51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.
Now Jesus, thus far, has been doing the preponderance of his ministry, up north, in Galilee, small towns, villages. He is working around the Sea of Galilee with peasants, fishermen, and farmers. He’s making his multi-month walk toward Jerusalem, toward the cross, toward his place of death, burial, resurrection, ascension. And then he passes through an area called Samaria.
Now let me explain to you Samaria. These people were kind of Jews. They had intermarried with pagans, and they established their own temple, their own Bible, their own religion, their own theology, their own pastors. And the Jews didn’t know what to do with these people, because they were just completely cuckoo. This would be like, let’s see, Mormon nudist Scientologists. You’d be like, “I don’t even know what to do with them,” right? “They say they’re sort of an offshoot of Christianity, but we don’t even know what to do with them.”
So what would happen is, as God’s people journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem, they would just walk around Utah. They would just go completely around Utah, and they didn’t even know what to do with Samaria. And the hostility between the Jewish people and the Samaritans was intense. Just an absolute conflict.
And so Jesus doesn’t walk around Samaria, he walks through Samaria, and he sends messengers ahead of him, and here’s why. A lot of these towns, as I’ve said repeatedly, are very small, dozens, hundreds of people. And Jesus is rolling with quite a large entourage. It’s him, plus the twelve plus the seventy plus however many other Facebook friends have, you know, followed him on their app, and been able to find him and come along for the ride. So you’re looking at, I don’t know, eighty, a hundred plus people. And if you’re a village of forty or sixty people, you don’t have a Ramada Inn. You don’t have a Costco or a Sam’s Club. You’re not set up to receive this many visitors at one time.
So they roll into Samaria, “Jesus is coming and here’s what’s going on.” And the Samaritans said, “You know what? We really don’t want Jesus, because if he’s determined to go to Jerusalem, that mean he’s not going to validate our tribe.” See, the Samaritan people were a religious group, a political group, a racial group, a cultural group, a social group. They were a tribe. They were like people who, today, have all of their life and identity wrapped up in some tribe or grouping.
They said, “Well, we’re willing to have Jesus, providing he joins our tribe. He needs to validate our theology. He needs to go to our temple. He needs to support our leaders. He needs to reinforce our theology. He can’t go to Jerusalem. That would show the world that Jerusalem, and not Samaria, is where God wants to begin his redemptive work. That would show that their interpretation of the Bible is right and ours is wrong. Rather than repenting, we’ll reject Jesus.” Those are your only two options, repent or reject Jesus. And they don’t repent, they reject Jesus. And what they do is they put their tribe above Jesus. They’re willing to have Jesus, providing he will support them, and he won’t.
And the truth is this is how a lot of people work. They want Jesus in their tribe on their terms, and he comes and says, “No, I’m God. You don’t tell me to follow you, I tell you to follow me. I don’t join your team, you join mine.” And Jesus’ team is very diverse, different races and languages and nations and cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. And he invites all to follow him, but he does not follow anyone else. He’s God. And even religions will do this, and some of you are trying to do this. You say, “I like Jesus, and I’m totally fine with him, providing he does what I tell him, providing he supports what I already believe.”
But what if Jesus doesn’t support your political party, your cause? What if he doesn’t support your national interests or your racial preferences or your cultural biases or your sexual orientation? What if he says, “No, that’s not what I’m into. You need to lay that down and follow me and start over.” Would you be willing to receive him, or would you reject him?
And when this message gets to the Samaritans, they’re like, “He’s going to Jerusalem, and he wants us to follow him? We have a totally different agenda and ideology. Jesus can either submit to us or leave.” They lose the blessing of enjoying friendship, fellowship with Jesus.
Some of you have done that. You say, “I’m fine with Jesus, as long as he doesn’t act like he’s God, Lord, in charge. As long as he reinforces what I believe and how I behave, then I will tolerate him. But if he calls me to repent, or he shows that I’m wrong, then I will reject him.” Please don’t do that. The Samaritans did. God came to earth, walked through Samaria, the place where nobody else wanted to go. He extended a hand of friendship, and they rejected it.
So two of his disciples decide, “Let’s call fire down from heaven,” right? These are those guys, right? These are the “turn or burn” sign guys, right? “You want to receive Jesus?” “No”. “Then you’re gonna burn in hell! Next.” I mean these not patient guys, right? James and John.
Now I’ll tell you what I like about this, these guys don’t lack confidence. They just think, “We can just call down fire from heaven,” which that’s sort of a big assumption. They don’t even tell Jesus, “Hey, we think you should call down fire from heaven.” They’re like, “We totally got this. Fire from heaven, we’re ready to roll if you’re cool with that. We think ‘Samaria’ is Greek for ‘kindling,’ and we’re ready to give it a run,” you know?
Jesus says, essentially, this: “It’s not time.” Right, there is a season, a time for condemnation, but this is a season and time for salvation. Jesus is saying, “Look, I’m going to Jerusalem. I’m gonna die on a cross. I’m gonna suffer. I’m gonna atone for sin. You guys can come back to Samaria, we’ll send some of my people to say that I’ve atoned for sin, and conquered sin and death through the resurrection, and let’s give the Samaritans another opportunity to receive grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and salvation.”
See, as long as you’re alive, there’s a chance, and yeah, the Samaritans blew their opportunity. They didn’t have a right sense of urgency, but Jesus is not to be dissuaded. He’s gonna go and atone for sin, and he’s gonna be patient with them as he’s patient with you, as he’s patient with me, and as he’s patient with his own disciples, James and John. He’s really patient with us. It doesn’t mean we should be lazy or not have a sense of urgency. (empasis mine)
I'm going to leave that there, because this is pretty long already, but I know that there isn't always a sense of urgency for me when it comes to spiritual things. (Well, sometimes even everyday things. Procrastination is sometimes too good a friend of mine.) I have also been guilty of trying to cram God, Jesus, following God's will, and the plan of salvation into my ideas of who or what they are or should be instead of really submitting to Him as Lord of my life. I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 9:57-62.