The Samaritans were not altogether pleased about the Jewish pilgrimage through their territory, so it’s no surprise that the envoys ahead of Jesus were not met with great enthusiasm. Jesus isn’t surprised by the reception, but the “sons of thunder” suggested a lightning strike might teach them a lesson! Jesus rebukes this behavior and they move on.
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Today’s passage marks the beginning of the second part of Luke. 9:51-19:27, events that took place around Judea and Perea (Jordan River Valley). To get to Jerusalem from Galilee, the most direct route is through Samaria. It happens at a time when the Jews are traveling en masse to get to Jerusalem for a festival and it appears to irritate the Samaritans to the extent that they often claim to have no space to accommodate the pilgrims. There’s no love loss between Jews and Samaritans, probably why Jesus chooses them as the focus of his parable in Luke 10:25-37.
James and John heard about the lack of hospitality and suggest that they should act like Elijah and call down fire from heaven and zap the village, but Jesus will have none of this! He rebukes them for their misbehavior, but there are at least two things for us to take away from this: 1) the very next verse shows that they are still with Jesus and 2) the disciples are human.
1. Right after rebuking them, a word we don’t use in our culture, they all went to another village. The disciples were worthy of Jesus’ time and attention. He loved them enough to discipline them since it was his greatest desire to see them build the foundation of Christianity…in just a matter of weeks! Sometimes we feel the rebuke of others who are in positions of authority–we should welcome this because it demonstrates their concern for us.
2. The very fact that the New Testament includes stories of how the disciples made mistakes should give us great comfort. Not that we should gloat over our transgressions, but the authenticity with which the Gospel accounts are written is validated by including such verses. Why would anyone trying to fabricate such a story include such comments? Simply this: it was the truth.
The gospels were written and shared with people that were eye witnesses to the accounts, they no doubt spoke up and said, “remember what James and John suggested?” It’s crazy that we have such words attributed to the founders of our religion, but there it is in print for all to see. Churches are hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints. I don’t know who really gets credit for that saying, but it’s so true and we must keep this in mind. Later, in John 4 we read about the Samaritan woman at the well…Jesus just couldn’t leave it alone! We are limited, as Pastor Mark preached this morning. Because we are limited we need to look to God, the limitless, to find true fulfillment.
The disciples took their rebuke well and went with Jesus to the next village, taking notes, learning and growing. That’s my greatest desire, to learn from Jesus.