Fire from heaven
3 October 2017
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
You have a group of guys handpicked by the Lord. He chose them after spending a whole night in prayer. They answer the call and follow him, living with him, hearing every word he preaches, seeing with their own eyes the most extraordinary miracles and the very large number of people that get healed. They witness first hand the powerful compassion that Jesus displays for those who are suffering, the breathtaking mercy he demonstrates in order to reach those who have been trapped in lives of sin. Over and again they observe the way Jesus looks for the lost, the little, the broken and the disenfranchised. They have heard Him rebuke the scribes and Pharisees for using religious power to oppress rather than bless others. Some of them have even been with Jesus and seen Him gloriously transfigured up on the mountain.
Yet here they are, having been sent ahead by Jesus to make preparations for the team to stay in a Samaritan town on their way to Jerusalem. The Samaritans knock them back because they were heading to Jerusalem and Samaritans are a little bigoted when it comes to Jerusalemites.
What is our crack team’s best idea in response to this rejection? Call down fire from heaven and blow their town, including, we assume, its inhabitants, to smithereens!
You can just imagine the look on Jesus’ face when they came up with this brilliant plan. Luke is decidedly understated when he records that ‘Jesus turned and rebuked them’. I reckon He would have first placed His head in His hands and groaned. How can these disciples who had heard and seen so much still not get what Jesus was all about? The Kingdom power that Jesus carries, (and amazingly given today’s story, imparts to the disciples themselves in the very next chapter), is to bring hope, healing and life, not death and destruction.
Funnily enough, I find the knuckle-headed stupidity of the disciples somehow comforting. If they, who were so close to Jesus, could get it so wrong, perhaps there is hope for me! I have said and done plenty of dumb things in my life, sometimes even in the name of faith. Perhaps you have too? Well, don’t get too down on yourself. With the tragic exception of Judas, all of the apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, went on to do amazing things for Jesus and His Church. They may have been slow learners, but they were shining examples of love and power rightly directed in the end. Let’s take heart from their mistakes!