I Surrender All. Really?

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 9:51-62, “I Surrender All.  Really?”

I love the hymn, “I Surrender All,” but rarely get the chance to sing it.  Why?  Because many musicians understandably have a difficult time singing something questionable.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a lack of desire or intent – they really do want to surrender everything to their Lord Jesus.  Rather, it’s an understanding of our own sinful nature, knowing how easy it is to hold something back from God.

Even so, this is our call as disciples of Jesus.  We are to surrender all.  When Jesus becomes our King, we are to give Him everything.  All our plans, hopes, decisions – everything that makes up our lives and futures is to be turned over to Him.  Not our wills, but His will be done.  That’s true discipleship.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.  For those who believe in Jesus, it’s difficult to put ourselves to the side.  It’s hard to seek His will first, before seeking our own.  For those who have not yet made a commitment to follow Jesus, that itself can be difficult.  People (mistakenly) believe that if they surrender their wills to Jesus, that they will never be able to do anything fun, or that God will force them to go serve Him somewhere they don’t want to go.

The result?  We invent excuse after excuse why we cannot surrender.  The excuse may sound good, being high and mighty, as if we’re trying to honor God with our reasons.  But at the end of the day, it’s just an excuse as to why we can’t (or won’t) be true disciples of Jesus.

Jesus does away with the excuses.  He sees right through those things.  He knows when we let our flesh get in the way of following Him, and when we simply are not sincere in our promises to Him.

That’s what is illustrated in our text as Chapter 9 comes to a close.  Remember that according to Luke’s narrative, Jesus had recently been transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John, as Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah of what was soon to take place in Jerusalem (9:31).  He came down from the mountain to a dust-up between His disciples and the father of a boy whom the disciples had been unable to free from a demon.  Both the disciples and the father lacked faith, something which Jesus knew was true of the entire generation at the time.  They lacked faith & they lacked humility, another issue which Jesus had to address among the 12 apostles.  Jesus wanted them to see the bigger picture.  None of this ministry was about them; it was about the kingdom of God – it was about seeking and saving the lost – it was about the glory of God.

There was still much for the disciples to learn in this regard.  They still struggled with fleshly pride.  Others struggled with a true Kingdom commitment.  What Jesus shows them is that He was fully surrendered to the plan of God for Himself…they needed the same attitude.  True discipleship is surrendered discipleship.  Would they surrender all to Jesus?  Will we?

Luke 9:51–62

  • Failure among the disciples (51-56): the misguided avengers

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,

  • Something to keep in mind when reading this section of Luke is that while this is the chronological point in Jesus’ ministry when He begins to prepare in earnest for the cross, Luke doesn’t always follow that chronology.  A comparison between Luke and the other two Synoptic gospels (Matthew & Mark) show vast differences at this point.  Whereas Matthew & Mark clearly show a purposeful, persistent southern trek to Jerusalem and the cross, Luke takes a lot more time getting there.  In fact, Luke doesn’t show Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem until Chapter 19.  It seems that Luke perhaps took some of the events from Jesus’ early southern travels and combined them all thematically into one “Jerusalem journeys” narrative.
    • This doesn’t mean that Luke is incorrect or unorganized; he simply has a different structure than the other gospel writers.  Be careful to read him on his own terms and not assume errors or contradictions simply because of a difference in structure.
  • That said, Jesus did look onward from this point to the cross.  He knew exactly why He had come to earth, and the time had come for this to be fulfilled.  He was under no illusion that things would be easy for Him in Jerusalem, yet He still “set His face to go.”  You might say that Jesus purposed to accomplish His purpose.  He knew what needed to be done to do the things He wanted to do, so He intentionally went out to do them.
  • What specifically was it that Jesus knew was coming in Jerusalem?  He ascension back to the Father. “The time had come for Him to be received up.”  That’s a specific reference to the ascension – something we don’t often consider in regards to the gospel, yet something that is an essential part of it.  The ascension is what makes the resurrection complete.  After all, other people had been raised from the dead in various ways (Lazarus, the widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter, etc.), yet their revivals to life were only temporary.  Each of them died again.  Only Jesus rose from the grave never to return to it.  That is exactly what is shown through the ascension – and that is exactly why we can have so much hope in Him!  But it would come with a cost.  First would be the cross, then the resurrection, and finally the ascension.  Jesus’ suffering had to come first, which is why Jesus had to steadfastly purpose and prepare Himself to go.  Victory was assured, but it wouldn’t be easy.  Yet He did it – gladly and willingly for you, me, and (especially) for the glory of God.
  • Thus Jesus set the example.  He was surrendered to the will of God for Himself.  How would those around Him fare?  Not so well.

