Thirteenth Sunday: Why Did They Do It?
Why Do We Do It?
Why did Elisha do it? He was a very rich farmer. He used to plow the fields following a yoke of twelve oxen. If he only owned one ox he would have been well off, but he owned a dozen. His following 12 oxen would be similar to an American farmer driving a John Deere 9630. That’s the biggest tractor that John Deere makes. I know all abut big tractors because I’m from New Jersey. Oh, and I know how to google things. Elisha doesn’t just leave the oxen; he slaughters them and makes a fire out of the plowing equipment to have feast with what must have been his numerous workers. With the oxen gone and the equipment burned, there would be no turning back for Elisha.
Why did Elisha do it? He did it because he was exposed to the wonders of God. He experienced God working through the prophet Elijah. Nothing was going to keep him from following Elijah. Nor would Elisha allow himself to be tempted to return to his farm. He was completely committed to following Elijah. He was completely committed to making God’s power real in the world. When it was Elijah’s time to leave this world, Elisha was with him. He saw Elijah being taken into heaven on the fiery chariot. And then he saw Elijah’s mantle falling to earth. Elisha picked up that mantle and continued the work of Elijah as the most powerful prophet in Israel. The book of Sirach says that Elisha was filled with a two-fold spirit of Elijah.
Why did Jesus do it? Why did he set his face like flint and head to Jerusalem. That’s the old translation of today’s Gospel, “He set his face like flint.” Our translation says, “He was resolutely determined.” This is from the Gospel of Luke. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus journeys only once from Galilee to Jerusalem. His disciple try to deter him. They tell Him that if He goes to Jerusalem He is going to be persecuted, maybe even killed. Nothing was going to stop Jesus, though. He had come to the earth to ignite the fire of God’s love in the hearts of mankind. If this demanded that He sacrifice His life, so be it. Nothing would delay His journey.
People in Samaria did not want to receive Jesus and His disciples. James and John thought this would be a great opportunity for Jesus to show His power and rain down fire on the Samaritans. They didn’t like those people anyway. The Jews considered the Samaritans half-breeds, part Jewish and part pagan. If Jesus wanted, James and John would be more than willing to perform the act of vengeance for Him. These Sons of Thunder, the ludicrous name that Jesus gave them, had no idea of what Jesus’ real power was. He had greater concerns than some Samaritan villages. He wanted to save the world from the grip of evil. That is why Jesus ignored the disciples and went on to Jerusalem. Jesus was completely committed to making the power of God’s love real among mankind.
Why did they do it, these followers of the Lord? Why did they follow Jesus to their own deaths. All his closest disciples would be killed, with the exception, according to tradition, of John. After they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the disciples, now apostles, accepted their own deaths as a way of giving witness to the new reality of the Kingdom of God. Why? They had experienced Love Incarnate, and wanted to bring this Love to others. They answered the demands of the Kingdom. They gave up the comforts of life, “foxes have dens and birds of the skies have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to rest His head.” They gave up their families and committed themselves completely to the Lord. Like Elisha they did not look back and return to their past lives. Why did they do it? They did it because they possessed Jesus Christ, and His Love, and could only keep His Love by answering the demands of Love, by giving themselves up totally to the Love of God.
Why do we do it? Why do we worship as a community on Sundays when others are out fishing, or having picnics, or simply, staying in bed? Why do we walk away from the negativity of the world? Why do we avoid joining the drunks and druggies? Why do we battle against the temptation to use sex for our own selfishness? Why do we stand for morality in a nation that places value on the right of people to be immoral? Why do we fight against those factions of our government and those aspects of our media that mocks us for wanting morality to be the foundation of our nation? Why do we profess faith in Jesus Christ and live that faith?
We do it because we have been given the greatest gift people could ever receive. We have been given Jesus Christ. He is united to us, and we are united to Him. We leave the plow and oxen and material trappings of the world behind and live for the Lord because we are on fire with His Love. We march on with Him to Jerusalem because we never want to leave His Presence. We exalt in the power of God because His love gives meaning and purpose to our lives. We live by the Spirit and do not let the flesh control us, because the flesh will die, but the Spirit is forever.
Why do we do it? Why do we live our faith? We do it because we are loved by the Tremendous Lover.
Our prayer today is for courage. May we have the courage to sell out for God. May we have the courage to commit ourselves to the Kingdom of God here on earth.