Formations 02.26.2023: The Road to Jerusalem

Luke 9:51-62

A unique section takes up much of the middle of the Gospel of Luke. This section, often called the Lukan Travel Narrative, begins in chapter 9, when Jesus first “sets his face” to go to Jerusalem for the Passover and ends when he finally arrives in chapter 18.

Not everything in this long central section of the Gospel is unique to Luke, but much of it is. These chapters include some of the most famous parables of Jesus and some of his most challenging teachings about discipleship. It is a portion of Scripture that seems almost custom-made for study during the Lenten season.

In Luke 9:51, Jesus sets off toward Jerusalem and the fate he knows awaits him. By the time he arrives, he’ll have taught the disciples about wealth, hospitality, prejudice, repentance, and the cost of discipleship.

Two brief passages set the context for this journey. First, James and John want to call down heavenly fire upon some Samaritans who oppose them. Then, Jesus responds to some would-be disciples to challenge the depth of their commitment.

Both these passages reveal what it means—and what it doesn’t mean—to be a faithful follower of Jesus. James and John begin the journey with an “us versus them” mentality. When they face resistance in a Samaritan village, their first response is to call down fire from heaven against their opponents. Jesus challenges them to find a higher perspective.

Like James and John, the would-be followers come to Jesus with the wrong expectations. They assume that discipleship is something that can be leveraged to work for them. Therefore, they are not prepared to make the full commitment that Jesus demands: “I’ll follow you, but first….” They don’t understand that they live in momentous times when discipleship must be a premeditated decision to go wherever Jesus leads—even to the cross.

In these two episodes, we see something of the nature of Christian discipleship. It’s fitting, therefore, that we consider them as we embark upon our Lenten journey.


• How does Jesus challenge James and John’s “us versus them” mentality?
• Why does Jesus reject the untested faith of those who want to follow him?
• How do these stories challenge our understandings of what it means to follow Jesus?
• How can Jesus’s journey mirror our own as we prepare for Easter?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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