52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

  • So Jesus was on His way south from Galilee to Jerusalem, and though there were other routes much more frequented by the Jews, Jesus decided to go through Samaria. [MAP]  He had travelled north through Samaria once before (Jn 4), and He wanted to do it again on His way to Jerusalem.  Although the northern trek had experienced wonderful (if surprising) success, the southern trip did not.  Messengers had been sent by Jesus to prepare the way, and they were turned aside.  This particular Samaritan village did not want Jesus, and they apparently made their position crystal-clear.
  • Why did they reject Him?  Luke gives us a reason, though it seems somewhat nebulous: “because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.”  Because Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem, this Samaritan village did not want Him.  Why was this a big deal?  Generally speaking, Jews and Samaritans of the day hated each other.  Each claimed to have the legitimate place of worship, though the Jews’ claim was accurate.  Historically, they people eventually known as Samaritans had engaged in a false form of worship since the split of the Davidic kingdom into North & South (Israel & Judah) during the generations following Solomon.  The first king of the north, Jeroboam, had golden idols (calves) built for his people to worship, specifically in order to prevent them from traveling south to Jerusalem and the temple (1 Kings 12:26-27).  Thus the northern people descended into idolatry for generation after generation until finally God allowed them to be conquered by the Assyrians.  The people there remained in rebellion against pure Hebrew worship, holding onto some Hebrew history and Scripture, but incorporating a lot of paganism along the way.
  • Why was this a problem for Jesus now when other Samaritans had received Him before?  Earlier, He was going away from Jerusalem; this time, He was going to Jerusalem.  Jesus did not repudiate the Jews – He was fulfilling Jewish prophecy.  Thus these particular Samaritans didn’t want anything to do with Him.  They wanted Jesus on their terms; not His.  — They missed out!  Jesus would have offered the same gospel message to these Samaritans as He had to the ones He encountered earlier.  His message hadn’t changed at all – only their perception of it.
    • People still miss out on Jesus for the same reasons.  (1) They want Him on their own terms, and (2) they have a wrong perception of the gospel.  On the first, we need to remember who we are in relationship to God: poor beggars in desperate need of forgiveness.  We don’t get to dictate those terms; God does.  Thankfully, He’s gracious!  On the second, we need to remember what the gospel actually is.  It’s not a method to make us rich – to get us everything we always wanted – to make us successful in the world.  It is the news of how we can be reconciled to God – how we can be forgiven – how we can be changed from God’s enemy to God’s family.  If we keep that in mind, we won’t miss out on Jesus!
  • These Samaritans did, and it left Jesus’ disciples none too happy.  Vs. 54…

54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

  • So much for the apostle of love!  Truly James & John earned their nicknames as the Sons of Thunder! (Mk 3:17)  Whether James & John were the actual messengers of Jesus rejected by the Samaritans, we do not know.  What we do know is that this rejection made them angry and hungry for revenge.  It was one thing for various Jews to reject Jesus, but these Samaritans?  Jewish rejection was bad enough, but that was Jesus’ primary ministry.  He didn’t have to go through Samaria.  His gospel offer to them was one of pure grace, and it was an unfathomable insult for the Samaritans to refuse it.  Of course, the same logic held for the Jews, even though the cultural racism of the day prevented James & John from seeing it.  God doesn’t have to save anybody!  Jesus didn’t have to give His life for anyone if He didn’t want to.  For the gospel to be offered to anyone in the world is an act of grace.  To refuse it is most certainly insulting to Almighty God.  How would you feel if you sold your house to purchase an expensive cure for a terrible disease, only to be refused by the person to whom you offered it?  It would be a horrible insult!  How much more with God?  He didn’t sell a house – He gave His Son.  There is nothing more precious and valuable than the blood of Jesus, and it was shed for you.  That sort of gift is beyond comprehension.  It dare not be refused.
  • James’ and John’s offense might be understandable, but their response is not.  Because the Samaritan village refused even to receive Jesus at all, they asked permission to call fire down from heaven in order to consume it.  They wanted to be like Elijah (2 Kings 1) and see literal fireworks, in order to teach these Samaritans a thing or two. — The brothers got a few things wrong. (1) They weren’t Elijah, nor did they have his unique circumstances. (2) They forgot what the gospel was all about – something which Jesus would address in His rebuke.  (3) They forgot their place.  Vengeance belongs to the Lord for a reason.  We don’t have the temperament to deal with it.  When God does it, it’s righteous.  When we do it, it’s often evil.

