February 8, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 9)

Submitted by Ilju W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

QUESTIONS

Luke 9:46-48

  • In what ways am I preoccupied with this argument that broke out among the disciples?

The disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest.  Even though they were with Jesus and learning from Him and witnessing so many miracles, they were too busy comparing themselves to each other.  In same way I can become preoccupied with my own competitiveness with others either be at work or in ministry.  Even though at work, we are suppose to work together as a team on projects, there is part of me that want to make sure that I get proper credits for my work and that I do slightly better than my co-workers. I know that I should not be competitive but be a salt and light at work, but I can become so busy with my own tasks and responsibilities that I would not consider volunteer for tasks that do not put me in more advantage position at work.  Even in ministry, this competitiveness can come out in form of my own insecurities.  Are my students having better time than other life group girls? Do they think that our life group time is boring compared to others?  My competitiveness wants to make sure that even though I may not be the greatest, I just want to make sure that I am slightly better than others.  My focus on others rather than Jesus also robs me of having true fellowship with my leaders and my co-workers in Christ.

  • What kind of person will welcome a “little child”?

Who would not welcome a “little child”? Kids are so cute and fun.  But to take care of one for long period of time, to be the one to be responsible for a “little child” is another matter.  A “little child” has nothing to offer, and if anything it would require a person to invest a lot time and resources to welcome a “little child”.  To a grown adult who needs to make something of themselves in this world will not want to welcome a “little child” who will take a way their valuable time and resources.  A person who will welcome a “little child” is someone who values life, who is not preoccupied with the competitiveness of this world or with desire to prove oneself in the world.  This is someone who knows how to love unconditionally, someone who is not calculating but form relationships for just the sake of relationship.

I was someone who would not have welcomed a “little child”.  I avoided any relationship or people who were no benefit to me.  I use to define myself by comparing myself to others.  Mentally, I would know that I was better than so and so and not as good as so and so.  I thought relationships were there to just meet my loneliness and I did not see any value in relationships, so I would have never welcomed a “little child” who could not offer anything to me.  But this change as I experienced myself to be a “little child” and yet Jesus welcomed me even though I had nothing to offer but my own brokenness.  I experienced more concretely through my relationship with my leaders and my peers.  And now I have come to value relationship and my focus shift from what I can gain from relationship to what I can offer in relationship.

Luke 9:57-62

  • None of these three men ended up following Jesus.  What did they value?

First man had no obligations unlike other two men, but Jesus seems to know what was on this man’s heart.  Even though this man said that he would follow Jesus wherever Jesus went, it did not seem like he knew what he was committing too.  Jesus’ answer paints a true picture of what it would mean for this man to follow him.  It wasn’t just physically following Jesus.  He probably thought that he would follow Jesus as he was without thinking so much about how he would have to leave other things in his life. This man valued comfort and what he is used to.  Second man wanted to go bury his father first.  He wanted to complete his duty as a son.  He valued his duty and obligation more at this point.  And the third man wanted to say bye to his family before he followed Jesus.  This man valued his family relationship more than following Jesus.  All these man did not have a right priority in mind even though they wanted to follow Jesus.  They have placed their families and homes as higher priority than to following Jesus.

  • How does Jesus describe one who is unfit for the service in the kingdom of God?  Are there ways in which I am “looking back”?

One who is unfit for the service in the kingdom of God is the one who looks back for some reason after they have committed to follow Him.

There were times when I wanted to call it quit living this life of Christian life because things just got too hard and difficult.  There are times when I just want to go home after work instead of going to Berkeley to minister to students.  There are times when I just want to worry about my own problem not someone else’s.  And there times when I just don’t even want to deal with my problems and my own sins.  Why do I have to keep on trying to change, to be a better Christian, when I keep on failing?  I am tempted to look back when I grow tired of dealing with my sins.  Times like these, I wonder how my life would be like living a comfortable yet shallow life. But the answer is obvious.  Even though it may seem appealing and it may seem like more comfortable life, I know that I cannot go back knowing what I know now.  There is nothing that can be compared to this life I live in Christ where I am working to make eternal difference in people’s life.

  • Why does Jesus seem to discourage these men from following him? 

Jesus was discouraging them because he wanted to make sure that their priorities were right.  They cannot follow him unless following him was their top priority.  He did not say that they cannot follow him but he was only making it clear to them what it would mean for them to follow him. And ultimately it was up to them if they thought that following Jesus was worth letting go of what they value more.  Following Jesus requires such clarity and commitment because it is not a light matter where you start and quit anytime you want.  It is a decision that affects eternality, and it is a decision that will change one’s life forever.

