, my life, my hope, my helper, my guide, my peace etc

    Your picture is way off beam. He suffered on earth that he may sympathise with us from heaven

    • If God suffers pain – then He must be locked inside His own universe.

      Like an architect who has designed a palace – and then found himself as a wall in that palace.

      Not much of a God then, eh?

  7. DS

    He added humanity to his divinity and so became qualified as sin-bearer and ass High Priest. It is not that the gospel is not therapeutic, it is, it heals, but it is not merely therapeutic. Christ us Lord and we are called to be soldiers.

      • Dear DS , I think JT has to revise what he means by ” He added humanity to his divinity” in order to give credence to your question re *two natures*!
        Re *sin-bearing*? Galatians 3: 13f might be a good starting point.

          • To DS Galatians 3:13f ” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, *by becoming a curse for us* — for it is written “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree” – a quote from Deuteronomy 23:22 – 23.
            Jesus Christ bore on the cross *the curse of the law* to redeem us from the judegement that, as sinners we deserve. He became a curse “for us” meaning – on our behalf. He took our place!

      • DS

        I think PC! Is right. Maybe read Stott ‘The Cross of Christ’ too. Or buy Wayne Grudem’s ‘introduction to Systematic Theology’. Another good book is Bruce Milne ‘Know the truth’. These books are reliable and represent careful evangelical belief.

        I’m not sure why Colin thinks I need to revise my comment about adding humanity to divinity. This is Phil 2. He was in the form of God and became a man taking the form of a servant. Jesus was the divine Son. He was God (therefore he had a divine nature) but he became man (took a human nature).

        Part of the reason for his humanity was that he might become ‘a merciful and faithful high Priest’. He understands our human trials as one who has experienced them and he enables us to find a way through because he found the way through. (Hebrews 2-5)

        He is sin bearer in the sense that ‘he bore our sins o his own body on the cross’ (1 Peter). Buy Stott to see all that is involved in this.

        • Im not sure I would use the idea of ‘adding to’. He is both divine and human. Perhaps that is what Colin is questioning.

          But these are deep things of God.

          • He was God living in human form and body – God suffering, God getting hungry, God sharing hardship with others, God living alongside and sharing pain (compassion). God in weakness and exhaustion, God eating and drinking (and excreting). God as servant, suffering servant, of others.

            This is the amazing revelation of who God is, what our God is like.

            Jesus, God living ‘with us’ as a human being… is stunning.

          • DS.
            He was the culmination, a fulfilment of the sacrificial system, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. A Once for all, sacrifice. He was our, substitute, standing in our place, while we were his enemies, and for our forgiveness. Our sin credited to him, and his perfect, sinlessness, righteousness credited to us, to effect an exchange.
            And it was all for the joy set before him. God saves us from God. And for God, to be adopted into his family, a new humanity in Christ, the last Adam, born of God, from above, by the Spirit of God. John 1.
            Therein is the Good News, of the goodness and kindness of God that leads to repentance, to turn to Him, for forgiveness, life eternal, satisfaction, and fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, three in One.

        • John Where does it say that in Phil 2 (or elsewhere) that in the coming of Christ , humanity was *added on* to divinity ?Can you not see that the wording of the final sentence of the same paragraph borders on the Nestorian heresy -” he *had* a divine nature ” but He *took* a human nature. No wonder DS is perplexed! Jesus Christ was revealed as Son of God to the world *in* human form. Nothing was *added* to his being. The very “essence” of the nature of the Godhead *became* flesh

          • Well Colin, I’ll not argue greatly over words here. You seem to me to be making a distinction without a difference. The word ‘became’ flesh. What does ‘became flesh’ mean? He became something he had never been before – a man. To his divinity he added humanity. I believe your being just a little fastidious here.

            ‘4 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

            Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men

            Note he was in the form of God (had a divine nature) and ‘took’ the form of a servant/partook of flesh and blood.

            We, then, following the holy fathers, all with one consent teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; coessential with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the creed of the holy fathers has handed down to us.

          • Jesus living alongside human beings in a suffering, vulnerable human body… being wounded and scarred… that is part of who God forever will be (and in a sense always was, before its expression in time).

            Jesus – one person in the eternal Trinity – will forever bear the scars and totality of givenness he showed to us.

