Bible Reading: Luke 9
Luke 9:53-56, “And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them [some later mss. add “and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of’”]. And they went on to another village.”
I’ve got a dear friend who sometimes gets very frustrated by the foolish decisions our politicians sometimes make. She teasingly suggests that God should take some kind of drastic action in dealing with them. There’s some of that way of thinking in all of us, I suppose. We might even justify it under the guise of some kind of righteous religious indignation. But our text has something to say about that.
The time for Jesus’ departure drew near, so He “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). He had foretold of his pending death, and though the disciples couldn’t understand what he was talking about, He himself was fully aware of what lay ahead. He was fully submitted to drinking from that pending bitter cup of betrayal, injustice, affliction, sorrow, and death. He was resolute and determined and would not be dissuaded from His mission of mercy.
The life of Jesus is filled with examples which speak to the riches of His mercy—he relentlessly and compassionately concerned Himself with the needs of others. According to Vine’s mercy is “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receive it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.” Mercy is something that we need and can relate to. The greatest demonstration of mercy is Christ’s sacrifice for lost sinners (Luke 19:10). He came into the world on a mission of mercy.
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus had sent some messengers ahead to a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Himself and His disciples. But, since He was on His way to Jerusalem, the Samaritans refused to receive Him. Disagreement between the Samaritans and the Jews had led to a centuries-old distrust and animosity between the two (John 4:9). Jesus’ request of the Samaritans for hospitality was refused. That was too much for James and John. Their prejudice combined with the Samaritan’s inhospitality made them mad. So mad they asked Jesus if He wanted them to be destroyed! How contrary their thinking to their Master’s!
It is possible for us to entertain similar thoughts with regards to the enemies of Christ and His gospel. How deeply engrained in the hearts of men is the spirit which gave rise to the disciple’s request! Through the course of history, thousands and tens of thousands all ‘round the world have been put to death for religion’s sake. They’ve been crucified, burned at the stake, shot, or otherwise brutalized under the guise of doing God’s bidding. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is filled with such stories.
There is a spiritual war ongoing. And some are unsuspectedly led by the Devil himself to fight his way and with his kind of weapons (Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:26). We, as believers, are called upon to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). It will never do to wage the war with carnal weapons, for “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). And, as Paul instructed Timothy, “the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
James and John’s response was strikingly inconsistent with that which they had witnessed in Christ. There would come a day in the villages of Samaria when the gospel of Jesus would receive a warm reception (Acts 8:14, 25). The Apostle John was later sent there, perhaps to the same village in this Luke account. One wonders what he must have thought as he recalled his previous ill-founded request seeking their destruction! But on the later occasion, he came having been transformed and empowered by the Spirit to compassionately care for those he had previously despised. Instead of calling down fire, he came bearing the message of God’s love in Christ. God is rich in mercy, and, by the Spirit, those who claim His name should be too.
We, as believers, are called upon to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). But it will never do to wage the war with evil attitudes or carnal weapons!
The love of God is broader than earth’s vast expanse,
‘Tis deeper and wider than the sea.
Love reaches out to all to bring abundant life,
For God so loved the world His only Son He gave.
Share His love by telling
what the Lord has done for you,
Share His love by sharing of your faith,
and show the world that Jesus Christ
is real to you ev’ry moment, ev’ry day.