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Luke 9:51-62

We are beginning a short series on Easter, exploring the events that led up to Jesus' death and resurrection.

  • What does Easter mean to you as you prepare to celebrate it again this year?

  • Is there any particular idea, image, memory, story, bible verse, etc. that is on your heart as you think of Easter right now? Why is it important to you?

Much of Jesus' earthly ministry was directed towards the Easter event. As early as Luke chapter 9 Jesus begins his 'journey to Jerusalem', a journey that covers almost half the book [1], culminating in his arrival on Palm Sunday in chapter 19. This bible study will look at the beginning of the journey in chapter 9.

Read Luke 9:51

  • Luke refers to the Easter event as Jesus being "taken up" or "received up" [2]. What would it have been like for Jesus to know that His time was approaching? How do you imagine he felt about it at this point?

  • The second phrase in this verse is that Jesus "set his face" to go to Jerusalem, a phrase which means to make up your mind and which implies courage and focus. What does it mean to you that Jesus "set his face" to go to his arrest, crucifixion, death & resurrection?

Read Luke 9:51-56

  • Why do you think the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus and his disciples? What do you imagine Luke means when he says that they could see that "his face was set toward Jerusalem"?

  • Why do you think James and John wanted to "call fire down from heaven" on the Samaritan village? [3]

  • Why do you think Jesus rebuked them? What is Jesus' attitude? What should be the attitude of followers of Jesus?

Read Luke 9:57-62

  • In verse 57 Luke reminds us again that Jesus is "walking along the road", with all that we now know that implies from verse 51. How does Jesus' awareness of where he is heading affect how he responds to each of these potential disciples?

  • Consider each man one at a time. What is the underlying meaning of Jesus' words to each person? What is the cost of discipleship for each one? [4]

  • What does it mean to you to follow Jesus:

    • Do you follow him with a sense of homelessness, like a pilgrim on a long journey?

    • Do you follow him as your first priority, your most solemn duty?

    • Can you follow him without looking back, keeping your gaze fixed on where he is leading, not longing for what you've had to leave behind?

  • How do you feel about these demands? What would it take for you to be able to say yes to all three, without hesitation?

Spend some time praising Jesus for his willing sacrifice, that he would willingly go to the cross to save us.

Then, spend some time praying for one another, that God would deepen your faith and help you to willingly follow Jesus - to "set your face" to follow him no matter what, as he set his face toward Jerusalem and everything that would happen to him there.

[1] The references to Jesus' ongoing journey to Jerusalem in Luke are found in Luke 9:51, 53 & 57 (in this bible study); 10:1, 10:38, 13:22, 13:33, 14:25, 17:11, 18:31, 19:11, 19:28 & 19:41.

[2] The word 'heaven' is inserted here by some translations, including NIV and NLT, but where he is being taken up to does not actually appear in the original Greek text, and must be interpreted by the reader from context. It could plausibly refer to Jesus' arrest, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, or enthronement. Luke is being ambiguous, probably intentionally - it seems a shame to me that some translators have removed that ambiguity...

[3] The disciples are probably thinking of the story of Elijah calling down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 1:1-17. James and John show great faith in the authority of Jesus, yet misunderstand so much else about him.

[4] Here is an excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic book, The Cost of Discipleship (first published in 1937), discussing these verses in more detail, (Chapter 2: The Call to Discipleship). If you are still considering the meaning of Luke 9:57-62, you can have a read here:

The first disciple offers to follow Jesus without waiting to be called. Jesus damps his ardour by warning him that he does not know what he is doing. In fact he is quite incapable of knowing. That is the meaning of Jesus' answer— he shows the would-be disciple what life with him involves. We hear the words of One who is on his way to the cross, whose whole life is summed up in the Apostles' Creed by the word “suffered.” No man can choose such a life for himself. No man can call himself to such a destiny, says Jesus, and his word stays unanswered. The gulf between a voluntary offer to follow and genuine discipleship is clear.

But where Jesus calls, he bridges the widest gulf. The second would-be disciple wants to bury his father before he starts to follow. He is held bound by the trammels of the law. He knows what he wants and what he must do. Let him first fulfil the law, and then let him follow. A definite legal ordinance acts as a barrier between Jesus and the man he has called. But the call of Jesus is stronger than the barrier. At this critical moment nothing on earth, however sacred, must be allowed to come between Jesus and the man he has called— not even the law itself. Now, if never before, the law must be broken for the sake of Jesus; it forfeits all its rights if it acts as a barrier to discipleship. Therefore Jesus emerges at this point as the opponent of the law, and commands a man to follow him. Only the Christ can speak in this fashion. He alone has the last word. His would-be follower cannot kick against the pricks. This call, this grace, is irresistible.

The third would-be disciple, like the first, thinks that following Christ means that he must make the offer on his own initiative, as if it were a career he had mapped out for himself. There is, however, a difference between the first would-be disciple and the third, for the third is bold enough to stipulate his own terms. Unfortunately, however, he lands himself in a hopeless inconsistency, for although he is ready enough to throw in his lot with Jesus, he succeeds in putting up a barrier between himself and the Master. “Suffer me first.” He wants to follow, but feels obliged to insist on his own terms. Discipleship to him is a possibility which can only be realized when certain conditions have been fulfilled. This is to reduce discipleship to the level of the human understanding. First you must do this and then you must do that. There is a right time for everything. The disciple places himself at the Masters disposal, but at the same time retains the right to dictate his own terms. But then discipleship is no longer discipleship but a programme of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves, and to be judged in accordance with the standards of a rational ethic. The trouble about this third would-be disciple is that at the very moment he expresses his willingness to follow, he ceases to want to follow at all. By making his offer on his own terms, he alters the whole position, for discipleship can tolerate no conditions which might come between Jesus and our obedience to him. Hence the third disciple finds himself at loggerheads not only with Jesus, but also with himself. His desires conflict not only with what Jesus wants, but also with what he wants himself. He judges himself, and decides against himself, and all this by saying, “suffer me first.” The answer of Jesus graphically proves to him that he is at variance with himself and that excludes discipleship. “No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”


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