Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 9:56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went on to another village.
This is an intriguing story told by Luke for the benefit of Theophilus. He starts with the following. “And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him.” Luke 9:51-52. This journey will be His final one outside of Jerusalem. The use of the phrase “when the days were approaching for His ascension” speaks of the completion of His mission approaching. This also looks back to what is typically called the Transfiguration, where two men were speaking with Jesus about His departure. “And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Luke 9:30-31. And remember, James and John were there with Jesus at this event. And when the disciples arrived in Samaria, they went out to make arrangements for when Jesus arrives.
However, they would not receive Jesus or make arrangements for Him. “And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem.” Luke 9:53. The main reason was that He was focused on going to Jerusalem. One of the subjects of dispute between the Jews and Samaritans pertained to the proper situation of the temple. The Jews contended that it should be at Jerusalem; the Samaritans, on Mount Gerizim, and accordingly they had built one there. They had probably heard of the miracles of Jesus, and that he claimed to be the Messiah. Perhaps they had hoped that he would decide that they were right in regard to the building of the temple. Had he decided the question in that way, they probably would gladly have received him as the Messiah; but when they saw that he was going among the Jews, that by going he would decide in their favor, they resolved to have nothing to do with him, and they rejected him.
Now James and John saw what they did and were very upset. “And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:54. This points back to an account in 2 Kings. This speaks of King Ahaziah in Israel who was the son of Ahab and Jezebel, who were among the most wicked rulers in Israel. And because he worshipped Baal, he aroused the anger of God. At some point during his reign, King Ahaziah of Israel fell out of a window, injuring himself badly. He was confined to bed, and rather than inquire of the Lord, Ahaziah sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if he would be healed. The Lord sent His prophet Elijah to confront the messengers and give them God’s message for King Ahaziah: he would never recover from his injuries and would die in his bed.
Now, notice the answer given by Elijah to Ahaziah. “Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, O man of God, the king says, Come down. And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” 2 Kings 1:9-10. This sounds very much like the question asked by James and John in verse 54. Now, Jesus rebuked them. “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;” Luke 9:55. They had received the Spirit of God, and this Spirit is not one of anger, but of love. They did not consider that the present is a dispensation of infinite mercy and love; and that the design of God is not to destroy sinners, but to give them space to repent, that he may save them unto eternal life.
In closing, we should imitate, in our spirit, the Son of man who came to save and not destroy. If he had come for that purpose, he could have destroyed these Samaritans; but he came to save. He is not quick to anger, but patiently bears opposition to himself, and we should act upon opposition as He did. We should temper our zeal, seeking to do good to those who injure us or God. We must push ourselves to be mild, kind, patient, and forgiving. This is the Spirit we have been given, and this is the only way to reach those who question our faith as being unreasonable. For this is what we are sent out to do, not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.
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