            That experience and expression of human frailty is part of who God will always be. It’s part of the compassionate awesomeness of God. In a sense, the suffering of humanity was taken on board – in the life and death of Jesus – to be an eternal part of who God is. Yes, Jesus took the form of a human, and came and dwelt in human body… yes, Jesus is more than that, Jesus is eternal, mysterious, ever-living God. But part of our God is that he has suffered daily, fragile life in human form… and that stays with God, I believe.

            In that sense, humanity was like a chromosome in the DNA of God. God chose that association. After all, we were made in God’s image, at least in a theological sense. In a sense, humanity was always in God, in a perfected form. And God was always going to actually ‘be’ human one day… well for thirty years or so… and that is part of who God was and is, and who God became (if we talk in temporal terms).

            That most definitely does not make *us* God. We are God’s people. We are born into God’s family. But the scars and sacrifice, and sharing of life in frail human body… that is part of God’s eternal nature, God’s giving, and who God is – which is never erased.

            Of course, there is much mystery in all this. But Jesus for thirty years was God in an actual human body, actually suffering, actually ‘with us’. In a sense God still is, in that the Spirit dwells in us… but physically, Jesus was human with all humanity’s vulnerability, pain, hunger.

            The God we worship is not just some far off, distant, power-wielding, angry, warrior guy. That is how some people mistakenly want to frame God. Rather… Jesus…

            “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness… He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

            The lived humanity of Jesus is the exalted majesty of God. It’s an essential part of who God is. So, as Christians, we too find perfection in being servants, alongside and compassionate like Jesus. If our unnoticed devotions of love and compassion are hidden from others… if we seem like nothing… then day by day, we are taking up our own cross, and following Jesus on the holy road.

            I don’t think humanity was “added on” to divinity.

            I think it was always there.

            May we find ourselves in Christ… in God… the God who lived the whole of what it means to be human, alongside us, in the dust and dirt and excrement.

            And gave again and again to others in love, empathy, compassion, kindness.

            In Jesus Christ we have better understanding of the nature and deep compassion of God: not a mighty, posturing, bombastic God… but the God who sees us in our times of trouble, and longs to draw close and be with us, coming to us with eternal gentleness.

            “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us… we have seen His glory.” (John 1:14)

            God’s glory is full of humility.

            What an amazing God.

  8. DS

    Its not always wise to distinguish too far between his divinity and his humanity. He was the Word (God) made flesh. (Human). At every point he acts as this. He is a divine person (in identity) who became flesh without shedding what was essential to him as ‘the Word’ or ‘the Son’.

    It was a divine person who was pierced. Interestingly in Zech 12 we read

    (ESV) when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…’

    God is the speaker here. He is indicated he is the one Israel pierced. This feeds into the mystery that is Christ….very God of very God and very man of very man.

    I’d only add while he was truly human his humanity is of a different state than ours. Adam was innocent humanity; we have sinful humanity; Christ had holy humanity.

    • Mr Thomson

      ‘I’d only add while he was truly human his humanity is of a different state than ours.’

      Then not a single human being can be resurrected.

      Not a scintilla of Scriptural support.

      • We are born sinful he was born holy. We belong at birth to adam the first man,,, christ was the second man the first of a new humanity. To take part in resurrection to life we need to belong to the second man. This means we must by faith share his nature/life presently so that we may share a body like his in resurrection.

        I’m not sure whether you are playing the daft laddie or whether you are a daft laddie, You need to grapple with Scripture and not just fire from the hip.

        Incidentally your quarrel with Zech 12 is a quarrel with the Bible not theologians.

        • Mr Thomson

          ‘I’d only add while he was truly human his humanity is of a different state than ours.’

          Before 1750, that would’ve been classified as heresy.

        • Mr Thomson

          I apologise for the following remark (sin of presumption):

          ‘That’s the kind of assertion I would expect from Thomson – who has had no training in theology nor law.’


          • DS

            Well, you’re right. I don’t have training in theology or law. I have tried to understand what the Bible teaches with the help of books along the way. I try to make the Bible my sole source of absolute authority.

  9. Geoff

    ‘Our sin credited to him, and his perfect, sinlessness, righteousness credited to us, to effect an exchange.’

    This God unjust. Full of retribution. Vengeful. Kills innocent man. Rupture in Trinity. Man full of sin cannot save.

    Mr Thomson

    ‘God is the speaker here. He is indicated he is the one Israel pierced.’

    Nietzsche, right: God is dead. He finite, killed with finite spear.

