Discipleship Is Demanding
By Andrew Bolton, Council of Twelve Apostles
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. —Luke 9:51–55 NRSV
In Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus, the disciples often are trying to work out who Jesus really is. Earlier in this chapter, Peter has confessed with insight that Jesus is the coming Messiah or God-anointed king. Peter, James, and John have just seen Jesus transfigured in his glory, so their testimony that Jesus is important is growing.
Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The quickest way there is to go through a Samaritan village. The Samaritans refuse to let Jesus and his companions walk through since it is clear they are going to Jerusalem. Samaritans dispute the importance of worshiping in the temple.
James and John are furious with the rudeness of the Samaritans. How dare these heretical, half-breed Samaritans hinder God’s Messiah on his way to Jerusalem! They ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” In modern terms they want to launch an airstrike on the Samaritan village and burn them up. Remember, people call these brothers the Sons of Thunder! They have tempers! Now listen carefully for what comes next: Jesus rebukes them (Luke 9:55). James and John still do not understand that God’s kingdom is about healing, love, and nonviolence.
When we feel tempted to run down other faith communities, ethnic groups, or those different from us, let us remember this story so Jesus would not rebuke us.
Prayer for Peace
Gentle God, help us overcome our tendencies to overreact to obstacles—especially when they are people. Help us mediate peaceful solutions.
Spiritual Practice: Embodying God’s Shalom
Find a way to express and embody God’s shalom. Begin by prayerfully listening to your longing for peace. Become silent and imagine you can hear the groaning of the Earth’s people, nations, and creatures. Prayerfully open yourself to God’s yearning for peace and the divine vision of shalom. What act of justice, kindness, healing, or peacemaking does God invite you to consider this day?
Today, I will not respond with violence or harsh words when I feel my life as a disciple is thwarted.