“Facing Forward” By Matty Lester, Fiat Ventures

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

He has warned the disciples of His impending suffering there, but even though they confess their faith in Him as Messiah and see Him transfigured with Moses and Elijah, they cannot begin to imagine the horror of Jesus’ last days. But Jesus knows. He has “set his face” toward Jerusalem, meaning unwavering determination.

Normally very accepting of the Samaritans, He shocks His disciples by barely noticing the Samaritans as He heads to Jerusalem, so concentrated was He on His upcoming destiny. The Samaritan villagers “did not receive Him because His face was set toward Jerusalem.” The disciples don’t take well to rejection and thoughtlessly ask if they should “command fire” to destroy them, as if they could even do that! An unknown copier of Luke’s gospel even adds “as Elijah did,” referring to Elijah calling fire upon the soldiers of the evil king Ahaziah, who had ruled the northern kingdom from Samaria.

Jesus uses the occasion to speak about discipleship and about the implications of following Him. As the text makes clear, Jesus is speaking to those who are indeed following Him, not to potential followers. As He often does, He speaks in hyperboles and exaggerations for emphasis in making His point. He is saying, “Be willing to let go of the past.” There comes a time when you leave the comforts of home, let go of the doorpost, and move into uncharted waters.

He knows that His disciples will soon be doing exactly that after He has gone. Their lives will be radically and unexpectedly different than anything they had imagined. They will leave behind what they have known and done and go in totally new directions.

What does Jesus mean by saying, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”? Anybody who has plowed a field knows you have to watch carefully in front of you to keep the grooves straight. Look backward and you will swerve one way or another.

How ironic it is that the disciples did exactly that in the despair and confusion following the crucifixion and Resurrection. They looked back and resumed their previous occupation of fishing. It isn’t until Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit empowers them, that they begin their true work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus.

Jesus knows exactly where He’s going and what He’s going for and nothing is stopping Him from still giving His life for you and for me.

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