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DISCIPLESHIP AND TOLERANCE

Read­ing Time: 9 minutes

(Ref. Texts: 1Kgs 19:16.19–21; Gal 5:1.13–18; Luke 9:51–62)

Being a Chris­ti­an is not about us; it is about Jesus. Spir­itu­al form­a­tion is about the life of Jesus being made vis­ible in our bod­ies; it is about enga­ging the Spir­it because we are hungry for God; it is about being dis­ciples so that Jesus can pour his life into us. It is about learn­ing to love God with our heart, mind, body, and soul. It is about hav­ing the cour­age to actu­ally fol­low Christ – to place one foot in front of the oth­er, to dare to live a life of grace.”

Introduction

After the rev­el­a­tion of Jesus’ iden­tity as the Mes­si­ah of God; after Jesus’ explan­a­tion of the implic­a­tion of his being the anoin­ted One of God; and after list­ing the con­di­tions of being his dis­ciple (cf. Luke 9:18–24), Jesus heads to Jer­u­s­alem, the final des­tin­a­tion of his mis­sion and the locus (place) where his mis­sion will be con­sum­mated (cf. Luke 9:51). There­fore, with the sol­emn for­mula now it happened that as the days drew near for him to be taken up, he res­ol­utely turned his face towards Jer­u­s­alem in Luke 9:51, Luke begins the great account of Jesus’ jour­ney from Galilee to Jer­u­s­alem. From this moment, Jesus con­stantly jour­neys towards Jer­u­s­alem (cf. 9:51.53.57; 10:38). This is the jour­ney of the suf­fer­ing mes­si­ah, who how­ever, will resur­rect after three days, and will later ascend to the Fath­er, who will in turn, send the Holy Spir­it to the dis­ciples, to con­tin­ue to pro­clam­a­tion of the mes­sage of salvation.

As Jesus begins his jour­ney to Jer­u­s­alem, a jour­ney that will cul­min­ate with his mis­sion in Jer­u­s­alem, Luke informs us that Jesus’ days for being “taken up” were ful­filled. The Greek term used by Luke in 9:51 analēmp­sis cor­res­ponds to the verb analam­banō trans­lated “taken up” in Acts 1:2.11.22; 1Tim 3:16. Both instances refer to Jesus’ ascen­sion. Luke also informs his read­ers that Jesus is determ­ined to jour­ney to Jer­u­s­alem. Such determ­in­a­tion indic­ates his will­ing­ness and dis­pos­i­tion to obey the Fath­er who sent him. For Luke, Jesus mis­sion begins in Galilee and then is one long jour­ney to Jer­u­s­alem. In Jer­u­s­alem Jesus will meet his death but also enter into his glory. It is in Jer­u­s­alem that his dis­ciples were asked to wait after his Ascen­sion to be empowered with the Holy Spir­it on the Jew­ish feast of Pentecost.

Jesus Rejected by the Samaritans. Why?

As Jesus embarked on this theo­lo­gi­co-soteri­olo­gic­al jour­ney, some­thing happened. As a pre­par­a­tion for his jour­ney to Jer­u­s­alem, some of his mes­sen­gers went to a Samar­it­an vil­lage to make the neces­sary arrange­ments. Unfor­tu­nately, the cit­izens of this unnamed Samar­it­an vil­lage refused them access because he was head­ing to Jer­u­s­alem. But who were these Samar­it­ans and why did they refuse to wel­come Jesus? Bear in mind that the Samar­it­ans are the only sur­viv­ing Jew­ish groups as recor­ded in the Scrip­tures. Briefly, the Samar­it­an Israel­ites are the rem­nant of an ancient people, des­cen­ded from the ancient King­dom of Israel. The Samar­it­an life is con­cen­trated in two centres. Gen­er­ally, some of the com­munity live in the Kiry­at Luza neigh­bour­hood on Mount Ger­iz­im through­out the year, while few fam­il­ies des­cend in the winter months to live in the very old neigh­bour­hood in Nablus (Bib­lic­al She­chem). The oth­er half reside mostly in the Neveh Mar­qeh neigh­bour­hood in Holon, which was estab­lished in 1954–55. Recently, the young­er gen­er­a­tion of Samar­it­ans are insist­ing on the expan­sion of these centres. As at Janu­ary 1, 2003, the Samar­it­an pop­u­la­tion was estim­ated at 756. For more inform­a­tion con­cern­ing the Samar­it­ans, read “Who are the Samar­it­ans?” in Jesus the Foun­tain of Life, reflec­tion for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A.

