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Luke 9: 51 – 56

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.

James and John had a real zeal for the Lord. They were offended that someone would reject their Lord and they were willing to do something about it. They would have wiped out that whole town if Jesus would have allowed them. But Jesus rebuked them. He said you don’t get it guys. I came to save people, not condemn and judge them. 

According to Bible Commentaries there were significant theological and cultural conflicts between Samaritans and Jews. These differences showed themselves when Jesus’ disciples went into the Samaritan village to make arrangements for their stay there. It is apparent that the arguments between these groups were of no small consequence to either group. In the case of the Samaritans it was significant enough to deny Jesus and his group to stay in their village. To James and John, that rejection was worthy of complete annihilation.

But Jesus apparently did not take exception with the Samaritans views or he would have never sought to stay in a Samaritan town. He certainly did not accept James and John’s view of needful and justifiable action. No, he rejected their reaction completely. Why is this important?

We all are faced with the same opportunities today that James and John faced 2000 years ago. While we are called to be zealous for the Lord and we applaud that zeal when we find it in others, we must have a care how we express our zeal. One commentary said that James and John failed to see the behavior of the Samaritans in the light of the social and cultural fabric. They did not recognize the national prejudices and bigotry at play (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible.). The commentary goes on to say that the Samaritans were not rejecting God, the message or the messenger of God but that is all that James and John could see. It might even be that it was something missing in James and John that caused their strong reaction, something broken in their hearts. We must be careful that we don’t burn others because we do not understand them or their beliefs. We should be careful that we do not condemn whole groups of peoples to hell because of our beliefs. 

Jesus rebuked those two disciples. He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” What kind of spirit are they and all of us a part of? It is the spirit of love which is why Jesus gave us the one commandment, that we should love one another as he himself has loved us. Instead of criticizing and condemning others, we are truly to love them and pray for them. And by pray for them I do not mean to pray for God to change them to agree with us or our doctrine. For we might find, like James and John, that it is we who are wrong rather than they. Furthermore, it just is not our job to judge others. Jesus didn’t even judge and if Jesus didn’t then we certainly shouldn’t. Our job is to love everyone right into heaven and then we can let our Father sort it all out. 

Don’t let your zeal for what you think is right cause you to violate the love commandment. Don’t let your ideas condemn others else you might find that Jesus is not rebuking them but rather rebuking you. Be zealous in love and invite all peoples into the Kingdom of God.

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