Monday, September 19, 2011

The wrong spirit

Luke 9:51-56 NASB

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 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?" But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village.

My thoughts -

Jesus was rejected. He was rejected for religious/political reasons. This was something of a culture war issue. Jesus was Jewish. He was travelling towards Jerusalem. The Samaritans wanted no part of helping him with this.

Did they not know who he was? Did they not know what he taught? Did they not realize that in Jesus they had a fierce advocate?

In this moment, unfortunately, Jesus was not a person to them. He was not the person Jesus nor was he the office of the Christ. He was the office of Jewish teacher travelling to Jerusalem. And the Samaritans wanted no part of that.

He was dehumanized. I'm sure that hurt. It hurt James and John. In fact, they were enraged. At first read their reaction might seem a little over the top. The Samaritans reject them so they ask to call fire down from heaven to burn them alive. That may be a bit of an overreaction.

But is that so different from how we would respond? James and John were out to "get" those who hurt them. They felt the sting of rejection, the embarrassment and shame of dehumanization, and they lashed right back. This is a natural reaction if a little more violent than what we'd feel comfortable admitting to.

But Jesus didn't have this same reaction. He was rejected and dehumanized the same as James and John. But Jesus didn't blow his top. Jesus didn't lash out in anger. Jesus didn't condemn them. Jesus didn't "get" them. Instead he rebuked his disciples.

"You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

What do these words mean to us? What do these words mean for us? Jesus, after being rejected, says that he came to save and not to destroy. He says James and John don't get why he's here. Do we get it?

Jesus was rejected. Jesus was shunned. Jesus was ultimately killed. And he took it willingly. He didn't lash out. He didn't use his power as God Incarnate to get even with anyone. He didn't call down fire to burn his enemies, he did call for angels to rescue him from suffering, he didn't call for his followers to wield swords to prevent his capture and crucifixion.

Jesus didn't come to destroy. Jesus came to save. And yet it seems as though Jesus's followers have been destroying in his name for as long as there have been followers of Jesus. James and John were the first but by no means the last. The Prince of Peace has had wars fought in his name. Our Lord who was unjustly executed has had others kill in his name. Jesus, who came to save and not to destroy, has seen a fair amount of destruction carried out in his name.

James and John responded to rejection in a natural way. They just did what people do. James and John responded to their enemies in a natural way. They just did what people do. What sets, or should set Christians apart is that we serve a Saviour who demonstrated that we do not have to be slaves to our natural impulses and who empowers us to overcome our sinful nature.

Jesus taught that we should love our enemies. And he lived it. Jesus wad the Christ, our Saviour, the Son of God sent to reconcile God's enemies to Himself. When Jesus was wronged he didn't lash out in anger. When Jesus was struck he didn't strike back. When Jesus was rejected he didn't "show them". Jesus did not come to destroy no matter how much we deserved destruction.

Jesus came to save. To desire destruction, as James and John did, was to not understand this. They had the wrong spirit and Jesus rebuked them for it.

How is our spirit?

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