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The Scriptorium

Nosce Teipsum

Yeah. Know yourself. Luke 9.51-55

Luke 9 Part 2 (5)

Pray Psalm 19.12-14.
Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Sing Psalm 19.12-14.
(St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
Who, Lord, can know his errors? O keep sin far from me!
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be.
Oh, let my thoughts, let all my words before Your glorious sight
be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right.

Read Luke 9.27-55; meditate on verses 51-55.


1. What did John and James want to do?

2. How did Jesus respond to their question?

In his great poem, Nosce Teipsum (“know yourself”), John Davies (1569-1626) lamented the fact that the Christians of his day didn’t pay enough attention to their souls, to understand or care for them. As a result, their affections were easily misguided, and their thinking was frequently corrupt. We can’t help others until we first help ourselves to be the kind of people Jesus wants us to be. As he put it,

            For how may we to others’ things attaine,
            When none of vs his owne soule vnderstands,
            For which the Diuell mockes our curious braine,
            When, ‘Know thy selfe’ his [Jesus’] oracle commands.

It seems James and John had fallen into this trap. They were ready to blast the Samaritans for not receiving Jesus as He made His way to Jerusalem. They should not have been surprised, given the traditional hostility between Samaritans and Jews. However, since Jesus had been favorably received by the Samaritans not that long ago (cf. Jn. 4), we might understand the brothers’ pique.

But Jesus rebuked them for not knowing their own souls (v. 55). Jesus did not come to destroy people, but to save them. How could these disciples so easily look to Him as a destroyer rather than a Savior? Why was their response not compassion or even pity? They had fallen into the “Diuell’s” trap, and he mocked their “curious” thinking.

The way to know yourself is to live always in the Presence of the Lord and His Word, listening for the Spirit to convict, confirm, illuminate, direct, and fill us, that our spirit might be one with Jesus (Ps. 139.23, 24).     

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
We are to be as dedicated as Jesus was to His calling, in our Personal Mission Field—to currently do the work and to finish well when it is over. Jesus, knowing full well His end and the horrendous way He would reach it “steadfastly set His face to go” (Lk. 9.51).

Fight or flight? We might, if given the information about our own deaths, turn aside a bit or go in the opposite direction, like Jonah. “Arise, go to Nineveh…and cry out against it…But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish” (Jon. 1.2, 3).

Jesus, on the other hand, steadfastly set His mind and strength to go in the direction of danger, because He had set His heart on following God’s decrees to the very end (Ps. 119.112). He determined to head that way for “the joy that was set before Him”; to endure the cross with the goal of sitting down “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12.2). He knew what God required of Him and He never questioned His wisdom or authority. He just did what He had been called to do. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (Jn. 12.27).

Jesus knew Himself and He knew His purpose.

We, too, should know ourselves in the light of God’s truth; and knowing that, work our calling and know our purpose. Paul made our purpose and calling clear: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12.1, 2). The proof is not in the pudding, but in the purpose of living in the will of God. Holy and acceptable lives are the reasonable response to thank, honor, and glorify Jesus, for determinedly setting His face to die for our sins.

Know yourself. Repent yourself. Work yourself to accomplish the purpose for which you were called by Christ Jesus (Rom. 8.28), “sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2.21).

For reflection
1. Why is it important that we understand the thoughts, affections, and priorities of our soul?

2. What can you do to make sure you always “know yourself” as you should?

3. How can you help your fellow believers to keep a close watch on their own souls?

By this reply he not only restrained the unbridled fury of the two disciples, but laid down a rule to all of us not to indulge our temper. For whoever undertakes any thing, ought to be fully aware that he has the authority and guidance of the Spirit of God, and that he is actuated by proper and holy dispositions. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Luke 9.55

Pray Psalm 139.23, 24.
Memorize these verses. Use them first thing each morning, at the end of the day as you retire, and throughout the day. Listen for the Spirit to convict, instruct, and direct you throughout the day.

Sing Psalm 139.23, 24.
(Ripley: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
Search my heart, O Lord, and know me, as You only, Lord, can do.
Test my thoughts and contemplations, whether they be vain or true.
Let there be no sin in me, Lord, nothing that Your Spirit grieves.
Lead me in the righteous way, Lord, unto everlasting peace!

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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