Following Jesus 18

Are you like James? 

James was a disciple who was ambitious and goal orientated, as seen in Matthew 20:20-28. He was also zealous. There are many zealots following Jesus today. What does it mean to be zealous? 

To be zealous means to be enthusiastic, passionate, intense; maybe even obsessive and compulsive. However, often with unhindered zeal comes a lack of restraint and wisdom. There becomes a focus almost exclusively on how one feels. We witness an example of James’ zealousness in Luke 9:51-56. 

“When the days drew near for him (Jesus) to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 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?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.” (Luke 9:51-56 ESV)

Jesus begins journeying to the place of the cross. The language here makes it plain that Jesus was fully conscious of the time of his death as near, as already stated (Luke 9:22, 27, 31). The phrase “to be taken up” refers to His literal ascension (Acts 1:9-11). 

With this eternal perspective in mind, Jesus sent messengers ahead of Him to an unnamed Samaritan village. Perhaps this act served as a precaution since he was going to Jerusalem through Samaria. The Samaritans did not object when people went north from Jerusalem through their country. We do not know who the messengers were.

However, the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus to their village. Why? Perhaps because He was heading to Jerusalem. The conflict between the two people groups, Jews and Samaritans, was deep and raw. 

When James and John saw this clear disrespect towards Jesus, they wanted the Samaritans judged. They asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” It may be likely that the two brothers recalled the incident recorded in 2 Kings 1:1-12. Their zealous love for the Lord, and their corresponding dislike for the Samaritans, both contributed to their fiery passion.    

Jesus, in contrast, called for tolerance. The implication is not that it was right to oppose Jesus and His followers. The Samaritans who rejected Jesus would be judged for their rejection. However, there were more important things to take care of. Jesus had to move along toward Jerusalem. 

This brings to mind the question of exactly how do we fight the good fight of faith? Two primary passages which speak of the believer’s ongoing conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil is Ephesians 6:10-20 and 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. In both passages, the Apostle Paul speaks of the spiritual weaponry necessary to battle the spiritual forces of darkness who are in opposition to Jesus Christ. 

May we as followers of Jesus take up our armament as soldiers of the cross. 

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