Luke 9:52

ESV And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.
NIV And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;
NASB and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.
CSB He sent messengers ahead of himself, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him.
NLT He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival.
KJV And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

What does Luke 9:52 mean?

In both this segment (Luke 9:51–56) and the next (Luke 9:57–62), Luke highlights the importance of the message and the hardships the messengers will face. Here, the first town rejects a fundamental part of Jesus' message: that salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). Because of that, Jesus and His group must move on to the next town. In the next series of vignettes, potential full-time disciples learn total devotion to Jesus' message can mean discomfort and estrangement from family.

As Jesus travels south from Galilee to Jerusalem, He takes an unusual route. Many Jews in Galilee preferred the longer trek, crossing the Sea of Galilee or the Jordan River south of it, going along the roads east of the river through Decapolis and Perea, and crossing into Judea near Jericho. The problem with the shorter, easier, and more direct route straight south was that Jews had to pass through Samaria.

The divide between Samaritan and Jew seems to have come during the time of Nehemiah. But the groundwork for the Samaritans becoming a distinct group goes back further. When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, the priests established the tabernacle—the worship center—in Shiloh. This was within the tribe of Ephraim, which later became the dominant tribe of the northern kingdom of Israel. During the time of the judges, the tribe of Dan established their own place of worship (Judges 18). When David conquered Jerusalem, he made that city the political and religious center, building a tent for the ark of the covenant on Mount Moriah. God confirmed Jerusalem as His chosen city when Solomon built the temple and the priesthood fully transitioned from Shiloh.

Early in the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam, the nation split (2 Chronicles 10). Jeroboam, the new king of the northern kingdom of Israel, feared his people would want to reunite with the southern kingdom of Judah. To properly worship God, they would have to go to Jerusalem in Judah, where they might grow sentimental and want to reunite the country (1 Kings 12). So, Jeroboam built two altars, one in the south at Bethel and one in the north at Dan. Although Jeroboam did not start the idolatry in the north, he did institutionalize it. Despite overtures by Judah's king Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:1), this continued through the time Assyria brought in Gentiles with pagan gods who further diluted God-worship.

Due to Israel's continued idolatry and rebellion against God, God ordained the nation of Assyria to destroy them. Assyria did not keep conquered people together like Babylon would hundreds of years later. As a way of discouraging victims from unifying and revolting, they spread them throughout their empire, leaving only a remnant in their homeland. Then they moved in people of other conquered nations (2 Kings 17). The "Samaritans" were descendants of the Jewish remnants who intermarried with Gentile immigrants. Their religion was a hodgepodge of Judaism and foreign idolatry.

By the time of Jesus' ministry, things were even more mixed up. Four hundred years before, around the time of the prophet Malachi, a group of priests left Jerusalem and established a new worship center near Shechem and Mount Gerizim. They created their own sect of Judaism, about which history remembers little. Among the few details retained is that they believed Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was God's preferred place of worship.

We don't know what "preparations" refers to. Some say it means the disciples were to arrange for a group to hear Him speak. In Luke's travelogue (Luke 9:51—19:27), Jesus' priorities shift away from ministering to crowds. He focuses more on preparing His disciples for His crucifixion and their role in establishing the church. So, it may just mean they are looking for lodging. Then again, we don't know when this story happened. Luke may have placed this story here not because of chronology but because it illustrates the rejection Jesus faces as He makes His journey to the cross.
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