Luke 9:51-62

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This story is one of many tough stories in the Gospel of Luke. I suggest that you simply tell it as strong and harsh as it is. This is the beginning of Jesus' travel journey up to Jerusalem which is the central section of the Gospel of Luke (9:51-19:27) and is a drawing together of a whole series of stories and teachings that are not always clearly related to each other. There is no consistent theme. The journey itself is the overriding framework for the Gospel prior to Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. This story is introduced by: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up." This is an allusion to his ascension that will happen in Jerusalem where he will, after death and resurrection, be exalted to a place of power and authority.

The initial episode of the travel story is Jesus being rejected by a Samaritan village. The motif of the story is that Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem and sends messengers ahead. In Greek the word is angelous: he sends angels/messengers ahead of him to prepare the way. That was a good idea if he was going through Samaria because of the depth of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans.

Such hostility is reflected in the parable of the good Samaritan. It is also reflected in the widespread and long tradition of people avoiding Samaria when going to Jerusalem from Galilee. It was safer for Jews to go across to the east side of the Jordan and then cross the Jordan at Jericho to go up to Jerusalem.

The Samaritans were the descendents of the northern kingdom of Israel that had been occupied by the Assyrians in the eighth century when the northern kingdom was defeated and integrated into the empire of Assyria. Assyrian policy was to intermarry with conquered peoples. As a result, the Samaritans were both ethnically separate from Jews and also formed another branch of the religion of Israel that was expressed in a separate temple and separate traditions that continue to this day. Today the Samaritans are a very small group, but they were a major group in Jesus' day.

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