Why does Jesus make discipleship 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 is 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 focusses 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. 

Preaching on Genesis 2 and Revelation 4

For those using the Revised Common Lectionary, the readings are Genesis 2.4b-9,15-25, Revelation 4 and Luke 8.22-25. The gospel reading is very short, and is set alongside two other significant readings that it might be odd to by-pass. I therefore share two reflections I have written on Genesis 2, and two on Revelation 4. The comments on Genesis … Continue Reading