Luke 9: And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward 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, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51-56 NAS)
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were top-notch disciples of Jesus Christ. When Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to be His inner circle of apostles, James and John were among them. (Luke 6:12-16) When Jesus selected three from among the twelve for even greater focused attention at the home of Jairus, the Mount of Transfiguration, and Gethsemane, James and John joined Peter in that special group. (Luke 8:51; Mark 9:2-10, 14:32-34)
James was the first apostle to be martyred. (Acts 12:1-2) John was the only one of the twelve, other than the traitor Judas, who was not martyred. This allowed him to write the fourth and final gospel, along with four other books of the biblical canon.
The two brothers appear to have been so bold in their faith and witness that Jesus gave them the nickname, “Sons of Thunder”. (Mark 3:17) But like their close friend and former fishing partner, Peter, their boldness did not always propel them in the right direction. (Luke 5:10; Matthew 16:21-23, 26:31-35; John 18:10-11)
The occasion most of us remember best is when the brothers used their mom to lobby Jesus for seats of honor in His kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-28) This led to a gentle rebuke from the Lord and not-so-gentle resentment from the other ten apostles.
The other occasion is the trip through Samaria described in Luke 9.
Jesus knew this particular trip through Samaria to Jerusalem would be a one-way trip, culminating in His crucifixion for the sins of all mankind. (1 John 2:2) He also knew Jews and Samaritans did not like each other or see eye-to-eye on many issues. I am sure He was not surprised when, after learning He was just passing through, the Samaritans were inhospitable.
However, Jesus also knew He had been consistently teaching and modeling unconditional agape love to His apostles for almost three years. Now, despite all that teaching, the Sons of Thunder wanted to respond to this village’s rejection of Jesus by calling “righteous” judgment and destruction down upon them? His rebuke of James and John was not gentle. They did not know what kind of spirit they had, and they needed to know.
It has been a great blessing in my life to know many top-notch people from diverse ethnic, educational, economic, and church backgrounds. While none of them are perfect, any more than I am perfect, they are all people of integrity and sincere Christian faith.
Because of their diversity, these people do not always see eye-to-eye on some of the political and social issues that polarize our nation. And many of them can be passionate and bold in their beliefs. As a result, I have heard and read comments, and even prayers, on both sides of several issues that made me want to ask, “Do you know what kind of spirit you have when you say that?”
I have no right to throw stones at anyone when it comes to sin, but Jesus has the absolute right to challenge all of us at any time with His Word. The lesson of Luke 9:51-56 is this: When you seek to defend righteousness without agape love in your heart, you are defending self-righteousness, not Christ-righteousness. (Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 9:12-13)
We are to rejoice in the truth, and never in wrongdoing, but we are always to speak the truth in love. (1 Corinthians 13:6; Ephesians 4:15) Without love, our faith does not work, and that love must be for friend, stranger, and foe. (1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 5:6; Luke 6:27-36) The Lord’s desire is to see Samaritans, sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes all come into His kingdom – the alienated, the lost, the politically corrupt, and the sexually immoral of His day. (Mark 2:14-17; Matthew 21:31-32)
We each need to know at every moment of every day what kind of spirit we have. Is it the spirit of the world that dominates our politics and media, or is it a spirit like Jesus Christ? (Ephesians 2:1-3; Galatians 5:15-25)
God bless you, and God bless our community.