Our Gospel reading this morning is a pivotal moment.
So far in Luke’s gospel, Jesus has been out and about in Galilee doing the things he does, revealing that he is sent from God and is given power from God.
He has been healing the sick and setting people free from the things that have held them.
This is known as the Galilean section of Luke.
But here, in this reading, it seems to us out of the blue, he changes gear. He sets his face towards Jerusalem.
From now on, whilst Jesus still does the things he has been doing, these things are infused with images of movement and journey. Everything takes on another purpose – to move Jesus closer and closer to Jerusalem, and all that place will hold for him.
Jesus knows that his journey is not one without cost, and in this difficult passage, with such jarring demands, Jesus is saying to his disciples – and we are included in their number – this is not going to be easy.
Jesus has had to consider the cost of this journey, and so do we.
There are various attempts to soften what is being said here. Some commentators suggest that Jesus is referring to an ancient belief that the dead continue to operate and fulfill roles around caring for the newly dead, or others explain it that he is talking about the spiritual dead being left to deal with the physical dead, where, in fact, in the context of the next demand – don’t even say good bye to the people in your home – it seems clear to me that Jesus really is being as harsh as this sounds.
Jesus is saying, being a disciple comes at a cost, and we need to consider that before we set out on this journey.
When we become a disciple, that becomes the defining metaphor for life, and all other decisions need to be made in the light of this.
Don’t set out on this journey without due consideration. Weigh up the costs.
However, as Luke is writing this, to the disciples of his time, and for us, he knows that these demands come in the context of us knowing the end of this story.
We know about the journey to Jerusalem.
We know the horrific things that happen to Jesus when he gets there.
But, we also know that Jesus triumphs over all that he suffers and endures and enters into Life on a whole new level.
And for us, when we have set out on this journey, which will have its costs, will mean difficult decisions, we also know what this journey is leading to – new and abundant life.
But the decision to become a disciple is not all hard graft for pie in the sky when we die!
As a disciple, we receive the Spirit of God, that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead!
Being a disciple is not supposed to make you a hard person, as this passage may suggest, but rather, when we look at the New Testament passage it comes with today, the Spirit in our lives, as we go on this journey, helps us move away from those things that destroy our lives and enables us to produce beautiful fruit;
Love… joy… peace… patience… kindness… generosity… faithfulness… gentleness… and self-control.
And so, I pray that we will continue on this journey, and as we notice these fruits grow in ourselves and in one another, we would encourage one another to move away from those things which sap our life, and towards the fruits of the Spirit that bring new life. Whilst we are on this journey, let’s remind one another that we are traveling towards all we are promised through all that Christ has done for us, in him walking this journey, in making the hard decisions he made, in suffering and dying for us, and rising again.
Let’s also remember that we are not walking alone, but that we are accompanied by the Spirit of God who will change us from glory into glory until at last we see the face of God. Amen.