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. Luke 9:51-56
In John 4, we read about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. She share her story with the whole town, and it was so well received they asked Jesus to stay longer. But this time their response was cold, hard and unwelcoming.
James and John, the Sons of Thunder, we so greatly offended by this that they asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven that would consume them, like Elijah did with the prophets of Baal. They were learning to use their new spiritual authority Jesus had given them, and wanted use it to punish them for the disrespect they showed.
Jesus’ response is very significant: “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.”
The first half of His correction is to let them know they have forgotten their identity. By thinking they should be judges and use their spiritual power and authority to decimate others is not who Jesus made them to be. They must be careful not to abuse their power for judgment or restitution when offended.
The second half was reminding them of who Jesus is: “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Now is not the time for judgment but salvation. His goal for this group of the Samaritans said their is that they would join the other Samaritans that believed in Him.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:21
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-28, 35-36
How might we craft a group identity statement? How about, “We are a people who overcome evil with good.”? This helps to remind us of what we do as a people when we are in this situation.