Jesus’ disciples often look like oafs. And this is one of the marks of New Testament authenticity.
After all, these often foolish looking men were the leaders of the early church that produced the New Testament documents. We only have to imagine Mohammed being portrayed in a similar way in the Koran. Though I’m not a great student of that book, I know enough to realize that he ends up looking good. The disciples, however, not so much. And the only reason that they end up looking so foolish…is because they actually were. Why else would they make up these stories which cast them in such a bad light? They were ultimately the ones in charge of disseminating the accounts. No, these men were impacted by the gospel enough to simply tell the story as it was. Jesus was the only One who needed to look good…and looking good came naturally to the Lord.
Luke 9 tells one of the oafish stories, when Jesus makes plans to go to Jerusalem, and passes through Samaria but is not received. And James and John are miffed, so they have a simple suggestion:
“Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:54 (ESV)
I love these guys; after all, when they do silly stuff, it makes the rest of us look better. Anyway, Jesus rebukes them, and they head on to another village.
Now it’s easy to look down on James and John wanting to annihilate Samaritans, but I think we shouldn’t be too quick to throw stones from our glass houses. Like others, I’ve read lots of articles and posts from Christians in light of the recent change in our country’s laws on marriage, and it seemed like at least some of what I’ve seen has been more in the spirit of “fire from heaven” than “love the misguided sinner.”
We need to be careful. To be sure, there was a time when God used His people Israel as an instrument of His judgment on a wicked people, but after the clearing of the Promised Land, they were called to love the foreigner and stranger. And of course, there will come a time of judgment again when the Lord returns. But now we live in a time when we are called to proclaim glad tidings of salvation to a lost and hurting world. And so there remains a window of hope to wayward subjects before the King returns with a double-edged sword in His mouth.
And that’s what we are called to do now – not call down fire from heaven – but proclaim that the King is returning, and therefore, “Repent, and believe the good news.”
For Tuesday, July 14th: Luke 10