I would not say that Jesus discouraged me from following him but it sure was not an easy decision to make knowing that this decision would completely change my life.  I had a difficult time because it was not easy for me to let go of control of my life and completely trust in Jesus.  Will my family members understand my decision?  Do I know what I am doing with this decision? What about my future?  There were many questions but there was only one answer.  I knew that I need to surrender my life to Christ, and I knew that I could not do anything for myself of my sins but only in Christ I can be forgiven.  I submitted myself to the truth and I committed to follow Jesus. This decision happened ten years ago for me.  And what I realized is that when I chose to make Jesus my Lord and Savior, not only did he take care of my sins and my life, but He also watches over everything in my life including my parents.  My mom was not pleased with my decision ten years ago, but now she is on the same side as me for she has become Christ follower too.  Knowing what I know now, how my mom would go through two cancer scares, I am thankful that it was God who took care of her and carried her through instead of me or my family who would had only little to offer.

Submitted by Jeremiah L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Luke 9:46-48

·     In what ways am I preoccupied with this argument that broke out among the disciples?

The picture of an argument starting out amongst the disciples over which one of them would be the greatest is interesting because it’s so brazen, and seems so petty and ugly considering all the amazing things they had been witnessing as followers of Jesus.  But in the disciples’ argument and in their comparisons of themselves against each other, I recognize so much in myself, except my comparing and my jockeying to be the “greatest” is much more subtle and hidden compared to the disciples’ very open argument about which of them was going to be greatest.

What might the basis of their arguing have been? In the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus sent out the Twelve with the “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,” and “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  Luke 9:6 states that  they went from “village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” Later in the chapter, they witnessed Jesus multiplying five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand, and Jesus even used them in that process. Later still, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to a mountain to pray, where they experienced the Transfiguration.  It takes only a basic observation of sinful human behavior to recognize that the ammunition for the disciples’ arguments probably lay somewhere in these experiences. It would be interesting to hear what the disciples said or what they were thinking as they were arguing about why they were each the greatest: “I healed 8 cripples and 2 blind men!”  “Oh yeah? After I passed out those baskets of bread and fish, I had 3 whole basketfuls of broken pieces left over,” or “Well, I got to go with Jesus to that mountain and you didn’t!”

Putting it in this form, it’s pretty clear how petty and foolish this all sounds, but how far is this from the foolish un-stated thoughts that go on in my own heart? In my inner comparison of myself with other people, don’t I reference the things that I have done, the “accomplishments” I have, all the “work” that I’ve put in to following God? Don’t I refer to the things that I perceive I’ve given up, the sacrifices I’ve made, the ways I’ve served and isn’t it really easy for me to attribute positive results to my own abilities or talents? My own preoccupation with being the “greatest” is evident whenever I feel slighted because I feel overlooked, or when I’m offended because I’m not recognized for something that I think I should be recognized for, or when I feel threatened or jealous of other people’s successes. When the disciples were arguing about what they’ve done, they probably forgot that it was Jesus who had given them the power and authority they had, not because of anything they had already done, but as an act of grace and as part of His invitation for them to follow Him. Instead of being humbled by how blessed or undeserving they were to be able to be following Jesus, and instead of marveling at the amazing work of God that had been done in the lives of the people they had met, the disciples resorted to these petty comparisons of each other. I see the same disconnection with reality in my own life – on what basis do I really have to argue that I am the greatest in anything?  That I even get to be involved in God’s work at all, given my repeated and constant sinfulness, is an act of mercy; that I get to serve and somehow be used in God’s redemptive work of healing and casting out the demons and strongholds in people is amazing, that I’m in a church where we’re blessed to be able to see such tangible fruit of God’s work in people’s lives. In this context, my jockeying for “greatness” as compared to others is clearly foolish and really misses God’s heart.

·     What kind of person will welcome a “little child”?

The type of person that would welcome a “little child” in Jesus’ name is someone characterized by humility. In those days, children weren’t treated with the type of attention that they often receive today, and they certainly would not have been the center of attention in families or societies in the way they are today. They may have been considered lesser people or perhaps, useless. Thus, someone who would stop to welcome a little child would have to stoop down to that child’s level, and this is a picture of what humility looks like. This type of person would welcome Jesus as well, because to believe and trust in Jesus’ words takes a great level of humility in light of Jesus’ assessment of the condition of man and our need to repent. I think a person who would welcome a “little child” also is someone who is not calculating. Often, I want to devote my attention and resources to those whom I perceive to be most useful, or the type of people who would be the most bang-for-my-buck, so to say–people who can return the favor or perhaps pay me back in some way. In those days especially, to devote one’s attention to a little child to welcome him would have been an other-centered act, because there’s really nothing a child could do for a person in return. This is a parallel to Jesus’ love for me, since I am like that child who can never pay back Jesus, but nonetheless Jesus welcomes me.

