June 30, 2019: Following Jesus Together

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s reading closes an action-packed chapter of Luke’s Gospel. In this segment of Luke’s narrative, the disciples are equipped and sent out into the world to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Crowds follow when they withdraw with Jesus to Bethsaida, where many are miraculously fed with just five loaves and two fish.

Jesus equips his disciples and brings the miraculous to fruition. He also reveals and teaches. Jesus alerts the disciples of his coming betrayal into human hands. They catch a glimpse of the significance of the one they follow atop a mountain where they see Moses and Elijah and hear a divine voice from a cloud affirm, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Jesus makes clear that discipleship will not be easy. “If any want to become my followers,” he instructs, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” In today’s lesson, we learn that even burying a family member or offering goodbyes might stand in the way of the pursuit of the kingdom. Rather than commanding us to forfeit earthy concerns, here Jesus calls us to view our world in light of the kingdom of God. This kingdom prompts us to proclaim the good news of a loving Savior and to offer healing to a hurting world.

Following Jesus may not be easy, but it’s also not something undertaken alone. Fully aware that following Jesus will prove difficult at times, let us join together, confident that we navigate the way ahead with God’s help and with the divine provision of communities of Christ that guide, support, prod, pull, inspire, and encourage us as we seek faithfully to pursue the kingdom of God.

To Jesus’ “Follow me,” let us respond in solidarity, “We can, we will!”

Heather Hartung Vacek, Moravian pastor 
dean of faculty, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania