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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 9:37–50

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (NRSV)

A boy with a demon. Jesus foretelling his own death. An argument among the disciples about who was greatest. Someone outside the disciples performing miracles. Although there seems to be no relationship between these short vignettes from Luke’s ninth chapter, we see the disciples in each scene drastically misunderstand or misinterpret what Jesus is saying. Luke isn’t the only Gospel writer to depict this, so I believe these passages highlight an important lesson for anyone who wants to be one of Jesus’ disciples: we get things wrong far more often than we’d care to admit.

Today many people equate discipleship with certainty and fervency, but the truth is that humility and openness are far more central to being a disciple. Jesus did not demand that the disciples had all of the answers; they were instead asked to follow, to learn, and to grow in their understanding. We often think of Jesus challenging the Pharisees and scribes, but Jesus just as frequently challenged his disciples’ thinking: that a messiah would suffer and die rather than fight, that leading meant serving, that the least among all is the greatest.

These teachings are just as radical and at odds with our culture today as they were in Jesus’ time, and part of our responsibility as Jesus’ disciples is to humbly admit that we haven’t always believed them to be true and to open our lives to be shaped by those teachings anew.

Holy God, may I always seek to follow you in humility and openness—never putting too much faith in my own understanding but instead trusting that your teachings continue to shape me. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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