Luke 9:51-56 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
Let us not overlook the significance and depth of this little ‘event’ in Luke’s account of the life of Jesus. Up to this point, Jesus had spent most of his time teaching and healing in the northern area of Galilee, but now he was coming south, ‘resolutely’ to fulfil the main purpose of his coming to earth among us – to bear the punishment for OUR sins, to DIE in our place.
To make the journey south it was necessary for him to go through Samaria where, as a Jewish ‘rabbi’ headed for the capital, he would be most UNwelcome as a traveller needing rest. Although this was not surprising, the ‘sons of thunder’, James and John, were not pleased with the insult, and, fired up by their recently discovered ‘spiritual powers’ (verses 1-6, 10), wanted to perform a repeat of what Elijah did to successive groups of Samaritan soldiers in order to authenticate his credentials (2 Kings 1:1ff)!
What the disciples were yet to learn was that God’s strategy for dealing with lost, rebellious sinners, was not to defeat them with supernatural power, but to demonstrate his love/mercy/grace by SUFFERiNG DEATH for their salvation (John 3:16; Romans 5:1-10)!
Jesus’ resolute commitment to DIE for us survived several attempts at derailment – Satan’s temptations at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry for him to take an easier path (Luke 4:1-13); Peter’s joining forces with Satan towards the end of Jesus’ ministry to discourage him from taking the way of the Cross (Matthew 16:22-23); Jesus’ own great spiritual battle in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42); and so on. As the Apostle Paul tells us: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became OBEDIENT to death – even DEATH on a CROSS”! (Philippians 2:8).