Jesus was traveling with his core disciples to Jerusalem for the final time. As was his practice, he traveled through Samaria rather than avoiding it. Having to stay overnight in that region, he sent a couple of His disciples ahead to prepare a place for them to stay. As these two arrived at the village gates, a group of elders stopped them and began to question them. They wanted to know where they were going. They wanted to know why Galileans would be traveling in this part of Samaria. They wanted to know why they should show hospitality to these Jewish travelers.
The elders said, “Why should we show hospitality to you? You are traveling to your beautiful temple in Jerusalem, walking right by the mountain on which the ruins of our temple resides— destroyed by YOUR people generations ago. You treat us as unclean… worse than the Greeks that bring their sinful practices into your land, and the Romans that bring heavy taxes and all sorts of misery. Would you welcome us into your own village? …Into your own house? Ridiculous! Push off.”
The two disciples were shocked. They have been treated with disrespect before. But these were Samaritans! It was like these Samaritans were considering themselves superior to them! Ridiculous indeed.
Returning to the group, they passed on to Jesus and the disciples what happened. James and John, the fiery and protective brothers, reacted the strongest.
James said, “Samaritans! Treating us like dogs?”
John chimed in. “Yes. And such a miserable village. Rejecting the Lord’s anointed… something should be done.”
Putting their heads together for a moment, they strode over to Jesus with determination and fire in their eyes.
“Lord,” they said. “Do you want us to call down fire to destroy this village?”
Amusement and anger danced across the face of Jesus. But He knew that His time was short and so this learning moment could not be lost.
Jesus called the others over and said to them, “James and John here want to bring down fire on this village. What do you think about this idea?”
The disciples looked at each other awkwardly. Some nodded but then stopped uncertain what was the appropriate response. Not waiting for a response, Jesus pushed forward.
“We have been rejected. Do they deserve death because of this? Should we hate them because they hate us?”
More uncertain looks but the disciples were starting to see where this was going.
Jesus continued. “But do they hate us? They don’t even know us. And we don’t know them. All they know is that our ancestors fought with their ancestors. I can assure you that our ancestors and their ancestors are done fighting. And we should stop fighting as well. So I have a better plan. Let’s go to a different village.”
Everyone nodded, even James and John. It was a much better plan.
<A somewhat speculative reflection on Luke 9:51-56>