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How to Make the Most of Your Life: Luke 9:51-56

How To Make The Most Of Your Life: Missing the Moment
John Witte

Luke 9:51–56 (ESV)
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.

Last week we started our series by acknowledging that we all have a list of making the most of our lives. But because our lists usually are about what we can get, whereas Jesus’ list was about what we give, we asked ourselves if we were willing to make the necessary adjustments to our lists to make the most of our lives. Starting today, we want to begin to look at the kind of adjustments Jesus asks us to make.

Today’s lesson is called “Missing the Moment,” and it hits home with each of us. As John Witte said, we all do it, but likewise, we almost always have a reason or excuse. We are too busy, don’t have the energy, or are just not our style. As John said, our excuses always seem legitimate, even persuasive, at the moment - until we realize, often when it’s too late, that some moments come our way that when they’re gone, they’re gone; they never come our way again.

Making the most of these moments is critical to making the most of our lives. So how do we make sure to make the most of the moments instead of making excuses?

Today’s Gospel story is about a visit Jesus made to Samaria in his final days on earth. Though he was immensely popular, the people did not receive him because he was focused on Jerusalem, and the Samaritans despised the Jews. He was there, he cared deeply for them, but they rejected him and missed their moment.

When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you
want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them as Elijah did?” Luke 9.54. Elijah was fresh on their minds. Just 24 verses earlier, they and Peter had encountered Elijah and Moses on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus in all of their glory. Since Elijah had called down fire on the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, why not do it again!

Jesus would have none of this attitude! He made it clear he had not come to destroy but to save. The word destroy translates a word (απολλυμι) that was used in a variety of ways, including to kill, to amputate part of your body, to die, to ruin, to waste, to lose something of value, to be destroyed eternally in hell, and to destroy a place and the people who live there, so they have no hope of recovery.

James and John wanted to humiliate this village, and they wanted to do it in the name of Jesus! How could they possibly think that he’d want to call down fire on this village? He’d done nothing like this in his whole ministry. How could they miss it so badly? In fact, they missed Jesus for the same reason the Samaritans did. The pain they felt at being rejected incensed their pride, giving them the excuse they were looking for to inflict pain.

Hurt people hurt people.

Jesus made it as plain as possible. He did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them. The word “save” is the same word we encountered last week in Matthew 16.25. Jesus’ desire was to deliver the people of this village from eternal death to eternal life, to heal their sick, to deliver those near death, to free them from the power of sin that was wasting their lives, to show them how to make the most of our lives by following him. But they refused, and they missed the moment. There was no need to call down fire on them. By choosing their way instead of The Way they missed their best chance to be freed from the pain that bound them to their past! They were destroying themselves.

Some moments come our way, and when they’re gone, they’re gone; they never come our way again. We must let the pain of our past go so that we can go with Jesus! Otherwise, we’ll miss him. How do we make sure we don’t miss him? The answer is contained in one word from verse 52 -

“And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.” Luke 9.52.

The Greek word for prepare (ετοιμάζω) was used in two ways. The first was to prepare a road for a visiting dignitary by making it level and straight. That’s clearly not what Jesus was asking this village to do. He was just up the road. There was no time for a highway project. Instead, Jesus was asking them to make room for him by preparing to host him.

When we refuse to make room for Jesus, he doesn’t call down fire on us to destroy us. There is no need. Every time we reject him, we ruin something else. Every time we wave him off, we waste another chance. Every time we leave him out, we lose out.

  1. It’s common to miss moments that can change our lives. We all do it, even if on a less grand scale. If any of the following things are true for you, share them with the group.
  2. Have you ever missed an opportunity to step up at work to take on a significant project because you know you might not see it through?
  3. Have you missed the chance to say your final goodbyes at a loved one’s death and never got the opportunity to bring closure to that relationship?
  4. Do you regularly turn down social engagements with friends who want to include you, but as time goes on, they stop inviting, and you get lonelier and more isolated?
  5. Have you felt prompted by the Spirit of God to be generous toward a person or project but instead, your fear over money prevented you from experiencing the joy of seeing a few dollars change someone’s life, perhaps for eternity?
  6. Do you feel convicted about a habit in your life that you know is wasting your time, energy, and resources but hang on to it as your private escape, even though you know it grieves the Spirit of God and hollows out your own soul?
  7. Do you avoid intimacy with your spouse, and you’re not even sure why? Instead of solving the problem, you continue to drift apart even though you know where that might lead?
  8. What pain has dogged you your whole life and caused you to hurt others as you hurt?

All our pain ultimately goes back to the loss of security and significance. The gospel of grace answers those needs. That’s why it’s so essential to make room for Jesus. His love for you meets your security needs, and his call to follow him meets your needs for significance. It’s how we make the most of our lives

Dig Deeper – To call fire down from heaven

Elijah had called down fire from heaven to consume two troops sent against him by Ahaziah, the king of Samaria (2 Kings 1:1–17). Though “Samaria” in that case refers to the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel rather than the Samaritans of the New Testament, James and John may have connected the two. Elijah also called down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice in the contest against the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:38). The symbol is one of divine judgment against the enemies of God. James and John seek divine retribution against those who oppose God’s messenger in their misplaced zeal.

Dig Deeper – “Prepare” from Luke 9:52
  1. ἑτοιμάζω, to make or get ready, prepare, provide.
  2. παρασκευάζω, to make ready near or for anyone, prepare at hand, to prepare one’s self, be ready, get ready.

    Also, see usage:
    Matt. 26:19.
    Mark 14:15, 16.
    Luke 1:17.
    Luke 17:8.
    Luke 22:12, 13.
    Acts 23:23.
    Rev. 19:7.
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