Jesus kept turning the Disciples expectations upside down.
I wonder if we need to turn discipleship on its head.
In Luke 9, just before the Parable of the Good Samariton, the disciples have something of an unfruitful mission in Samaria, so they ask Jesus is they can send fire down on them, and, unsurprisingly, Jesus says “No!”.
It reminded me of Jonah (referenced a chapter or so later by Luke) who was keen for other people to be punished, but less keen for the same measure to be applied to him. Perhaps when Jesus said “judge not unless you yourself want to be judged” and “the measure you use will be used against you” he knew the double standards, the fickleness, of our fallen human nature.
Then as the passage continues, we see the disciples talking a great game, but Jesus saying to them that this is not a game, not a hobby, or an optional extra following Jesus is a all consuming, full life commitment “let the dead bury their own dead” -“Anyone who puts their hand to the plough and keeps looking back is not worthy to be my disciple”.
Jesus isn’t interested in empty words, and hollow promises.
Just then Jesus is asked “what must I DO to inherit eternal life?”
Now, eternal life is a free gift, we don’t have to do anything but rather excepting what Christ has done on the cross, which means acknowledging our need of him, knowing we need a Saviour. Jesus says the criteria, which none of us has met (apart from Christ himself) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, Soul and Strength and love your neighbour as myself”. You can hear the cogs turning in this teacher of the laws mind, he knows he’s not made the grade and is trying to find a loop hole in this contract, “so who is my neighbour?” he asks. Jesus makes his disciples put themselves in the place of a Samaritan -people they wanted to destroy by fire!- who they were in the story was actually the question they needed to answer.
The Jewish mindset was very much about being “In” or being “out”, Jesus is about destroying that in our mindset, instead welcoming in all who will come.
As we see compassion and love, we see signs of the Kingdom breaking in, but breaking in from an unlikely person and in an unlikely place. Yet do we still have a bit of a “Jewish” mindset, thinking in terms of “in” or “out”, and expecting the Kingdom to only be revealed in line with our expectations.
For me the story of the Good Samariton speaks of fruit, we live in a world and often in our Churches that are so good at saying the right thing, looking the part, but actually what Christ is after is so much deeper than words. Just like the hyperbole Jesus is receiving at the end of chapter 9, talking the talk is just a waste of air, if it is not accompanied by walking the walk.
The Kingdom of God is more than rhetoric.
The Kingdom of God is not defined by looking religious or spiritual.
The Kingdom of God is not defined by liking on group and disliking another group (how many identities are forged by unhelpful tribalism).
The Kingdom of God is know by its fruit.
At the end of chapter 10 (Luke has written this section like a club sandwhich each bit commentating on the bit before and afterwards) we see Martha running around cooking a meal for Jesus and the disciples whilst Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him.
When scolded by Martha, Jesus said “she has chosen the better thing”, Luke is making sure that we realise that the Kingdom isn’t just a matter of running around and doing good, although we are called to make a positive ‘light and salty’ impact to the world around us, but rather to be people transformed by encountering the presence of Christ.
It’s not about rhetoric, out outward garb, our works may reveal our heart, but ultimately discipleship stands or falls by our attitude towards Jesus Christ.
Mary, like the Good Samaritan, was there when it mattered the most, standing by Christ’s cross, and the first to witness the resurrection.
Her love for Christ was birthed and grown by sitting at his feet in his presence.
The problem is we view discipleship like used car dealers. We look at the outside and the paint work, we listen to see if it sounds okay, we major on the externals, the outward, the visible, but Christian discipleship is about the invisible, the internals, the heart.
If our hearts are right then everything else follows.
Christian discipleship is God working on the inside working its way out.