Luke 9.49-56 — Who’s “in” and who’s “out”

“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” It’s fascinating that this follows the story of “Who is the greatest,” about free and easy access to all, not just those who are “deserving.” See? This book is incredible—a literary masterwork. It all ties together SO well.  “Because he is not one of us” is so telling: the “in” group and the “out” group, whether the 12 and others, Jews and Gentiles, slave or free, male or female, Baptists or Episcopalians, or just us vs. them.

“ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’ ” Here Jesus comes out with it, and as consistent as always: Be as accepting as possible. It’s not your place to judge. Beautiful.
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” This is the turning point of Luke’s gospel. Up until now everything was based in self-revelation. From now everything will point to the cross. The resoluteness is what’s to take note of. As God, this is what he has come for. As a human, he needs to grit his teeth and unwaveringly set his steps. Jesus lives with so much intentionality and purpose, clarity of vision and dedication to a mission.
Immediately we’re back to his mission. As he heads towards Jerusalem, instead of taking the roundabout route around Samaria, because no good Jew would go through Samaria, he goes straight through. As usual, there’s a point, and it’s the same point as before: There is no “in” group or “out” group. Jesus shows no bias or favoritism based on ethnicity or religion. He would stay in Samaria without fear or prejudice.
“but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” Ah, the people are not like Jesus. They show bias against him. An important theological truth going on here: God doesn’t reject them, but they reject him.
“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ ” See? The disciples are people too. How often believers mess things up for the Lord by being so, er, human. “They rejected us, so we’ll hurt them. We’ll get them even worse!” Everybody misses the point: BE LIKE JESUS.
“But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” Jesus never rebuked anyone except religious people or believers. I don’t recall him ever rebuking a sinner.
“Then he and his disciples went to another village.” Another important theological point: Jesus doesn’t stay where he is not welcome. See also Luke 8.37. So also in our lives: Jesus will not stay where he is not welcome. God doesn’t reject people; they reject him.

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