“Telling fire to come down from heaven”: Seeing ourselves in James and John

November 11, 2016
From the Crossway tract, "Hope for Hard Times"

From the Crossway tract, “Hope for Hard Times”

I wanted to include the following point in last Sunday’s sermon, but I ran out of time. The scripture, you may recall, included Luke 9:51-55. In this episode, Jesus and his disciples are passing through a Samaritan village on their way to Jerusalem. The Samaritans refuse to let them stay in their town.

So James and John have a brilliant idea: “Lord, do you want to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

This is not without biblical precedent. There’s an event described in 2 Kings in which King Ahaziah sends soldiers to arrest the prophet Elijah. The commanding officer says to Elijah, sitting on a hill, “O man of God, the king says to come down.” And Elijah says, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your men.” And that’s exactly what happens. Twice. It would have happened a third time, but the commanding officer begs Elijah for mercy and God relents.

To their credit, James and John know that Jesus is much greater than Elijah. So why shouldn’t the fire of God’s judgment fall on these Samaritans who’ve rejected Jesus, just as it fell upon the enemies of Elijah?

Regardless, as sensible as this suggestion may have seemed to the brothers, Jesus rebukes them. And their suggestion rightly offends us today. We hear this story and feel morally superior to James and John. After all, we would never want the fire of God’s judgment to come down and consume people who reject Jesus Christ. Right?

Let’s not answer too quickly.

After all, at this moment, there are tens of thousands of people within a few miles of our church who are currently rejecting Jesus Christ. What do we believe will happen to them if they persist in unbelief and reject Christ’s free gift of salvation?

If we refuse to share the gospel with them—either out of of fear, indifference, or benign neglect—aren’t we saying through our actions that we’re O.K. with the fire of God’s judgment falling on them—if not right away, then at least in the distant future?

As I’ve preached recently, many of us, including myself, need to change. We need to make witnessing—by which I mean sharing the gospel through words in addition to actions—our top priority.

Let’s begin by heeding Jesus’ words in Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Let’s pray that the Lord will send laborers into the harvest in our community.

When I last blogged about witnessing, by the way, I said that I was recruiting a “Witness Team” from our church to share the gospel, hand out tracts and Gospels of John, and pray with people at our annual Trunk or Treat event. I’m pleased to say that it was very successful: we shared the gospel with dozens of visitors who came to the festival.

img_6326

A couple of members of our Witness Teach sharing the gospel with visitors to our annual Trunk or Treat.

We will continue this effort at the beginning of December at our annual live nativity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s