Luke 9:57-62

·     None of these three men ended up following Jesus.  What did they value?

None of these three men ended up following Jesus. The first man didn’t follow presumably because he was scared off by the fact that Jesus said He had no place to lay his head. The second man said he had to go and bury his father. The third man wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family. Home, duty, family–none of these are inherently bad things, and in fact devotion to these things are often considered quite admirable, but nonetheless it’s often these types of things that keep a person from following Jesus. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is very clear about what it means to follow him: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Jesus’ first disciples understood this somehow, because Luke 5 highlights that they “left everything and followed him.”

These men who did not end up following Jesus were not willing to undergo the serious task of leaving behind everything to follow Jesus. What they valued instead were things often considered by many people to be the good and desirable things of life. It boils down to comfort. The comfort of knowing that everyday you would return back to the same home, same life, where at the end-of-the-day one’s problems and burdens are self-focused and rather narrow. The comfort of having a small corner of the world all marked out for one’s enjoyment. The comfort of having one’s sphere of concern being only one’s immediate or perhaps slightly-extended family. The comfort of a predictable life. None of these men were willing to surrender the seemingly predictable and comfortable lifestyle that everyone else in their world was living. And so, the cost of following Jesus–to leave everything behind–seemed way too high. In the end, despite their rhetoric and initial willingness to go, when the cost of following meant actual sacrifice and actually leaving behind, they considered it too high. I recognize myself in these men because, in the abstract, promising to follow God is easy. But when it actually means leaving behind and letting go of concrete things–specific worldly ambitions of mine, the cozy life I imagine or see depicted in the media or the world at-large–then the decision to follow is much harder.

·     How does Jesus describe one who is unfit for the service in the kingdom of God?  Are there ways in which I am “looking back”?

Jesus analogizes one who is unfit for service in the kingdom of God as one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back. I think there are many ways in which I “look back,” especially because of all my worries and anxieties. When I feel worried or anxious about the circumstances in my life, it’s tempting to look back and wonder what my life would have been like if I had not chosen to follow God. I wonder to myself: maybe I would have been more content, more at peace. Maybe if I devoted more time for myself and my own goals and advancement, I would have been further along in life and maybe I could have been a real somebody in this world. Maybe I could have reached my full “potential” in life. These thoughts are all ultimately very foolish and disconnected from reality, and I think ultimately very hurtful as well, like a
married man wondering if he could have lived a better life without his wife or with a different wife. I think this is why Jesus was so open and upfront about what it means to follow Him. Following Jesus is a total and whole commitment; it’s a vow to go with Jesus wherever He may lead, and so the heart that always looks back is not fit for service in the kingdom of God.

·     Why does Jesus seem to discourage these men from following him? 

I think Jesus seems to discourage these men from following him because he is being very realistic and forthright about the type of life that these men should expect if they were to follow Him. If they couldn’t even commit to following Jesus at this point, then what would happen when the day-to-day difficulties, persecutions, heartaches, and struggles of following Jesus came? Jesus says in John 15: “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” In Matthew 10, He says, “All me will hate you because of me…” From texts like this, Jesus is pretty clear that this type of hardship and difficulty is to be expected for all genuine followers. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To love people in the way Jesus loved them comes requires a person be willing to be disturbed, to be interrupted, to let go of one’s own agenda and preferred lifestyle, to have to sacrifice, to be hurt, to be rejected, and even persecuted. It requires a loose grasp on one’s life, and these men seemed to want to hold on to their lives and dictate for themselves what following Jesus would look like. “I will follow Jesus if I can still be comfortable and have a place to rest my head…if I can take care of my family the way that I want…” Jesus didn’t give us this choice. Even though the men here expressed with their words some desire to follow Jesus, Jesus knew what truly following Him was going to look like. He couldn’t promise them the control over their own lives that they might have wanted and he couldn’t promise them that things would go the way they wanted. Their reluctance showed that they did not fully grasp what it meant to follow Jesus. By deciding not to follow though, their sphere of concern and influence would have been so small, and they would have missed out on so much, as evident by all that Jesus’ disciples were able to experience and be part of and the type of deep relationship they had with Jesus.

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