Luke 9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. (KJV)
Many times, I see the vile evil actions of people all around me and in my heart as well as out of my mouth flow desires to see the ungodly punished. I sometimes wrongly of course think that some will never ever receive Christ and desire Him to destroy them or remove them from this earth. Such was the case of the Apostles James and John, brothers who were offended when the people of a certain part of Samaria would not allow them and the Lord Jesus Christ to lodge in one of their inns. They asked the Lord (what appeared to them to be a justifiable request) if He wanted them to call down fire from Heaven to totally consume and destroy these God hating people.
It never occurred to them that evil lurked in the mere thought of such a request. They even probably thought the Lord would praise them for coming to His defense. How utterly foolish they were and often times so are we still today. They were still early in their learning curve and were not yet completely understanding of the entire mission or purpose of the Son of Man's coming to the earth. They did show their love for our Lord but expressed it in this situation with complete ignorance. Their devotion was evident but their knowledge of complete truth, the Lord's purpose, and their purpose for following Him was not yet fully absorbed.
Christ had just sent them out earlier to preach the Kingdom of God giving them power to heal diseases and cast out demons. He never once commanded them to hurt or harm any soul but only to shake off the dust on their sandals when they left a place where people would not receive their word. This was our Lord's only desire then and it surely still holds true today for those scornful sinners who would make a mockery at His gospel. The Lord Jesus did not want James and John to retaliate against those who would wallow in evil but only to testify or bear witness to them that a future day of judgment would come and that only by turning and receiving Him could they avoid such a day.
I as well as many of us today am still guilty of a mindset that thinks some people are hopelessly lost. Now this is true that some people will never receive Christ, but Christ is the only one that knows who they are, we do not know and He will never tell us but only requires us to proclaim the gospel to the entire world. Part of James and John's reaction came from the people offending them. They wrongly assumed that everyone should open their arms and receive them graciously and lovingly. In essence, they had their little feelings hurt so they wanted to show those people who they were messing with. Have you ever felt that way? Their pride and ego bruised so they needed to prove to the people that they were more than worthy to stay in their little run down establishment.
How often today does the devil side track many of us by sending some person to harp or criticize the work the Lord Jesus has given each of us to do so we can get discouraged and feel as if we are not accomplishing anything. The devil confronted James and John with this and they like so many of us fell right into his little trap. The proper response from them would have been to ignore the shunning and move on to another location. So many times today we instead of ignoring something that is not worth our attention, we give it great attention and it pulls us away from our focus on the Lord Jesus and what He wants from us. They were already aware that animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews existed. This too was nothing more than that already existing resentment spilling out of the hearts of these people.
They had already observed the Lord Jesus Christ confrontations with the religious rulers on many occasions only to never witness Him stoop to their level of attack. They had constantly only witness Him do good even in the middle of extreme hatred and bitterness directed at Him. James and John personally witnessed Christ response to such animus yet they had yet to so learn the Lord Jesus Christ, His one, and only purpose with lost men and woman. In verse 22 of this, same Chapter in Luke (9), Christ had warned them that He would suffer many things from men and endure rejection. How could they have missed such a profound revelation just so shortly before this confrontation?
It behooves us today never to expect the men of this evil world to applaud us, for if we were to receive such applause we should as they say today check ourselves. After expressing their total ignorance and revealing that evil passion within on the outside, our Lord turned and sternly rebuked them. Now Scripture does not tell us of their reaction but let us put ourselves in their place having given their motivations earlier and seeing that in their mind's they were performing a good deed, they must have been totally and completely taken back by the Lord's harsh rebuke of their question. Imagine with me for a moment, you believe you are requesting a good work in the defense of your Lord only to have Him chastise you for being well, foolish.
These men must have felt stung and completely embarrassed in front of the other disciples.They wanted their words to be pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ. However, they were repugnant to Him. Our Lord said you do not understand what manner of spirit you are of and this I believe He meant twofold, speaking of Himself primarily but also speaking of them. The response (even though our Lord already knew they would say it) was surely heartbreaking to the Lord Jesus Christ. He saying within Himself when are you going to get it? The desire from the Lord Jesus Christ for them to learn and apply what they learned from Him triggered His immediate rebuke. He wanted to leave no doubts where He stood with such a harsh request.
The Lord Jesus was teaching them of His heart, His nature, and His love that would lead Him to a brutal death on a wooden Roman cross even for obstinate sinners as these Samaritans proved to be. His love is what compelled Him to ask the Father to forgive those who participated in His crucifixion. How hard was it for James and John to understand? It remains difficult for us today to know what love it took to voluntarily come to this earth and take on weak human flesh and blood, and permit Himself to die by the hand of man. No man loved Him but all despised Him. Paul told the Ephesians in his prayer for them that he wanted them to know (by experience) the love of Christ, which passes understanding. That is we can know His love but we will never understand it. The rebuke of the two Apostles set forth for them and for all generations the unreachable love of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will never understand such love.
Listen to the commentary of Albert Barnes (1798-1870) on this passage of Scripture; “You suppose that you are actuated by a proper love for me; but you know not yourselves. It is rather a love of revenge; rather revengeful feelings toward the “Samaritans” than proper feelings toward “me.” We learn here:
1. That “apparent” zeal for God may be only improper opposition toward our fellow-men.
2. That people, when they wish to honor God, should examine their spirit, and see if there is not lying at the bottom of their professed zeal for God some bad feeling toward their fellow-men.
3. That the highest opposition which Jesus met with was not inconsistent with “his” loving those who opposed him, and with his seeking to do them good.”
Listen to the commentary of Matthew Henry (1662-1714) on this same passage of Scripture; “The reproof he gave to James and John for their fiery, furious zeal (Luk_9:55): He turned with a just displeasure, and rebuked them; for as many as he loves he rebukes and chastens, particularly for what they do, that is irregular and unbecoming them, under colour of zeal for him.
He shows them in particular their mistake: Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; that is, (1.) “You are not aware what an evil spirit and disposition you are of; how much there is of pride, and passion, and personal revenge, covered under this pretence of zeal for your Master.” Note, There may be much corruption lurking, nay, and stirring too, in the hearts of good people, and they themselves not be sensible of it.
(2.) “You do not consider what a good spirit, directly contrary to this, you should be of. Surely you have yet to learn, though you have been so long learning, what the spirit of Christ and Christianity is. Have you not been taught to love your enemies, and to bless them that curse you, and to call for grace from heaven, not fire from heaven, upon them? You know not how contrary your disposition herein is to that which it was the design of the gospel you should be delivered into. You are not now under the dispensation of bondage, and terror, and death, but under the dispensation of love, and liberty, and grace, which was ushered in with a proclamation of peace on earth and good will toward men, to which you ought to accommodate yourselves, and not by such imprecations as these oppose yourselves.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author, Silent Assassins of the Soul (not yet published; coming soon)