Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 2016 | A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus
Not long after this episode Jesus Himself says to the disciples:
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
In terms of strategy, fire coming down from heaven may have actually been the best option on the table.
For starters, fire is incredibly convenient.
For James and John, the aptly named “sons of thunder;” fire requires minimal effort while providing maximum effect.
How convenient is it?
Go ahead and look at the Gospel text again.
They make the proposition as casually as if they were asking Jesus what He wanted on His pizza.
Sardines? Veggies? Fire from heaven to consume them? We’re up for whatever.
If you’re not sure, let’s just get one with sardines, one with veggies,
And a side of fire from heaven to consume them.
One convenient word, and the matter is settled.
Next, fire would have been practical.
It would have been a very useful solution to the so-called “Samaritan problem.”
They were a plight on otherwise civilized society –
Folks who wouldn’t worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, but only on Mt. Gerissim;
This is at least part of the reason they weren’t keen on receiving Jesus.
His face is not set on Gerissim, but Jerusalem.
So if Jesus would just give the twins the “ok” they could implement their scorched earth policy and rename this place “Example”. A warning to all who would dare reject their Master.
A warning to everyone who will only accept a personalized version of Jesus–
A Jesus who says what they want Him to say, who does what they want Him to do,
Who will somehow offer Himself at Mt. Gerissim, or Fenway, or the living room.
Finally, fire would have been just.
For the folks who refuse friendship with Christ, or who will only have Him occasionally or when it suits them
For those who will not let Jesus have His way with them;
To all of them, the final word is “Ok. Thy will be done.”
That is not the ending that Jesus wants to your story.
James and John are not simply zealous;
James and John are efficient…and practical…and fair.
Jesus, on the other hand, seems inefficient, impractical, and quite unfair.
He will not act because it is convenient for others.
He will not change His plan when we think we have a better one.
And if He were in the business of giving folks what they deserve,
Well, then He would have come a long way for nothing.
After all, if fire from heaven were Christ’s answer for sin,
He may have well have stayed there.
But He didn’t.
Jesus has chosen a different way.
Rather than sending fire from heaven,
He came Himself from heaven, that He might deal with sin and death personally.
And so His face is set to Jerusalem.
It is His singular goal. It is His heart’s desire.
There is no other path for Jesus but the one that leads to the cross.
There, at Golgotha, James and John will have their request granted –
A request that, if you recall the opening quote from Jesus, they had every reason to expect. But it always helps to read more than a single verse. Jesus said:
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50)
It’s that second part that they didn’t anticipate.
Jesus has a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is His distress until it is accomplished.
And so Jesus’ face is set to Jerusalem.
Jesus’ face is set to the cross where the fire from heaven will consume Him and not you.
There sin and death are finally dealt with;
There James and John get what they asked for, just not the way the asked for it.
Thanks be to God.
Thanks be to God that His way of dealing with our sins are not what we would call practical or efficient,
And certainly not what we would call fair.
But they are good.
Remember that along the way.
That is, as you follow Jesus where He goes, don’t be too surprised when He does things differently than you would.
Remember that when you would like to take a rest somewhere other than in Jesus, who, though He made the foxes holes and the bird’s nests, has no place to lay His head.
Remember that when you would like to pack up your old sins to your new life.
“Let the dead bury their own dead.”
Remember that you might not get to keep your friends and family. But Jesus will sort that out as well.
And when it all seems too much, which, if you’re anything like me, should happen a few moments after you leave the building, remember that it has already been done for you.
You have been baptized into Christ.
Baptized into His death and His resurrection.
Which means that, despite your best efforts, you really do go with Him wherever He goes: cross and grave and resurrection. From font to heaven, you are inseparable.
You can never be torn away from this Jesus who has come in mercy.
Even the Samaritans couldn’t shake Him.
If you read the second half of Luke, that is, the book of Acts, you’ll see that Jesus didn’t leave Samaria alone. He came again through His Apostles. This time He was received, “And there was much joy in that city.”
Yes, it’s true.
Once upon a time we ran away from our home in Eden.
But it is as if the words spoken by the unnamed man today were really Jesus’ words. “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus has tracked you down.
He’s picked you up in your Baptism to bring you back home.
So here we go.
There’s no looking back now.
Jesus’ face is set to Jerusalem.
And our faces are set to Jesus:
On the Cross, in the Font, at the Altar.