Consider again the Mount of Transfiguration. We’ve just seen that Peter, James, and John stood witness (once they were awake) to the glorified Christ, heard the prophets Moses and Elijah talking about the coming times in Jerusalem, and heard the voice of the Most High speak directly to them. Then,
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined 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. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 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 NASB)
Here are James and John with Jesus following behind messengers sent into a Samaritan village. Apparently the people of the village heard that Jesus was headed to Jerusalem for Passover and such a great ‘prophet’ as Jesus not celebrating Passover in Samaria was a bit of a wound to their pride so nobody in the village would accept Jesus or his followers for a meal or a nice nap. I would assume that they needed somewhere to stay for the night since several verses later the Lord spoke to someone he called to follow him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (v.58)
So here we have some ticked off Samaritans feeling rejected and they’re retaliating by not allowing Jesus to so much as get a room for the night (sound familiar?). What a horrible inconvenience for God ex-situ ( 😉 ). It was such an outrage that James and John, who had just recently heard God, seen the prophets, and seen Christ in glorious splendor, wanted to torch everyone as Elijah did (II Kings 1:1-15). But Jesus 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.”
OUCH! “You do not know what kind of spirit, thinking, soul, breath, you have in you.” Ow. Wouldn’t that feel like your soul just stepped on a Lego?
“I came to save these people!”
James and John were indignant at the slighting of Jesus. In their mindset, the thing to do was to literally set everyone on fire. This would fit with their legal mindset. They did not yet know that Jesus was the consummation and fulfillment of that Law. So Jesus, who had given them quite a bit of authority (I’m so glad they asked first) just about tells them they’re not in their right minds, then he has the nerve to say he came to SAVE them?! Understand, there was some serious tension between Samaritans and the Jews (They’re really all Jews). It was pretty offensive to reject the greatest prophet of the age, even if he hadn’t been the Son of God.
“I came to save them.”
When was the last time you heard someone say they hope she/he gets what they deserve? Did someone who says they follow Christ say it? Do you hear people say, “they’ve made their choice” in a way that makes you wonder if fire is about to fall? I have. Sometimes I’ve seen the torches in their eyes and it’s sad.
“I wish that you would go and learn what this means: I desire mercy…” (Mat 9:13 on Hos 6:6)
“I desire mercy! I came to save these people!“
And too frequently I hear Christians wanting to break out the pitchforks and torches. I’ll be honest, I can be a front-line pitchforker. And I don’t always ask Jesus first if it’s okay to rain down judgement. I’m sorry. We’re working on it. We should all be working on it.
Lastly, a little tidbit. Of all the woe-ing, healing, preaching, miracle-ing, etc.-ing Jesus never used fire. Fire is permanent. Fire is forever. What outstanding grace he shows in that he never used it and even stopped others from doing it.
Put that fire out. It’s for God’s use alone.