Scripture Focus: Luke 9.51-56
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Reflection: Rebuke for Hotheads
By John Tillman
Earthly justice is one thing but fire from Heaven? The Zebedee brothers weren’t joking around. James and John had cause for anger from their point of view.
Jesus had visited the Samaritans. He spoke to them, stayed with them, taught them, and included them. He would even use a Samaritan as the hero of one of his most famous stories. (Luke 10.33-35) Yet, after all Jesus did for them, this Samaritan town rejected and disrespected him.
It’s easy to point fingers at the Zebedee brothers. “Those hotheads! What are they thinking!?”
Then we get on social media and see the latest insults hurled at people we respect…the latest revelations of abuse against people we love…the latest attacks on truths we hold dear…the latest offensive comments…the latest shocking articles…
If we are honest, in moments of pain, conflict, hurt, and anger, don’t we sometimes want to see things, institutions, or even people “burned down?” Maybe it’s not that we wouldn’t call down fire but that we don’t have the faith to believe that we could. If we did, some of us might try it.
Many in scripture, such as Eve, Abram, David, Herod, and the Zebedee brothers, sought to gain God’s blessings or use God’s power outside of his ways. We often do the same. When we center on hurt, emotion, anger, or pain, we can’t help but want to strike out with any power we have. But God’s power is for his purposes and God’s purpose is to redeem people rather than roast them.
Jesus was not concerned with the Samaritans’ slights. While the disciples worried about Jesus losing face, Jesus “set his face like a flint” to go to Jerusalem. (Isaiah 50.6-7; Luke 9.51) What did he care that one town rejected him? He was about to be rejected and insulted on a much grander scale than the disciples could imagine. He was headed resolutely toward the cross and he expected them to follow.
Like James and John, we can lose sight of the greater mission and be caught up in conflict. At least the two hotheads got one thing right that we can emulate: they took their anger to Jesus first and followed his lead.
Make no mistake, justice will fall on every wrongdoer for every wrong, no matter how small. Yet, we must follow Jesus and resolutely set our faces toward the cross while simultaneously working for earthly justice.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Who is like you, Lord God of hosts? O mighty Lord, your faithfulness is all around you.
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before your face. — Psalm 89.8
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Exodus 27 (Listen 2:52)
Luke 9 (Listen 8:05)
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We seek truth but not vengeance. There is a time and place for our hand to cease and the will of God to be done.