    It is not your fault lads.

    The blame lies upon the shoulders of your professors and doctors.

    I had no idea that they sat so squarely on the shoulders of Descartes and Locke.

    What a flippin’ mess.

    Or as PC1 would say: ‘Basic Christianity’.

    Get it sorted!

  10. Psephizo

    You have not lifted a little finger to assist your side.

    I accept that you have great knowledge. Zech 12:10 and the scribes’ intentional error – which you pointed out – was outstanding.

    Every discipline has its axioms. Theology – as the Queen of the Sciences – is no different.

    You could help by taking every opportunity, in every blog post, by pointing to a Judaeo-Christian axiom that may come into play.

    One day, mister, the younger generation will see you as the athlete who passed on the blazing torch.

    Go ahead – delete this post too. I’m used to seeing the flames of candles snuffed out.

    • Which god(s) do you believe, DS? Any or none? The gods of philosophers, the sovereign god of self?
      What do you do about your sin?
      As it happens the discussion above between Ian and James mentions not wasting time and moving on from those determined in opposition. You certainly seem rattled.

        • DS,
          Did he not answer questions either, truthfully.
          It is interesting that you see yourself as sn opponent of orthodox Christianity, and perhaps Christians themselves.
          Indeed, it is person of God, in Jesus, who you oppose, who is the Way, the Truth, the Life.
          And it does not become you to enter in bad faith and malign intent.
          As a former solicitor trained in matters of reliability of evidence, for getting at the truth, Your scatter gun approach to arguing your case (which is not made known) carries no weight.
          As such your contributions could be summed up as merely a process frivelous and vexatious comments, serving your own purpose.
          Every blessing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

          • Geoff

            I lean towards Greek-Russian orthodoxy:

            ‘It is interesting that you see yourself as an opponent of orthodox Christianity’.

            I thought you and Thomson were against orthodoxy in your support of Anselm’s theory of Satisfaction.

          • Geoff

            ‘Indeed, it is person of God, in Jesus, who you oppose’.

            A bald assertion, without any evidential support.

            That’s the kind of assertion I would expect from Thomson – who has had no training in theology nor law.

          • DS,
            This is highly unlikely to satisfy you, but if I recall correctly, John Thomson has had sufficient Biblical and Theological training and recognition and authority to preach in his church. He is not some Jonny come lately, who has overnight been transformed from a neophyte learner in Bible and theology to an instant expert. I, for one, appreciate his input from a clearly Reformed position, which is rare on this site. And quite astonishing, to me, is the severity of the push back against such UK, world renowned evangelicals, as Stott, Packer, and Lloyd-Jones with their common view acceptance of atonement, and within living memory.
            It is also significant that the theology of atonement embraced and expounded by Anglicans of international significance, influence and standing, such as Stott, Packer and Motyer, carry such little weight today, by – passed by NT Wright with his new perspectives and “what Paul really said.” ( Even if that may have been the publisher’s preposterous
            hyped promotional book title.)

  11. As an ‘umble churchwarden who has to lead and preach this Sunday, I find your blog immensely helpful, as ever, thank you. For various arcane reasons my reaction to the Luke passage is partly coloured by my appreciation of the story (or legend, is it all true ?) of St. Laurence of Rome. One who kept his eyes on the ploughing to the point of martyrdom. The challenges of Jesus need to be reemphasised as I do feel that our church has allowed too much of the kind of preaching which portrays the faith as seemingly all, or only, about the comfort of a loving God who accepts us, whoever and whatever we are. That’s fine, but there has not been enough emphasis on not letting our reception of the grace of God ‘come to nothing’.

    Our church congregations have shrunk because we are seen as people merely trying to do a bit more of what our Welfare State does anyway, rather than being a people who have fundamentally DIFFERENT lives.

  12. Hi thank you, this was interesting. I am studying the gospel of Luke for the first time.
    I was trying to count the 2 sets of 12 parables mentioned and I couldn’t make it add up. I’m not sure what counts as a parable. I wondered if you would be willing to list the 12+ 12 parables or provide a link to a list?

    Thank you

    • I just noticed this, from an online search, apparently from Wikipedia on parables: ‘The Gospel of Luke contains both the largest total number of parables (24) and eighteen unique parables; the Gospel of Matthew contains 23 parables of which eleven are unique; and the Gospel of Mark contains eight parables of which two are unique.’


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