“Hey, Elijah called down fire from heaven. We could too.”
What was positive about James and John wanting to torch the Samaritans for resisting Jesus on His way to Jerusalem? Clearly, they demonstrated great faith. That action has never occurred to me.
What was negative? They misread Jesus’ character and mission. His way of retaliating with people who oppose Him is to forgive them, to let the sun keep shining on their crops. We do not overcome evil with evil, as in calling for judgment. With the God of all grace, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
We use fire, for sure, but not the way James and John were thinking. Jesus said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled” (Luke 11:49). He was speaking of the fire of His passion and death (v. 50). Showing the kindness of the cross pours hot coals on the opposition. It gets their attention and provokes a response. Jesus had a far more effective way than judgment on the spot; it was judgment at the cross. He took the beating the resisters deserved. So we get even with love. A conspiracy of kindness beats a jury of judgment.
The world needs to “see your good deeds” in order to “glorify your Father who is in heaven.” God does not relish sending people to hell. It isn’t even being constructed for them. It is for the devil and his angels. God would much rather save than destroy.
The disciples demonstrated skewed ambition. They were offended, as if they expected everyone to buy into their agenda or else. Better have a significant supply of fire. Not going to happen. God doesn’t take up offenses. He is too healthy emotionally to live in the reaction mode with people trying to ruin His day. He doesn’t say, “Okay, no more rain on your garden, no sun today on your vegetables.”
He continues to show love, because “it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance’ (Rom. 2:5), not the judgment. Judgment on the world is punitive, on the church corrective. The world doesn’t normally say in a time of disaster, “That must be God; I need to repent.” It swears and rails against heaven.
The trigger response of judgment happens when pagans act like like pagans. It’s a hard call. Whenever God chooses to judge an individual, city, or nation, He always does it for just cause. Yet a merciful God gets more satisfaction seeing the blood of the Son applied to sins than seeing the wages of their sin ending in death. And Jesus sees “the fruit the travail of his soul and is satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).
Be careful of a knee-jerk reaction when people get out of line. They don’t know what line they are in. If we get offended, we are too personally involved. Our unhealthy emotions will take us on a detour from the main thing. Jesus could not be sidetracked from His mission to die. “He turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village” (Luke 9:55,56).
It is not your problem to defend God. He can stand up under attack. Their reaction showed self-righteousness, pride, independence, a false need to defend Jesus, and a messiah complex, which said that they were more important than their message.
Let’s make sure our faith makes us gentle and humble, not hard on people. We don’t want them to get what they deserve but what Christ went to Jerusalem to win for them.