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

  • Their rebuke from Jesus was well-earned!  Depending on the context, the word used for “rebuke” can speak of a strong disapproval, censure, or denouncing, and such was the case here.  Two of Jesus’ most prominent disciples had suggested something which ought to have been unthinkable, and Jesus in His Lordship rebuffed them in the strongest of ways.
  • What Jesus actually said to His disciples is somewhat debated, as many early manuscripts of the gospel of Luke from a wide variety of traditions speak only of the fact of Jesus’ rebuke, but record none of His words.  In the manuscripts where Jesus’ words are included, there is much variety in the wording, which call this into question.  Some Bible translations (like the ESV) do not include the words other than in a footnote, whereas others (like the NASB) bracket them off.  What does this mean for us?
    • First of all, it changes nothing in regards to how we view our Bibles.  We believe that the Scripture is breathed-out word of God (i.e. inspired), absolutely inerrant in the original autographs.  Of course, we do not have the original autographs – we have copies…thousands upon thousands of copies.  This means we can spot errors as they arose over time, of which this may be one.
    • There is a possibility that these words are indeed original, and that various traditions developed among copyists.  The majority of manuscripts do contain the words, so it is obvious that the church did not see a problem with them.
    • Everything recorded here is Biblical – it is all in line with other quotations from Jesus that are undisputed.  Jesus prayed from the cross for the His tormentor’s forgiveness, noting that they did not know what they were doing.  He said early in His ministry that the Son of God did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.  He will say later on that He came to seek and to save the lost.  Thus no matter what side you take in the textual debate, the heart/essence of these words is 100% Jesus.
  • The problem for the disciples was their ignorance. (1) Ignorance of their own flesh, and (2) ignorance of Jesus’ mission.  As when Peter openly rebuked Jesus for prophesying of the cross & Jesus called him out as being akin to Satan (Mt 16:23), so did James & John reflect more of the spirit of antichrist than Jesus Christ.  The devil comes to steal, kill, & destroy – it is Jesus who has come to give life. (Jn 10:10)  If James & John wanted to see people dead, they reflected the spirit of the devil more than their Lord.  Jesus’ desire & mission was far nobler.  He wanted to see people saved.  He wanted even the Samaritans to believe & live.
  • Question: If someone rejects Jesus as did the Samaritans, will not God judge them unto eternal death? (Including a lake of fire!)  Yes – but that is not His first desire.  God wants them to live.  That’s always been His preference over judgment.  Ezekiel 33:11, "Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’"  Far better in God’s sight for someone to repent & come to faith, than to bring down the firm hand of judgment!  God wants to save people – that’s the whole reason Jesus came.  Yes, God will assuredly judge the unrepentant, but that is a matter best left in His hands.  Death and eternity are far too weighty to be handed out so lightly, especially for such trivial reasons as Christians getting our feelings hurt.  We are called to share the gospel…leave the eternal judgment to God.
  • In the end, the disciples did what they should have done all along: move on to the next town.  Back when Jesus sent out the 12 on a short-term mission, He told them to shake the dust off their feet any time a town refused the gospel (9:5).  Just move on.  Let God deal with them, while the disciples share the gospel with people willing to hear.  Time was too short to do otherwise.
    • It’s the same with us.  For every person who does not want to hear of Jesus, there is someone else who does.  Don’t waste your time and energy attempting to punish people who don’t want the gospel – find someone who does.

So that was the failure of the disciples.  Over the course of Jesus’ ministry, they did a lot of things right, but they also did a lot of things wrong.  (They were just like us!)  But they weren’t the only ones making mistakes with Jesus.  For all of their screw-ups, as least they believed in Jesus and followed Him.  Others didn’t even make it that far.

