Reading the Bible this week I came across a passage that I had read many times before, but as often happens with the living, active word of God this passage struck me in an entirely new way.
Luke records the following narrative commentary: “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. Then he and his disciples went to another village.” Mark 9:51-56 NIV
Now, I get it… this is not a well known passage from the Gospels here… I mean, no Sunday School teacher is going to make memorizing this Bible passage part of their lesson plan. After all, this isn’t Jesus walking on water, healing the blind or feeding a crowd of people. Jesus doesn’t offer an oratory teaching masterpiece like the Sermon on the Mount or the Vine and the Branches. So, why did the Holy Spirit inspire Luke to record this event from among probably the thousands that he researched to write his gospel account? Well, the reason is that this little narrative holds significant insight into the heart of God.
Notice the first sentence — “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” What that means is that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to die. At this point in his life, Jesus began walking the road to Calvary. Notice the intentionality in Luke’s words. “Resolutely” means that Jesus was determined to go to the cross. He intentionally… with purpose… and resolve… began his journey to Golgotha. It was time to fulfill the main purpose behind his incarnation — to die as a sacrifice for the sins of Humanity. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.
It’s really no surprise that a Samaritan village would reject a bunch of traveling Jewish people. Jews and Samaritans hated each other. In fact, most Jewish people would have circumvented Samaria on their way to Jerusalem even though it would have doubled their travel distance. And Jerusalem was part of the reason behind the hate… because Samaritans were not allowed to worship God at the temple in the city.
So, when Jesus is rejected by this village, James and John demonstrate an amazingly deep piety when they offer to burn the entire village, people and all, over this heinous rejection. I wish there was a way to accurately demonstrate that last sentence, dripping with the distain of sarcasm. “We’ll turn them into Holy French Fries for you Jesus!” Incidentally, nothing up to this point in their discipleship indicated that they had anywhere near the necessary faith to even do such a thing.
And Jesus? He rebuked them. Why? Because he had just “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” How painful must that moment have been for the Savior. He was on his way to Calvary to die as a sacrifice for the sins of people so that they could know eternal life… and his disciples just wanted to nuke them for not welcoming them into their community. James and John (and the others for that matter) still did not understand the heart of the Redeemer.
I don’t know what that rebuke looked like. In my active imagination I picture Jesus shouting, “FRY them? I am on my way to DIE for them, you idiots!” Ok… ok… Jesus probably wouldn’t call them idiots… I don’t think…
Yes, this little narrative passage provides a deep insight into the heart of God. He died… even for those who have rejected and rebelled against him. “Father forgive them! They don’t know what they are doing!”
O Lord Jesus… Thank you for resolutely setting out for Jerusalem! Thank you for grace! You are my Savior and Redeemer!