Elisha wanted to be like Elijah.
And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. (2 Kings 2:9 KJV)
Elijah told Elisha to ask for whatever he could do for him. Jesus taught us likewise: "Ask and you shall receive" (Matthew 7:7 KJV).
He promised on his way to Calvary that, if we asked anything in his name, "I will do it" (John 13:14 KJV). James wrote in his letter, "Ye have not, because you ask not" (James 4:2 KJV).
Perhaps we should be like Elisha and be more intentional in our asking. We can trust God to sort it all out and to help us prioritize and eliminate items as necessary, so we can focus on the more important needs for ourselves and the world.
The things we ask for may be every bit as hard as the double portion Elisha asked of Elijah, but just as possible.
Transcript of the sermon preached on June 26, 2022, at Briensburg UMC | [Audio Podcast]
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14Psalm 16Galatians 5:1, 13-25Luke 9:51-62
The spirit of Elijah was what Elisha wanted. The powerful and prophetic ministry of Elijah was so permeated with miracles and witness that his zeal continues to this day to be celebrated by several world religions.
The Gospel According to St. Luke describes how John the Baptist went before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people for the Lord.
The spirit of Elijah is the HoTly Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that was in Christ Jesus, and the same Holy Spirit “poured out on all flesh” at Pentecost. The spirit of Elijah is the same Holy Spirit at work within us and among us, empowering us to love one another as Christ has loved us according to the commandment of Jesus, and to minister the spiritual gifts to the church and the world as the Holy Spirit leads us.
Elijah wanted a double portion of this spiritual anointing. There is no way to quantify the Holy Spirit and do a “times 2” but its like when we argue over who loves each other the most, or like the often repeated phrase originating in Sam McBratney’s children’s picture book “Guess How Much I Love You” where Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare whisper to each other, “I love you to the moon and back.”
Elisha wanted to carry on the work of Elijah, to see the spiritual realm as Elijah saw it, to preach the Word as Elijah preached it, to work the miracles as Elijah worked them.
Now, we have one even greater to emulate: Christ Jesus himself. Who invites us to love as he loves. It was Jesus who promised in the verse Bishop MacAlilly continues to emphasize as he leads all the churches and people of our conference. From John 14:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father (John 14:12 KJV).
God wants to save everyone
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. (Luke 9:56 KJV)
In our Gospel reading, we have an affirmation about how God wants to save everybody. "For the Son of man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them," Jesus said here in the red letters.
The "Son of Man" is Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus invoked here, his own mission to call down punishment on those who did not yet believe his love and message would be completely counterproductive to His whole purpose and life.
His first disciples, like many who have come after them, were caught in a religious viewpoint that was diametrically opposed to everything Jesus was and still is about. God does not destroy lives. The threat of eternal torture has always been a popular form of manipulation but one that is completely inconsistent with the teachings and example of Christ and of the Apostles, who are in this case, rebuked and corrected in this passage by Jesus.
Jesus rebuked his own disciples for this misunderstanding and misinterpretation. The world is already saturated with heartache and oppression and violence and evil and injustice and death. Christ did not come to add to the evil, but to save us from it.
Jesus, who is called the Messiah, said that his purpose was not to destroy but to save souls. Jesus declared to Nicodemus in words that have echoed through the ages and they're memorized in congregations of all faith traditions in John 3:16 and 17. I guess you all know where we're going now. Let's join together in remembering those words:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16 & 17 KJV).
St. Peter led the earliest Church to understand that it was not God's will that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Who are we to challenge or resist God's will? St. Paul likewise confirmed the Apostolic understanding of this promise in his letters to the Philippians and the Romans and the Thessalonians Philippians 2:10-11; Romans 14:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21), that eventually everyone will come to the realization that "Jesus is Lord."
Our part, as has been the part of Christians from the start, is to be the witnesses, not the judges, to spread the good news of universal love, unlimited forgiveness, and eternal life for everyone, at whatever point they finally come to faith in Christ.
John Wesley notes in his Explanatory Notes that the spirit of Christianity is not a spirit of wrath and vengeance, but of peace, and gentleness, and love.
Humanity is invited to walk the walk we talk
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25 KJV)
In our reading from Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25 KJV). The Bible invites us to transform our earthly lives and world to reflect the spiritual life as we are growing into the grace and knowledge and love of Christ.
The Lord taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10 KJV). To live in the spirit is to be living into the spirit. D.D. Whedon framed it, "our regenerate life has been by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Whedon Commentary on Galatians 5:25). To walk in the spirit then is to be implementing the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus in our daily thinking and conversations and activities and our relationships. Whedon continues, "Let our practice and progress be by, not the flesh, but the spirit" (Ibid).
The way of the Spirit is the way of true happiness foreverThe Psalmist, in Psalm 16:11, prayed:
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11 KJV)
The way of the spirit is the way of true happiness forever. This "path of life" the Psalmist trusted God to show him is an eternal spiritual direction among all the other directions and choices and opportunities available to us. This is the path Jesus pointed to when he said, as phrased in the Good News Translation, "But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it" (Matthew 7:14 GNT).
Another psalm likewise says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105 KJV).
I close with one of the most beautiful and reassuring descriptions of the spiritual path the Holy Spirit invites everyone to walk, the universally favorite, Psalm 23,
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23 KJV).
Let's walk the spiritual path. Let's join Elisha in praying for a double portion of the Spirit.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.