  • Failure to become disciples (57-62)

Here, Luke includes three stories of various encounters with Jesus.  Mark records none, Matthew records two – Luke, all three.  Each of these men have the opportunity to follow Jesus, and all three have problems doing so.  Technically, we’re not told the final outcome from any of these encounters – it’s possible that one (or all) of them eventually came to faith and became a disciple.  Yet the implication is otherwise.  It seems that all three got close, but all three failed.

  • Person #1: the Over-promiser

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

  • Have you ever made a promise that you knew you couldn’t keep?  As soon as you got done speaking, you knew you were in trouble.  Such was the case with this man.  He gave an open-ended promise to Jesus that was so wide that he didn’t realize what he had gotten himself into.  “I will follow You wherever I go,”…really?  Wherever?  Jesus was going to suffering & the cross – was the man willing to go there?  He seemed unlikely to be willing to experience any discomfort, much less the cross.
  • Jesus made this point to him when He spoke of His transience.  Jesus was constantly on the move.  He didn’t stay in one place – He didn’t have a bed to call His own.  Although His mother surely had a home in Nazareth & Peter had a home in Capernaum, Jesus had no home of His own.  This wasn’t from a lack of work, but because of the pressing nature of His mission.  He had a whole nation to reach, a church to birth, and barely three years in which to do it.  His home would be heaven – everything else was temporary.
  • Do you have a similar perspective?  It’s not that every Christian is called to constantly travel in itinerate evangelistic ministry.  Even among Jesus’ followers at the time, there were some who remained at home.  They were valuable witnesses for Christ right where they were.  Rich and poor alike were disciples of Jesus, and all were valuable to Him.  But, if you have a home, do you see it as temporary?  If you have possessions, do you see them as passing away?  As with Jesus, heaven is our home.  Eternally, we will live with Him, which makes all our possessions far less valuable (or ought to).  Things are temporary; people are eternal.
  • Person #2: the Empty-excuser

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

  • With this man, he received an invitation known by the 12 apostles: a personal invitation from Jesus Himself to follow as a disciple.  For Peter, Andrew, James, John, and others, this was an offer they didn’t refuse, and couldn’t wait to receive.  Even Judas Iscariot followed Jesus when called (though we don’t know the exact details in his case).  Yet not this man.  He put off Jesus until another time.  It’s not that he wasn’t interested (so he would say), it’s that he wasn’t free to do it at the time.  He needed to “bury” his father, and then he would follow Jesus.
  • The problem with this is that it’s obvious his father was still alive at the time.  After all, if the father had literally just died & was in need of burial, the man would have already been engaged in the burial process, as things needed to be done quickly.  Thus it seems that the man was waiting for his father to die.  Was the father weak & infirm?  Possibly – but why not ask Jesus for healing?  Was the father healthy & the son just waiting around for his inheritance? Perhaps, but the Scripture doesn’t say.  All we know is that this man had an opportunity to follow Jesus, and he didn’t.  All he offered were excuses.
  • Jesus nailed the issue in His response: this man had his priorities all out of order.  Whatever his excuses may have been, there was more important business to be done.  The gospel of the kingdom needed to be proclaimed.  Those of the world could care for the business of the world – those who were spiritually dead could care for dead things.  Christians have life.  We proclaim life.  Whatever excuses we might have don’t match the importance of the high calling of sharing life with a dying world.
    • Keep in mind, this doesn’t refer to vocational ministry.  You don’t have to be a pastor in order to preach the kingdom of God.  That privilege is given to all Christians everywhere.  You preach life to whomever God has surrounded you with.  That’s your mission field…enter it!  No excuses.
  • Person #3: the Pious-procrastinator