The Samar­it­ans rejec­ted Jesus’ mes­sen­gers and invari­ably, Jesus him­self, most prob­ably because they did not accept Jer­u­s­alem as the place where God should be wor­shiped. There was anim­os­ity between Samar­it­ans who wor­shiped on Mount Ger­iz­im and Jews who wor­shiped in Jer­u­s­alem. To know more about this, read Jesus’ con­ver­sa­tion with the Samar­it­an woman as recor­ded in John chapter 4:4–20 (cf. also John 8:48). Again, the rejec­tion could have as well been due to the unfriendly rela­tion­ship with the Jew­ish Israel­ites espe­cially since the Baby­lo­ni­an exile. They must have ques­tioned why Jesus have chosen to die in Jer­u­s­alem. Jesus was also rejec­ted as he began his mis­sion in Galilee (cf. Luke 4). He met his last and hor­rif­ic rejec­tion in Jerusalem.

Such rejec­tion is still exper­i­enced in our soci­ety and amongst us. How often do we reject and dis­crim­in­ate oth­ers because they do not belong to our group, race and do not reas­on like us? This dan­ger­ous and unchris­ti­an dis­crim­in­a­tion is most evid­ent in polit­ic­al scenes and espe­cially in the reli­gious and Chris­ti­an churches and com­munit­ies. A reli­gious and Chris­ti­an group that still reas­ons on indi­gen­ous and non-indi­gen­ous grounds is a failed and god­less group. Again, to dis­crim­in­ate against a per­son because he or she is a friend to someone you are not in good terms with is not only cal­lous but inhu­man and act of viol­ence. Since the Samar­it­ans were not in good terms with the Jews, they could not show hos­pit­al­ity to Jesus because he was jour­ney­ing towards Jer­u­s­alem for the ful­fil­ment of his mis­sion. Fol­low­ing their reas­on­ing, Jesus should have aban­doned going to Jer­u­s­alem. But they nev­er knew the con­sequence of such decision. Jesus not trav­el­ling to Jer­u­s­alem would have implied among oth­er things, non-exist­ence of Chris­tian­ity. Our guid­ing prin­ciples should be Jesus’ teach­ings in Mat­thew 5:43–48.

The Disciples’ Reaction

Nat­ur­ally, the dis­ciples reacted to the rejec­tion by the Samar­it­ans. They sought per­mis­sion from Jesus to com­mand fire from heav­en to con­sume those Samar­it­ans. A per­mis­sion Jesus refused to grant. Jesus could not have giv­en such per­mis­sion because his com­ing was not to bring judg­ment (cf. John 3:17), and to com­pel people to accept and fol­low him. Dis­ciple­ship is a free choice and a vol­un­tary delib­er­a­tion (cf. Matt 11:28). Often, there is the tempta­tion and the urge to use viol­ence to achieve right. This is wrong. One of the mis­sions of Jesus is to break such men­tal­ity. Jesus him­self is fully aware that he must under­go viol­ence before he can enter into glory. The dis­ciples wanted to pay back the Samar­it­ans in their own coin. But as the say­ing goes: two wrongs can nev­er make a right. Though it is encour­aged by nature, hos­pit­al­ity and assist­ance are not by force. They should be done freely and without grudges (cf. 2Cor 9:7). We should not quar­rel with people because they refused to assist us. That would be viol­ence. Here also, Jesus’ prin­ciple in Mat­thew 5:42 should be our can­on. To the refus­al of the Samar­it­ans, Jesus simply rebuked them (we do not know the nature of this rebuk­ing) and fol­lowed his own instruc­tions in Mat­thew 10:13–14. He moved on with his mis­sion. We should learn to move on even when we are rejected.

The Cost of Discipleship

The last mes­sage of Luke 9:18–24 is Jesus’ indir­ect call to fol­low him and the con­di­tions of fol­low­ing him. It is a gen­er­al indic­a­tion to poten­tial or intend­ing dis­ciples (cf. Luke 9:23–24). In this Sunday Gos­pel, Jesus is more spe­cif­ic. And this fol­lows imme­di­ately the rejec­tion by the Samar­it­ans. As he jour­neyed to anoth­er vil­lage after the Samar­it­ans’ rejec­tion, Jesus encountered three would-be disciples.

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