Formations 08.19.2018: The Days Drew Near

Luke 9:51-62

French Metronome Showing Tempo Markings on the Pendulum

The stroke is rehearsed and memorized on a four-count cycle. So it is that Norman Maclean notes the metronome’s preeminent place in learning to cast a fly rod. Downbeats and backbeats directed him.

These rhythms direct us too. Birds, foxes, and people rise in the morning. In the evening they lay down. Parents have children, children leave their homes, and eventually, children bury parents. Crops are planted, and then, they are harvested.

But for the metronome’s constancy, its time swings.

Like Maclean, I spent hours in the side yard repeating the two-beat pattern of casting a fly rod, back and forth between 10 and 2 o’clock. In these rhythms, I learned that more line stretches time. Casting less line compresses it. The right accents somehow make this natural.

When I was finally ready to go fishing, I figured out how little casting actually matters. More important is observing insects and rocks and water.

At first glance, Jesus rejects rhythm for sight. Seeing Jerusalem would render daily and seasonal patterns unimportant. And yet, Jesus meanders through the valleys from Galilee, through Samaritan villages and Jericho to Mary and Martha’s house. Along the way he observes weekly Sabbath meals with tax collectors and Pharisees. He teaches and he heals.

In Luke, the daily and weekly patterns of his journey are observed with a face set toward the already-destroyed capital. Here again, rhythm shows up, though set beyond what we can easily observe—nations rise and fall, Rome and Judah alike. Maybe Jesus challenges not the rhythms themselves but the ways they orient us.

The first person says, “I will follow.” The second says, “Lord, first let me go,” and the third, “Lord; but let me first say.” Each answer disconnects them from the present. Meanwhile, Jesus’ line of sight cuts to Jerusalem, where all things come together.

At some point, our rhythms—daily and seasonal work, familial responsibilities, political and economic cycles—resolve. For this, Jesus looks to the hopeless and the mundane. He set his face to Jerusalem, trusting cycles to guide him.

Discussion

• What rhythms do you practice in your life? What challenges do these patterns create? What meaning do they give?
• To what places in your life and in your community might Jesus have set his face? How do your rhythms relate to these places?
• This passage raises the theme of hospitality. What patterns of hospitality do you observe in your everyday spiritual life? In your seasonal life as a member of a family and creation? In the economic and political rhythms of your community? In the coming of eternity?

Reference Shelf

Jerusalem

Luke, who wants the reader to see this moment as a transition, piles up more words than will actually go into a stylish English sentence: “So it was that when the days of his assumption were fulfilled that he set his face to travel to Jerusalem.” The construction is much like 2:6: “So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her deliverance,” and Luke’s resumption at 9:51 of a style more influenced by the Septuagint (as in chs. 1–2) helps to alert the reader to a change of direction. The Greek word here translated “assumption” is from a root that means “take up,” and Luke uses another form from the same root at Acts 1:11. In both cases, it refers to Jesus being taken up into heaven by God; we can call it “ascension,” but that word loses the stress on God’s agency. The journey goes through the cross and the grave, but the end of it is God taking Jesus up to be in God’s presence (24:51).

In the meantime, however, Jesus has to go to Jerusalem. His first step along this long road that “goes ever on and on” is to send out messengers “before his face.” This again takes us back to the beginning of the Gospel, when God sends Gabriel to announce the good news to Zechariah and to Mary, and then to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Jesus acknowledges his own sent-ness in 4:18-19, 43, and sends his own messengers in 9:1-6, just as John the Baptist does in 7:18-20. This, then, is the second sending by Jesus; there will be another in 10:1, and yet another at the end of the Gospel, after the resurrection.

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008), 308–309.

Hospitality

A necessary practice in the ancient world. Inns were scarce and even when found were not often places where God-fearing people wanted to stay. The Bible and the early church fathers thus spoke often of the necessity and sacredness of giving and accepting hospitality.

[…]

Jesus set the example as both host and guest. He stressed being a good neighbor (Luke 10:29-37) and then demonstrated it by feeding the crowds (Mark 6:41-44) and washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Hospitality indicated one’s commitment to Christ and one’s awareness that to serve one’s neighbor was to serve Christ (Matt 25:31-46). A Christian was to show hospitality to anyone, especially those who could not repay (Luke 14:12-14). As a guest a Christian was not to seek a place of honor (Luke 14:8) or a better place to stay (Mark 6:10). One was to eat what was set before one (Luke 10:8) and be thankful.

Robert C. Dunston, “Hospitality,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 393.

William Scruggs is a graduate of Mercer University. His favorite pastimes are adding music to his listening list, TV shows to his viewing list, and books to his reading list. When he isn’t pretending to check items off these lists, he spends time with friends and plays music. He is excited for the opportunity to continue exploring the rivers of Middle Georgia and to stay in Macon as an associate editor at Smyth & Helwys.

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