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

  • This final instance is recorded by Luke alone, and seems to be the strangest refusal of all.  What problem could Jesus possibly have with someone saying good-bye?  As with the other examples, there’s likely more to the story than what meets the eye.  When Andrew first met Jesus, he ran home to tell Peter. (Jn 1:41)  When Philip first met Jesus, he went to find his friend Nathaniel. (Jn 1:45)  So obviously a call to follow Christ did not mean someone had to have been pre-packed & ready to go, leaving his family wondering where he had gone.  In this case, this man had himself first approached Jesus, and came with his prepared excuse.  He couched it in the best of terms, echoing an event that took place between Elijah & Elisha, the older prophet having no problem whatsoever with the younger Elisha saying good-bye to his family when called to the ministry. (1 Kings 19)  Thus this is all a little too “ready-made.”  If the man was so willing to go, why had he not already said his good-byes?  If he had true faith in Jesus, which would he simply not do whatever was necessary in order to leave as soon as possible?  He request may seem innocent at first glance, but it soon becomes apparent that it is nothing but false piety.  This man was procrastinating – just saying whatever sounded good in order to buy him more time.
    • People so often do the same thing today.  “I’ll follow Jesus, as soon as I get done with this project…  I’ll serve Him in ministry as soon as I retire…  I’ll get serious with my faith as soon as I _____.”  It’s all procrastination.  There’s always another excuse, another escape-hatch, another delay.  It’s not fooling anyone, especially not Jesus.
  • Jesus certainly saw through the excuses and procrastination of this man.  Even giving the man the benefit of the doubt, assuming that his request was nothing more than that of Elisha to Elijah, there was still no reason for delay.  Someone more important than Elijah was there.  Something more pressing was at hand.  As important as Elijah’s mission was, it was nothing compared to Jesus’.  Jesus has called this man to follow, and the time was at hand.  The calling of Christ requires our full attention – something this man was clearly not willing to give.
  • That’s the point of Jesus’ example of the ploughman.  Divided hearts and wayward gazes don’t work in discipleship.  Jesus requires our full attention.  A person plowing a field has to look straight ahead.  Looking to the left or right (or even behind) is a sure way to end up with crooked rows.  A person plowing a field has to hold on to the plow – again, to lose his grip is to lose the straightness of the rows.  Likewise with discipleship.  A true disciple of Jesus looks at Him and doesn’t let go.  We aren’t to take shifts in our relationship with Jesus, sometimes following Him & sometimes not.  We aren’t to give Him a half-hearted commitment, always looking back to what the world has to offer.  We are to give Him our full attention – surrendering everything else.

Conclusion:
Jesus was surrendered to the will of His Father, having purposed Himself to accomplish His purpose.  The 12 disciples, nor those who were close to being disciples, were not.  James and John hungered for vengeance (which didn’t belong to them), and others offered ignorant promises, empty excuses, and pious procrastination.  They weren’t engaged in surrendered discipleship, and many of them ended up without being disciples at all.

That’s them – what about us?  Are we surrendered disciples?  Could you sing “I Surrender All,” and mean it?  Even knowing our imperfections as people, that at least ought to be the goal.  To surrender everything to Jesus is to entrust ourselves fully into His hands, knowing that whatever He has for us is best.

And guess what?  When we do, we find that what He has for us is wonderful!  We do have tremendous fun and joy walking with our Lord Jesus, doing the things He has given us to do.  How could we not?  A believer in Christ is someone who has been reconciled with God the Father and is finally able to live life as he/she was created to live it.  In addition, we find that although we have difficult circumstances (as do all people), we have newfound power to endure those things through the Holy Spirit.  Even if God calls us to go somewhere to serve, it will be a place we want to go, because it will be a desire God places within us. [Personal story: Russia]  Following Jesus in surrendered faith is a wonderful thing!

That being the case, what’s stopping you?  What is it that stands between you & Jesus – between you & being able to sing “I Surrender All”?  Perhaps it is an issue of the flesh, like that of James & John.  Even the best disciples struggled with these things, so it’s only natural we will do the same.  Sometimes our old selves pop up now & again, and those selfish desires need to be re-crucified.  Commit yourself to God’s will before your own, asking His help to continually seek His kingdom first.

Or perhaps you just have a bunch of excuses.  Be honest with yourself – call them what they are.  They aren’t “reasons” you can’t fully commit yourself to Jesus; they’re excuses as to why you won’t.  There’s one more fling of sin you want to have – more money you want to make – more things you want to do for yourself.  Whatever it is, it isn’t worth it.  Think of Who it is that has called you.  Consider the privilege and grace it is simply to hear His voice.  What excuse can possibly compare with Him?  Nothing.

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