51Now when the time was approaching for Him to be taken up [to heaven], He was determined to go to Jerusalem [to fulfill His purpose]. 52He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went into a Samaritan village to make arrangements for Him; 53but the people would not welcome Him, [f]because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and destroy them?” 55But He turned and rebuked them [g][and He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are; 56for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they journeyed on to another village.(Amplified Bible)
This text is laden with references to Elijah and Isaiah. Jesus herein also shows that the Spirit of Jesus is not a vengeful violent and Nationalistic spirit as Elijah’s was. Israel was built on confrontation and power struggles, the Kingdom of God is to be built on peace and reconciliation. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it.
I want to begin by amplifying the text a little.
As the day of His Ascension approached, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. In Isaiah chapter 50:4-9 ( 3rd Servant Song)
4The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.
6I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. 7Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
Luke aligns Jesus’s actions with this and he resolutely sets out, verse 7 says “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” The disciples saw this is a victory march through Samaria. The Risen Christ establishing his reign. As the Disciples went ahead of the Risen Christ, for them it was an act of conquering Samaria.
Verse 54 is a direct reference to 2 Kings 1 where Elijah takes on the king Ahaziah and calls down fire to consume the soldiers sent against him.
Because of the religious conflict between Samaritans and Jews, the people of Samaria were generally inhospitable to Jews and did not offer overnight accommodations to those who were traveling to Jerusalem to participate in religious events.
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, just as Elijah did?” ( KJV)
vs 54 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.( KJV) Here Jesus specifically contrasts himself with the Old Testament Prophet who spoke judgment over the world. vs 55 “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”(KJV) – See John 12 :47 “I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.” ( NLT)
In our own journeys towards our own ascension into heaven, as we fulfil our own purpose to know Jesus and make him known, we must follow the example of Jesus. We too must continually reach out to others who have not responded to the love mercy and saving grace of Jesus Christ. We must be filled with the Spirit of Jesus a Spirit of reconciliation, not condemning, but loving, and according to 1 Cor 13 4-7: ‘ 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. 6Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 John 4: 16 says: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
Love is easy, and love is complicated, love wants the best for others, but seeks it gently, compassionately, and in the interests of the other, thus love requires sacrifice from us, because love is about the other, it is a giving of ourselves for them.
Love sets people free from the need to meet our demands, and allows them to make their own path. This is not easy because we know a better path and want others to walk it. But if Jesus said: “I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me,” (John 12:47a) then who are we to judge them.
Love them, never give up on them, keep speaking the truth with kindness, gentleness and self control. ( Gal 5:22). “The proper habitat for truth is human relationship.” [i] And that relationship must be one of love for then the way the truth and life can be truly present.
Let our relationships be centred on love and then truth can be revealed and then that truth can set us free. We are not called to scare or judge people into a relationship with God, we are called to love them back to God.
let us pray
O God, the Lord of all your Son commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Lead us from prejudice to truth; deliver us from hatred, cruelty, and the spirit of revenge; and enable us to stand before you reconciled through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. (APB:87)
[i] Josef Pieper – quoted by Richard Rohr in Eager to love .