“And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’” — Luke 9:54 (ESV)
The end of Luke chapter 9 we see Jesus and his disciples on their way to Jerusalem. As they came to a Samaritan village on their journey, Jesus sent messengers ahead to make preparations for their arrival.
In general, Samaritans and Jews don’t like each other. The people of the village didn’t want them to come when the messengers said they were on their way.
James and John ask Jesus in Luke 9:54 if they can level the town for him by calling down fire from heaven. They were wanting to defend the honor, or get revenge for the dishonor, of their teacher.
Jesus rebukes them in the next verse, and they head to another village. Some manuscripts add that Jesus says, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.”
Clearly James and John were missing the point of Jesus’ mission in walking around teaching and healing people.
Two things are kinda nuts when I read this little story:
- James and John actually believed they had the authority to tell heaven to rain down fire.
- Jesus rebuked their attitude. But there’s nothing in the text that would lead us to believe James and John didn’t actually have the ability call down fire.
Though their hearts were not in the right place, why in the world did these two brothers think they could make this happen?
The beginning of Luke chapter 9 is Jesus sending out the 12 apostles. Before they’re sent he gives them “power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.”
I almost see it as a sort of trail run. They’ve been with Jesus, listening to his teachings, watching him cast out demons and heal the sick. Now they get sent out to do it themselves and come back to report how things went (v10).