Luke 9:51-56 (NIV) As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
Most people, if they knew that torture and death awaited them in a certain place, will avoid that place at all costs. But Jesus had known all along that it was the will of the Father for Him to suffer and die in Jerusalem for the sins of all mankind. It was the reason He had come, the culmination of His earthly ministry. So, when it was time, He set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem.
The episode with the Samaritan village shows how far apart Jesus and His closes followers were, even at this late stage. The average Jewish person traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem would cross the Jordan River north of Samaria, travel down the east side until they were near Jericho, then cross back into Judea, so that they would not have to set a foot in the corrupted (and, they feared, corrupting) land of Samaria. But Jesus was still on mission, even as He was moving rapidly toward His own death. He had had a harvest for the kingdom among the Samaritans earlier (John 4:1-42), and there could still be some there who would be open to the good news. So He didn’t avoid Samaria, but passed directly through.
But the village He had selected as His stopping point refused to provide hospitality to Him and His followers because they were headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. James and John, feeling indignant on Jesus’ behalf for this slight, offered to call down fire from heaven to consume the whole inhospitable village.
In their minds, James and John saw this as defending Jesus’ honor. But Jesus wasn’t worried about His honor at this point. He knew that in a couple of weeks He would be completely dishonored, hanging beaten, broken, bleeding, and naked on a cross, with crowds pointing and jeering. No, His focus was on the lost people that He had come to save. He rebuked the disciples, according to some manuscripts with the words, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them. And they simply went to a different village to spend the night.
Father, it is easy to see that Jesus was entirely focused on His mission, seeking and saving what was lost (Luke 19:10) – so focused that He didn’t take any slights to heart. He didn’t want to be treated well, He wanted to save those who were lost, no matter what the cost. Help me to have that same intense focus, Lord, so that any insults simply roll off, and so that whenever I am rejected, I simply continue on to the next opportunity. Amen.