Friday, September 13, 2013

Calling Down Fire (part 2)

The followers of Jesus would also be aware of the strong possibility that if the Caesar had sent messengers ahead of himself, to prepare a city for his arrival there, and that city (or town or village) rejected him for any reason whatsoever, that the Caesar’s response would likely be to make an example of that village.  The Caesar, in a show of force that proved his power and rule, could very well take the step of killing those who did not bow the knee.  If this was done, the killing would probably be done in a fairly dramatic and attention-getting way (a crucifixion may not be out of the question), so that it would not be necessary to repeat such a thing upon reaching the next city during the course of his travels.  Though lacking the power of the Caesar, the question about calling down fire from heaven (invoking Elijah), it would seem that James and John are expressing a desire to follow the same pattern. 

One could understand the way of thinking, however misguided.  Truly, if this King is greater than Caesar, than all should be made to bow the knee.  Calling down fire from heaven to consume those that refused to show honor would be the way of insuring that such would happen.  Jesus’ response is well known and in line with His character as revealed in the Gospels.  He “turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:55).  It is to be noted that He did not turn and rebuke the villagers that rejected Him.  Rather, He rebuked His disciples that wanted to go about commanding allegiance in the way that Caesar and all other kings had commanded allegiance, which was ultimately the threat of pain and death.  In consideration of this of course, one cannot help but think of the regular “calling down of fire”---that of death and the eternal fire of hell---that is employed to convince people to bow the knee to Jesus. 

Rather than stay in that village in an attempt to defy the rejection, “they went on to another village” (9:56).  Jesus was not going to be side-tracked in His mission to preach the Gospel of His kingdom, which is what is to be understood as that which truly carries power.  To that end, chapter ten of Luke begins by saying, “After this,” thereby connecting it with the words and events of chapter nine.  Luke writes, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others (possibly seventy) and sent them on ahead of Him two by two into every town and place where He Himself was about to go” (10:1).  This is quite similar to what can be seen taking place in the ninth chapter, when Jesus “sent messengers on ahead of Him… to make things ready in advance for Him” (9:52a,c).  Observing these instructions in this context, it would seem that Jesus sees Himself in the role of the world’s true Caesar, sending out evangelists to announce His coming and to prepare His subjects for an appropriate reception.   

With the sending, Jesus included instructions, saying “Do not carry a money-bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road”  (10:4).  This sounds like rather unusual instructions, but it is possible that Jesus wants His disciples to be distinctive from other wandering teachers in those days.  He added a demand that once they find a hospitable response from a household, that they stay in that one house, and “not move around from house to house” (10:7b).  Again, without getting too bogged down in details, suffice it to say that this practice will continue to set His disciples apart from other roving teachers of that day.  Ultimately, those that came across the representatives of Jesus are to be made to realize that the visitors are there for a single mission, which would be to “Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you!’” (10:9) 

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