Jesus rebuked “them” – but not those we think…
He Rebuked “them?”
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace, that love and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you, and help conform your will to His, as you walk with Him through this life.
The Invitation: Come Walk With Me
I asked some friends this week this question,
“What would your excuse be, if Jesus showed up today and said, Come – follow me! ?”
Eleven of them basically denied that they would have an excuse, with comments that they were ready to go, that nothing would stand in the way, that they were ready.
I guess that they have more the attitude of James and John and Simon and Andrew – who simply let their dad’s and co-workers clean up the mess. Or like Matthew, who left his collection desk with the Roman version of the IRS and went with Jesus.
How many of us are ready, or more importantly, willing, to answer God’s call that way? How many are ready to suffer discomfort, or leave things undone, even not taking the time to get things in order with our family?
I have no doubt about our desire to follow God, to walk with Jesus, to learn of Him, to be mentored by the Holy Spirit.
What we need to consider is where that desire, that devotion is limited, and turn that over to God, that we may find the limitation fade, and our devotion of God grow, and the desire grow to where we can really understand that to walk with Him is the only way to live.
The Challenge: Raining Down Fire!
Four times in this passage, Jesus confronts attitudes that would make walking with Jesus a process we control, that we are in charge of, where we decide when and where to follow Jesus. Three are simply seen, as Jesus questions and rebukes those who would not follow Him because it is uncomfortable, or because we might lose family over it, or because we don’t have all our lives in order. Jesus challenges each one of those pretty intensely, but I want to focus on the fourth issue, the one we don’t see right away.
The attitude demonstrated by the two brothers, James and John. The attitude for which Jesus sharply rebuked them.
All they wanted to do was rain down fire and have it consume those they thought were the enemies of Jesus. I mean these Samaritans rejected the Messiah – don’t they deserve death and hell? Isn’t that how it works?
I mean, it is not like John and James wanted to condemn them for being mean, or having a different political view or falling asleep during the sermon, or daring them to do something they should not do. It wasn’t just a selfish desire to judge and condemn.
These people rejected Jesus, they chose to refuse the Kingdom of God, they deserve it!
In making that judgment, even as they walk with Jesus, even as they follow Him, they prove that they really aren’t following Him. They might be travelling with Him, but following is something entirely different.
Following Jesus isn’t about the miles they walked, anymore than it is the miles we walk. It’s about traveling with Him through life, and allowing Him to guide us, support us, train us. It’s about hearing His voice, and understanding the way of life and where it is He is taking us.
The irony is that these very people they are wanting to toast to a crisp are the very people Jesus will send them to, once He has died, and risen and ascended. For they will once again witness to them, as Jesus will direct them just before He ascends.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)
The reason Jesus rebukes them? The reason Jesus would still rebuke us when we too want to call down fire and judgment on someone? Because following Jesus means we will come back to them, and minister to them and proclaim God’s love, because He came to set them free. Because that is that is why He is going through Jerusalem to get to where He is going… that we and they can go with Him.
The Observation… The Destination is Different
When I think of this passage – which is just after the transfiguration, I think of Jesus setting out for Jerusalem where he will be crucified. It would make sense then, that when He is inviting them to follow Him, He is talking about the cross – about the sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins.
The passage in St. Luke’s gospel says it a bit differently.
51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Note that the focus isn’t the crucifixion, it is the ascension. The cross isn’t born by Jesus without a view of the Father’s promises, without the knowledge that because He bore it, we would “follow Him” and eventually he would return to us.
Hebrews 12 tells us that it is with this joy that He endured the cross – that he is both the genesis/beginning and the completion of our trust in God the Father.
John’s gospel tells us that even as Jesus prophesied His ascension, He told us that not only that he would return, but that the reason He was going was to prepare a place for us.
That’s the goal that Jesus has in mind as He rebukes the brothers, as He tells them that they shouldn’t even think about such a request – because it is so completely against the Father’s will. Revenge and wrath aren’t the goal, punishing evildoers isn’t God’s will either, for He punished Jesus rather than us for our sin.
It is God’s desire that those Samaritans out there, those who rejected His presence, would begin to value it, to welcome it, to desire it.
The same thing goes for those who would offend God today and all lesser offenses as well. Despite their sin, despite their rejection, God hasn’t given up on reaching them, any more than He has given up on us!
What it means to follow Jesus, to walk with Him, to let Him be our Master, our Lord is that we realize His desire is to commune with His people. His Father’s will that none should perish, for He greatly desires to be our God, and us to be His people! As we walk with Him, more and more we realize His love for us, That love, that mercy changes us, assures us, reminds us that the destination is more than just the cross or the resurrection, but it is our being with God.
That’s what this is all about, that is where we find life. As we walk with Him, our will is conformed to His will, even as our sinfulness is erased and we are see with His righteousness. That means we see the “Samaritans” in our life differently. It means we continue to pray and love those who don’t know God, desiring that as He does, they will hear and come and walk with Him as well.
That they will know His peace, a peace that passes all understanding – the peace of God that comes as we walk with Christ, as He keeps our hearts and minds secure in that peace.
- Dan Brown, Dante’s Inferno and the Missio Dei (justifiedandsinner.com)