Whenever the Come Follow Me manual has multiple chapters in multiple gospel accounts it becomes difficult to discuss everything in the chapters. We are back into Luke, along with continuing in Matthew this week and there is some new and interesting information, but also some events we have already discussed.
Jesus is still ministering in the settlements in and around the Sea of Galilee at this point, but He is becoming frustrated. He has performed many signs and miracles, yet there is still a large contingent of people who are not only still disbelieving, they are actively trying to subvert His ministry. It seems from the various accounts that more and more Pharisees are in the company of people following Jesus. In these chapters it is confirmed that King Herod Antipas is concerned about Jesus and His followers. This is likely true for the other ruling classes as well, which would explain the constant presence of Pharisees and Scribes in his company.
The only new story we will not delve into this week is the story of the woman anointing Jesus’s feet in Luke 7. Luke is the only account that places this story at this time and not in Bethany. I tend to believe the account happens later in Jesus life and we will discuss it at that point.
The cost and challenges of discipleship are at the forefront of these chapters and so as you study and share with your family I hope that you will find ways to see how you can become better disciples.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 10 – Matt 10-12, Luke 7, 11
– Christ seeks us to participate in His mission to bring the gospel to all people, but also explains that it will have challenges.
– When we take upon us the burden of Christ’s mission, He will strengthen us in our own burdens.
– It is difficult to love and be close to God without us admitting we need forgiveness and help in our mortal journey.
Context and Timeline:
– The healing of the widow’s dead son in Nain is immediately preceding Jesus’s comparison to John the Baptist and Elijah. Many scholars believe this an attempt to show a parallel to Elijah raising the widow of Zarapeth’s son. (1 Kings 17)
– The final version of the introduction of the 12 apostles in Matthew is different in the sense that he teaches them and many others in the crowd about their mission and the difficulties of discipleship. He is establishing His authority with others now and wants word of that to spread. This is the beginning of not only a movement, but an organized movement that will turn into a church by these apostles.
– We discussed the Lord’s Prayer a few weeks ago, but one of the things that is interesting about Luke’s version is that we can see the Lord’s Prayer was meant to be a ritualistic communal prayer. In the Catholic tradition that is also the main usage of the Lord’s Prayer. I think it is similar to our sacrament prayers in its meaningfulness to the community that participates in it.
– Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and many of the villages Jesus mentions in His woes are small settlements along the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
– It can often feel like there are only a few examples, repeated over and over in the gospel accounts, of Jesus and His disciples breaking Sabbath law. However, it is more likely that since Jesus and His followers did not have homes and were walking from town to town that they were forced to break the Sabbath as part of their daily survival. This is one of the reasons I believe Jesus focus so much on the Sabbath being made for man and our benefit.
For the second time in as many weeks the Lord comes across a grieving parent who has had a child die. This woman was already a widow and there was an outpouring of condolences to the woman as they carried her deceased son out of the town. Jesus is filled with compassion again, and raises the widow’s son from the dead. I cannot imagine the level of emotion this widow was experiencing when Jesus arrived and saved her son.
At this point in the story we get the final account of the calling of the 12 apostles, and this time Jesus gives them their mission. Their mission is to preach the gospel, baptize, heal, and do the things that Jesus has been showing them for the past months. However, there is one caveat, and that is they are not allowed to teach anyone who is not an Israelite for now. Jesus then gives the apostles direction including not taking money or anything with them, finding faithful to live with and help on their journey. He is clearly testing their faith by this charge.
Sensing their fear, the Savior teaches them some important lessons about discipleship. I think it is important to read these saying and think about them, but I am going to list them in paraphrased form here:
- Discipleship requires being innocent but wise as there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing seeking to undermine Christ’s mission.
- Even people we love will be against us at times, but we must still trust God.
- God will give us the words to speak if we believe in Him.
- We are not greater than Jesus, our master, so we cannot expect the life of discipleship to be comfortable or easier than His.
- Do not fear death, or man, but be more concerned with ours and other’s souls.
- The Lord knows every hair of our heads and knows us personally, trust that even when we feel alone.
- Even our families cannot be more important that our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we make Him our priority then our other relationships will be holier and better.
Jesus’s words are challenging us to understand that the life of a disciple is fraught with potential challenges. As if on command, many of John’s disciples are sent to Jesus to find out if He is truly the Messiah, or if there is another. I love this story, because it shows us John, a great prophet, wallowing in prison and beginning to doubt whether Jesus was truly the Savior. I think we can all relate to John in this instance. We all go through things that can be terrible and shake our faith to the core. John likely expected Jesus to save his people from the tyrants in the government in addition to spiritual salvation, yet he was in prison almost certain he would be killed. He also may not have even heard anything related to miracles that were happening.
While we do not know when John sent His disciples to find Jesus, when they arrive Jesus invites them to follow Him and witness his miracles, teachings, and confrontations with the Pharisees. After they are convinced He is the Messiah, they return to inform John. Sometime after they leave Jesus then speaks to the people following Him explaining that John the Baptist is truly one of the greatest men. This despite him having nothing, being the least of men, and that he was truly like Elijah the prophet come to prepare the way of the Lord. John was a real life example of a person that defined what Jesus had been teaching his followers for some time. He loved John, but even in helping to boost John’s faith, Jesus did not deliver him from prison. I feel like this has real application for us when we are in difficult circumstances. We may not be delivered from our plight, but the Lord will still send us tender mercies to bolster our faith if we look for them.
To finish up His discourse on discipleship Jesus finishes by telling all those who choose to take on the burden of discipleship, that He will comfort them and lift them, and bring them peace.
It is difficult to know if John’s situation frustrated Jesus, or if the constant disbelief in the villages he visited frustrated him, but in either case he is confronted at some point after John’s disciples left. Jesus reacts by pronouncing woes upon all of the villages who will not have faith, despite all of his miracles and teachings. He is invited to a dinner with a Pharisee and eventually begins listing all the reasons why Pharisees are not living in harmony with God.
These two events highlight more escalation between Jesus, His followers, and the ruling class. It would not be much longer before Jesus would need to leave the area for his safety, but for now even further effort was being given behind the scenes to the removal of Jesus by the ruling class.
Why is the difficulty of discipleship important? Why do we preach the gospel to other people and nations? Why does Jesus think it is important?
Why is Jesus so harsh toward Pharisees and scribes? It is clear He is exaggerating his feelings for them, since He loves everyone, to prove a point, what is the point for us?
Why is compassion the emotion Jesus is documented to exhibit the most often? What does this mean for us? Even when He was depressed and frustrated He had compassion on people, what is the lesson in this for our discipleship?
What does it mean to us when Jesus says he that is forgiven little, loves others little? Is there an important correlation to love and being extended forgiveness? Or is it easier to love when you are comfortable knowing you need to be forgiven often?
Key Moment or Scripture: Matt 11:28-30
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This scripture has always been special to me in my hardest times. I love the imagery of sharing a yoke with Jesus Christ. Knowing that there is nothing I may have to go through that He has not felt or experienced. Knowing that He loves me and will let me learn through hard experiences, but will carry me when I cannot go on.
We often don’t talk about the Jesus that challenges us. We focus, rightfully so, on His mercy and grace. However, I think it is important for us all to embrace the challenges of life, not as punishments, but as necessities to help us become something greater than ourselves. I find myself fearing loss, fearing to fail, fearing the unknown, but I know that if I will share the yoke with Jesus that I will become stronger and will receive help when I need it. I challenge us all to engage with the Savior in our own lives.