Luke 9:49-62 (ESV)
49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” 51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 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?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. He was absolutely determined to do the will of God and accomplish what he was sent to do on earth. After he left Galilee, he traveled through Samaria, which lay on the way to his destination. Now, the Jews didn’t like the Samaritans. They considered them compromisers since they were only half Jewish, not full-blooded. The Samaritans believed the first five books of the Bible alone were authoritative, and they set up their own worship center on Mount Gerizim. Although the shortest route from Galilee to Judea and Jerusalem ran through Samaria, Jews would travel out of their way to avoid crossing this region. This wasn’t what Jesus did. He sent disciples ahead of him to prepare for his arrival at a Samaritan village. Jesus tried to reach out to these people, but they weren’t interested in him. It wasn’t only the Jewish people who rejected Jesus. All sorts of ethnic groups snubbed him. James and John were over it. Attempting to follow in the footsteps of Elijah, they asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven and destroy the ungrateful Samaritans. Jesus responded with a rebuke. “No! God will judge when he is ready.” They were simply to move on.
Even though the Samaritans’ rejection of Jesus was wrong, it wasn’t time for their judgment. James and John were called to preach the gospel to the Samaritans, but they weren’t permitted to call down the fire of God. There will come a time when God does judge based on how each individual responded to Jesus, but until then God continues to offer grace. Just consider the ramifications if God’s judgment had come earlier! What if he had wrapped things up ten or twenty years ago, or even thirty or forty? How many of us would have been excluded from his kingdom eternally as a result? Judgment hasn’t arrived yet, but it will. God is not overlooking sin. God’s kindness continues so that as many as possible will come to repentance. He desires people to turn to him. If you are a follower of Jesus today, thank him for his patience with humanity. Pray that like him, you would control your will in the face of frustration. May the patience you extend to those around you draw others to God, the author and source of all longsuffering.