Friday, August 24, 2018

Luke 9:37-50

I've been remiss in getting new posts out lately. Sorry! Life has gotten busy. Not a bad thing to take a few days and ponder the transfiguration; there's a lot to chew on there. Sadly, too often I'm just distracted rather than reflective.

Picking up after that:

The contrast between the mount of transfiguration and the situation that confronts Jesus, Peter, James and John when they come down from the mountain is striking. Jesus is thrust back into the middle of a hurting, broken world that needs his attention, and the glory of the mountaintop becomes a dim memory all too quickly. Oswald Chambers, in one of his excellent devotions (July 6) in the book My Utmost for His Highest, says that we receive the vision on the mountaintop but immediately we are brought into the valley to be beaten into shape to receive the vision. There is a great deal of truth in that insight as you read through the verses following Luke's account of the transfiguration. If you have ever been in a situation where God has given you a vision of his glorious future, you might well identify: We immediately want to go from the mountain to the ascension, but there is suffering and crucifixion to endure first.

It's easy to get discouraged if God brings you into that kind of a season, and it's easy to become self-focused in that meantime. We see the disciples doing exactly this: they cannot cast out the demon in the boy, in spite of Jesus' earlier commission to them (9:1-6). Jesus is still the one who possesses "majesty" (v. 43) that astonishes the crowd -- an interesting choice of words given what has just occurred on the mountain!

Jesus reminds the disciples of what he has told them before: He will go to Jerusalem, be arrested and crucified. But again, the disciples are unready (unlike Moses and Elijah) to get their minds around the vision of what God is doing. They fall into an argument about which of them wields the most power. Jesus gives them an alternative way of thinking about power, a way that echoes Psalm 131. A child, quietly confident in the love of the parent, is to be their example.

The disciples still don't get it: Now they try to exercise control over another preacher. Jesus again offers a different way of seeing. The one who is not actively opposing him is with him. Jesus will directly contradict these words in a different context (see 11:23) but here the meaning is clear: Like Paul in Philippians 1:15-18, Jesus recognizes that God is at work in a wider context, and he isn't concerned to make sure his trademark and his branding is stamped on all the work God is doing. Fact is, if something glorifies God, it will also glorify Jesus, and he is remarkably openhanded about that.

The example of Jesus here is one of patience and trust. He knows that God will accomplish his will. What's more, he also knows it will be a difficult road. Part of what God is doing in the meantime is training up the disciples, giving them the critically important experience of following Jesus to the cross. This journey to Jerusalem (9:51ff) will transform what they think about who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. God is hammering them into shape to receive the vision.

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