“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[b]?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.” Luke 9.51-55
Even Jesus faced opposition.
As Jesus was moving towards Jerusalem for what would be his final visit to the city, he decided to pass through Samaria. Now the Samaritans were not friendly with the Jews, and visa versa. It was not common for Jews to even talk to Samaritans who were a mixed race of Jews and Gentiles who had rejected the teachings of Judaism and most of the Holy Scriptures, except for the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Law of Moses). They were a diverse ethnic race, intermarrying with non Jews and thus became a pagan and idolatrous nation. (However, Jesus did present the gospel to them as did the disciples as evidenced in the New Testament.) (For more on the Samaritans read — https://www.gotquestions.org/Samaritans.html).
Jesus decided to pass through a Samaritan village and send “messengers” (perhaps disciples) ahead to get things ready. He was a big deal! When Jesus showed up, so did the whole town. But the Scripture tells us the people “did not welcome him because he was heading for Jerusalem.” Again, Jews and Samaritans were not friendly and Jerusalem was the center for Jewish worship.
When James and John heard about this, they did what you might call an overreaction saying, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from Heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus “turned and rebuked them.” Then they went to another village.
Can you even imagine? What were James and John thinking? These are two of Jesus’ innermost three disciples. Could this have been a reference to when Elijah called down fire from heaven in 2 Kings 1:10? “Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.” But why would James and John even suggest such a course of action? Wasn’t Jesus teaching a gospel of grace, healing, love and directing people to live for God and his Kingdom?
I’m not sure if this passage is more about the opposition of the Samaritans to Jesus for now allowing him to cross through their nation or if it’s about foolish actions of the disciples which certainly doesn’t build the Kingdom of God. Jesus hears the words and rebukes them. Actually, he physically turns, assuming to look at them, and then rebukes them. What did he say? Did he role his eyes and think, “Like these guys could even call down fire from heaven!” Or did he offer stern words of correction, “Fellows, get a grip. This is not representative of God’s Kingdom.” (My words of course!)
Either way, the opposition to the gospel came not only from without but often from within. It’s not unlike our global church today and the battle for the truth of the Gospel, the orthodox understanding of “right belief” and how sometimes our modern churches fight over doctrine, acceptance of culture, and blending in with society in order to appease the masses.
Jesus didn’t try to win over the masses of Samaritans, he simply went to another village where he would be accepted and his message would be heard.
Where are we taking the gospel? Are we also facing opposition? How can we preach the truth in love while still loving the sinner but hating the sin? How can we be obedient to the Great Commission and take his message to the ends of the earth?
“O Lord God, you are good. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you for your power and love in my life. Help me represent you in all things. Help me walk by your Spirit and be guided by your steps. I trust you, give my life, my time, me resources to building your kingdom. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and save me by your grace. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen