#25: “FIRE FROM HEAVEN”
Summer, A. D. 29, near Samaria:
As the time draws near for Jesus to be received up into glory, he sets his course with steadfast, determined faith to go to Jerusalem, as spoken through the prophet, “Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7b, NIV, I Timothy 3:16, I Peter 1:10-11).
Jesus is committed to accomplishing his appointed mission to die on the cross, be raised from the dead and be received up into glory. For he is the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world. Now he and his disciples begin their journey to the city that will demand his death.
As Jesus and his disciples travel south towards Jerusalem, they approach the border between Galilee and Samaria. Jesus sends messengers ahead of them to go into a Samaritan village to prepare the people to receive him. However, when the messengers return, they bring Jesus the message that the Samaritans are not interested in him holding any meetings there. They do not receive him because he is a Jew, on his way to Jerusalem. They don’t like Jerusalem and they have hostile and bitter feelings towards Jews. Some Samaritans reason, “If this man is a prophet, he would know that Mt. Gerizim is the correct place to worship, and not Jerusalem” (John 4:9, 20).
James and John looked forward to seeing what Jesus would do in this town. But when they hear how these Samaritans closed their hearts to Jesus and rejected him, they wonder, “These people knew that the leading Prophet of our day was coming to their own town, and they didn't even want to see him? They are not interested in hearing him, even after he has worked so many miracles and taught such profound messages? Haven’t they noticed that God is visiting people in a special way at this time?”
They are tired of so many people rejecting Jesus. Didn't these people realize by rejecting Jesus that they were rejecting what God was doing in that hour? For a moment these “sons of thunder” yield to a spirit of anger and hatred, and ask, “Lord, do you want us command fire to come down from heaven and destroy them?” (Mark 3:17)
Jesus turns around and rebukes his disciples for yielding to a wrong spirit. Then he admonishes them, “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56, NKJV).
Comments: Have you ever wished that someone would call fire down from heaven upon those who openly reject God and who seem to have dedicated their lives to opposing and overthrowing the influence of Christianity?
James and John at one point yielded to the temptation to think this way. And I don’t know if James and John thought of this, but they could have cited Scripture for calling fire down from heaven. One Scripture about the Messiah says, “. . . with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4d, NIV. Another declares, “. . . You will destroy them as in a flaming furnace when you appear” (Psalm 21:9a, NLT). But we know that those Scriptures speak of “the day of vengeance of our God” which will happen at Messiah’s second coming and not “the year of the Lord's favor” which speaks of the Messiah’s first coming (Isaiah 61:2, Luke 4:19).
Also, recently Jesus’ disciples heard Him announce, “I have come to cast a fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49a). But here Jesus was not referring to a literal fire that destroys. He was speaking of spiritual fire that enlightens, refines, and sets free.
Elijah called down fire from heaven, but it was for self-defense, so that he could continue with his ministry (II Kings 1:9-14) And someday the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will call down fire from sky to protect themselves so that they can fulfill their ministry (Revelation 11:5).
But James and John were not in the season for calling literal fire down from heaven and neither are we. What if James and John had received what they wanted from the Lord? What if they would have received power to call fire down upon the Samaritan towns and destroy those people? It might well be that some of the Samaritans that James and John wanted to destroy were the very same people who later repented and received Christ as their Lord and Savior when Philip the evangelist preached in Samaria about five years later (Acts 8:5-17).
Maybe in a few months or a few years some of these people who are now the most defiant against God’s Word will be saved and will come to know Jesus. That should be our prayer. The day of the vengeance of God will come soon enough. Now it is time for us to pray for those who do not know God that they will come to experience the love and power of Jesus. And now it is time for us to live honorably among them and seek to influence them to say “yes” to God in the day when He visits them (I Peter 2:12).
Note: much of this devotional is from The Life of Jesus Foretold, pages 161-163.