Jesus and his friends were traveling in Samaritan territory. He sent messengers ahead to the next town to announce his impending arrival. When Jesus arrived he was not accepted. Luke 9:53 says he was unwelcome because, "his face was set toward Jerusalem."
The old feud between Jews and Samaritans was on in Jesus day, same as it had been for centuries. The Jews believed the center of religious life and worship was at the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans believed the center of worship was at Mount Gerizim in Nablus. The dispute between these two groups was generations deep. They both held onto the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, as the Word of God. They even lived next to one another, and yet they refused to make peace because they understood God and worship so very differently. Yet no one else on earth worshiped only one God as these two groups had done for centuries.
Jesus was not wanted in a Samaritan town. And now two of his friends had an idea that would teach them not to disrespect Jesus. They asked for permission to call down fire and brimstone.
"The disciples act from human motives of retaliation. Jesus expects a disciple to act with the same motivation as the Master: forgiveness and mercy, rather than condemnation and destruction." Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Conference OfficeWe respond to life's challenges out of our earthly instincts; but Jesus calls us to act for very different reasons. In Luke, following Jesus' bold instructions often moved the people he met in radically different directions than they'd have ever expected to go on their own. For James and John, the Sons of Thunder, it meant putting aside the desire to destroy those who had ignored Jesus' ministry.
Jesus went on down the road and a few others came to join him for some of the journey. He warned one that, "Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place to call his own." (Luke 9:58). Another came and said he would come follow Jesus as soon as he had buried his father. Another said he would come as soon as he said farewell to those at home. Jesus challenged his would be followers not to look back.
Jesus' invitation for us it to look ahead. In our world its easy to get trapped in memory and history. James and John were ready to see a whole town punished because of they didn't "accept Jesus". Jesus had a mission and following him means that we each have a part in that mission.
If your Bible has study notes, you'll see that some ancient manuscripts insert an extra verse in this week's Gospel at Luke 9:56. I think of this extra verse as the most important verse not in the Bible. At Luke 9:56 some Greek manuscripts add a conclusion to the story: "And Jesus said to them, '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.'" Journey With JesusJesus mission is clear missing verse or not. He came to save and his disciples, both then and now, get caught in the most basic parts of our human nature and miss Jesus mission. For a human its easy to get caught up in the past, both bad and good. We get stuck recycling old hurts or seeking to live in the "good old days." But that's not where God wants us to live. We are called to live in the present and to minister to the people who live around us. Having a mission, like Jesus, demands that we focus on today and keep moving toward the future.