Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (June 30):  "No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God"

Scripture: Luke 9:51-62  (alternate reading for the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul: Matthew 16:13-19)

 51 When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; 53 but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." 59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60 But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Meditation: Are you surprised to see two of Jesus' disciples praying for the destruction of a Samaritan village? The Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. Jewish pilgrims who passed through Samaritan territory were often treated badly and even assaulted. Jesus did the unthinkable for a Jew. He not only decided to travel through Samaritan territory at personal risk, but he also asked for hospitality in one of their villages!

Jesus faced rejection and abuse in order to reconcile us with God and one another
Jesus' offer of friendship was rebuffed. Is there any wonder that the disciples were indignant and felt justified in wanting to see retribution done to this village? Wouldn't you respond the same way? Jesus, however, rebukes his disciples for their lack of toleration. Jesus had "set his face toward Jerusalem" to die on a cross that Jew, Samaritan and Gentile might be reconciled with God and be united as one people in Christ.

Jesus seeks our highest good - friend and enemy alike
Tolerance is a much needed virtue today. But aren't we often tolerant for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive? Christian love seeks the highest good of both one's neighbor and one's enemy. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his courtesy and tolerance towards his enemies during the American Civil War, he responded: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" How do you treat those who cross you and cause you trouble? Do you seek their good rather than their harm?

Jesus explains the cost of following as his disciple
Are you ready to follow the Lord Jesus wherever he may lead you? With the call the Lord gives the grace to respond and the strength to follow all the way to the end. Why does Jesus issue a challenge with the call? Jesus was utterly honest in telling people what it would cost to follow him. When a would-be disciple approached Jesus and said he was ready to follow, Jesus told him it would require sacrifice - the sacrifice of certain creaturely comforts. Jesus appealed to this man's heart and told him to detach himself from whatever might hold him back. Spiritual detachment is a necessary step for following the Lord. It frees us to give ourselves without reserve to the Lord and his service. While many of us may not need to give up the comfort of our own home and bed to follow Jesus, we, nonetheless, must be willing to part with anything that might stand in the way of doing God's will.

Don't let anything hold you back from following the Lord Jesus
Another would-be disciple said he would follow as soon as he had buried his father. What he meant by this expression was that he felt the need to return to his home to take care of his father through old age until he died. The third had no obligation to return home, but simply wanted to go back and say good-bye. Jesus surprised these would-be disciples with the stark truth that nothing should hinder us from following the Lord. Was Jesus being harsh and rude to his would-be followers? Not really. We are free to decide whether we will take the path which Jesus offers. But if we choose to go, then the Lord wants us to count the cost and choose for it freely.

Don't miss the good path God has set for you - it will lead to joy and freedom
What does the story of a plowman have to do with the journey? A plowman who looked back while plowing his field caused the line or furrow he cut into the soil to become crooked. One crooked line easily leads to another until the whole field is a mess. The plowman had to look straight ahead in order to keep the plow from going off course. Likewise, if we look back on what we have freely left behind to follow the Lord - whether that be some distraction, attachment, or sinful habit which leads us away from doing God's will - our path will likely diverge and we'll miss what God has for us.

Will you say "yes" to the Lord's call for your life?
The Gospel does not record the response from these three would-be disciples. We are only left with the question which Jesus intends for us as well.  Are you ready to take the path which the Lord Jesus offers? His grace is sufficient and his love is strong. There is nothing greater we can do with our lives than to place them at the service of the Lord and Master of the universe. We cannot outmatch God in his generosity. Jesus promises that those who are willing to part with what is most dear to them for his sake "will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29). The Lord Jesus offers us a kingdom of lasting peace, unending joy, surpassing love, enduring friendship, and abundant life. Is there anything holding you back from pursuing the Lord and his will for you life?

"Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess you have given me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will.  Give me only your love and your grace - with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more." (Prayer of Ignatius Loyola, 1491-1556)

Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-11

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Jesus' disciples must bear insult and suffering patiently, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)

"It would be false to affirm that our Savior did not know what was about to happen, because he knows all things. He knew, of course, that the Samaritans would not receive his messengers. There can be no doubt of this. Why then did he command them to go before him? It was his custom to benefit diligently the holy apostles in every possible way, and because of this, it was his practice sometimes to test them... What was the purpose of this occurrence? He was going up to Jerusalem, as the time of his passion was already drawing near. He was about to endure the scorn of the Jews. He was about to be destroyed by the scribes and Pharisees and to suffer those things that they inflicted upon him when they went to accomplish all of violence and wicked boldness. He did not want them to be offended when they saw him suffering. He also wanted them to be patient and not to complain greatly, although people would treat them rudely. He, so to speak, made the Samaritans' hatred a preparatory exercise in the matter. They had not received the messengers... For their benefit, he rebuked the disciples and gently restrained the sharpness of their wrath, not permitting them to grumble violently against those who sinned. He rather persuaded them to be patient and to cherish a mind that is unmovable by anything like this." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 56)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite:  copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.


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