v45 is a weird verse.
45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Of course, this was a prediction of the cross where Jesus would die for their sins. And we mustn’t miss this detail that the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ was hidden from them. And we are talking about the disciples who were literally living with Jesus and Jesus taught them about his death repeatedly, but they missed this crucial truth. This goes to show that there are many things in Christian life that are simply hidden from us. We read things in the Bible all the time and it just doesn’t make sense. They are mere words on a page. Then, you go through something a year later and the same verse is read and you have an Aha moment. The Holy Spirit teaches you something, convicts you of sin when the time is right and you are ready to listen. The light switch goes on and things just click.
This is how spiritual life works. Long stretches of haze, tension, going from one extreme to the other, punctuated by brief glimpses of clarity. You see Jesus, life, the world as it was meant to be seen. Like climbing uphill, you see only rocks for miles and miles, but eventually you get to the vista and the view is breathtaking. As far as I can tell, this is how Christian life will be like on this side of eternity. 1 Cor 13, Paul describes the Christian life as seeing a poor reflection as in a mirror in dim lighting. This is how Christian life is until the perfection comes, until we see Jesus face to face. So we ought to be humble. We haven’t gotten it all figured out.
Then, v46-50, we move from the nameless crowds out there, the strangers, to the inner circle, the disciples. These guys know each other. And you know the mantra–familiarity breeds contempt. You see this when siblings fight. I witness this almost every day with my 3 boys. Constant fighting. That’s not fair, give me that, he’s not sharing. And the disciples are no exception. At this point in the gospel, they are like overgrown kids.
An argument breaks out among them as to which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus must have been so frustrated with these guys. It was a teaching moment to expose their inability to love their neighbor, the guy sitting right next to you who annoys you to no end, love that brother, but they can’t. The second leg of the tripod. Again, we see that the disciples are learning many insights and experiencing miracles firsthand, but they are not grasping the most essential thing–love.
v49 shows yet again how the disciples are not getting it. They are not yet becoming loving people.
49 “Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
What is implied here? He is not one of us so what he is doing must be wrong. He must be stopped. Isn’t that true to life? You are not one of us, you are not in our inner circle, it’s our home turf, what are you doing around these parts, we have Jesus, you don’t, who do you have on your side? This is how the world thinks. Even churches think this way. And if you are not with us, we want nothing to do with you. Because we think our way is better than yours.
And Jesus basically tells them, do not stop him. We’re on the same team. I love them as much as I love you guys. They are my servants. So you, too, ought to love them, accept them, why are you trying to stop them?
We see a similar theme in the next section, only it’s stronger in force and it’s directed toward non-Christians. v51-56. When James and John saw that those who lived in this Samaritan village did not welcome them, they asked Jesus, Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? What kind of disciples are these? I thought they were supposed to be learning about love, how to love, but something is being lost in translation. They are not getting it. Their hearts are not being changed.
We notice again and again that Jesus’ way of doing things and what he is after with the disciples and the world’s ways and what the world is after are completely antithetical. v57-62 – People are coming to him and they want to become his disciples. Jesus was becoming popular. His name was getting out. They saw him perform miraculous healings and he fed multitudes. And you would think Jesus would be happy to add to his following. But he wasn’t. Jesus was never into becoming a charismatic leader. He was not into leading a great movement. He wanted people to follow him all the way, not because of what they can gain from him but because they want to be with him. Isn’t that what it means to love someone? You want to be together for no other reason than you want to be with that person. Not because you make a lot of money. Or because you do things for me. But just because of who you are. These would-be disciples were not interested in a love relationship. So it didn’t take much to discourage these 3 people who wanted to follow Jesus.
We come to our next section–Luke 10:1-24. Jesus sends out 72 disciples in pairs, two by two. And he tells them, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. That’s the Great Commission. Go and make disciples of all nations. The third leg of the tripod. And these disciples return with great testimonies, but it’s not wow, Jesus, I preached the gospel and some were saved. No, that was not their focus. Reading in v17–
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
Their response was self-centered. Look at what we were able to do, Jesus. Even the demons submit TO US. And Jesus’ response was, yes, I have given you authority to overcome evil, but that’s not where your focus should be. And it’s not even the fact that others were saved through your preaching. Ministry, numbers, that can’t be the focus. Jesus brings their attention to the miracle of their own salvation.
20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
As we are making disciples and we experience rejection after rejection while sharing our faith with others, it should always bring us back to the realization, how on earth did I become a Christian? God, why did you show me such mercy? And that awareness of the mercy of God ought to produce rejoicing. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. It stirs in us love for God while we are in the midst of disciple-making. It counter-intuitive. Focus on making disciples, the third leg of the tripod, and your love for God will be strengthened, the first leg.
This is so important. In fact, Jesus reiterates the same message again in Luke 10:21-24. As they go and make disciples of all nations and they are busy doing ministry, their take-home message was to be grateful. Man, I am blessed. Prophets and kings wanted to have spiritual eyes to see what I am seeing, but their eyes were closed. They wanted to have spiritual ears to hear, but they did not hear the truth of what was being spoken. And as we are busy serving God and doing church, we need to have the same take-home message. Why are we so privileged? God, of all the people in this world, why did you choose to save me?
I find an interesting parallel between this section where 72 disciples are sent out in pairs, two by two, AND the end of the chapter when Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha, another pair, two sisters. Elsewhere, Jesus says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20). That’s the most elemental definition of a church. Where 2 or 3 are gathered, Jesus promises to be in their midst. In the sending out of the 72 disciples, Jesus sent out pairs, mini-churches to the harvest field, even before there was a concept of church.
Jumping down to v38-41, we get to the famous Martha and Mary passage. Interestingly, another pair. And Jesus is in their midst, literally, he is over at their house for a meal. That’s church. Where 2 or 3 are gathered, Jesus is there. One is going crazy with all of the food prep. The other is just sitting at Jesus’ feet. One seems to be loving. The other seems to be lazy. It doesn’t say this, but I suspect that Martha was the older, more responsible sister and Mary, the younger, care-free sister. As this evening progresses, Martha’s heart is exposed and Jesus gives his assessment of the situation in v41-42.
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Was Martha doing a loving thing by serving and preparing the meal? Yes, I believe she was. To serve in this way is a very loving thing to do when you are entertaining a guest. But was she loving toward her guest? No, she wasn’t. With regard to Jesus, she was worried. Did I make enough food? Is Jesus going to like my cooking? She is full of worry. But Jesus did not come into her home so that he could be impressed by her. Can the Son of God be impressed by anything we do for Him? Not really, except faith. Faith impresses Jesus. But the hospitality of Mary and the quality of the food is not going to impress Jesus. Jesus could zap stones and turn them into pieces of Zankou Chicken if he wanted to. Is Jesus there to be impressed? No, he was there to be loved and to love. He wanted to enjoy their company.
Was Martha loving toward her sister? With regard to Mary, she was upset. That no good, lazy sister. What’s wrong with her? Doesn’t she have any manners? How can she just sit there? Jesus, tell her to help me.
So Jesus’ exposes Martha’s heart. It is great that she has a servant’s heart. It is great that she wants to show hospitality. Those are commendable things. But look at her heart. Worried and upset. Those are not characteristics of a loving heart. Wherever Jesus goes, he wants people to learn how to love, properly. In this case, how to love Jesus, the first leg of the tripod and how to love Mary, love neighbor, the second leg.