Monday, September 16, 2013

Calling Down Fire (part 6 of 6)

Beyond the action of wiping the dust from their feet (a fairly common action in their day and culture, by which one dis-associates themselves from a way of life or course of action), Jesus instructs them to say these words, “Nevertheless know this: The kingdom of God has come” (10:11b).  Even in rejection, they were to reiterate the message of the Gospel (Jesus is Lord).  There is no forcing.  Naturally, the contrast to this is that Caesar did not ask for anybody to accept him, nor did he request allegiance to his kingdom.  Rather, acceptance and allegiance was demanded at the point of a sword and the threat of the cross, as death was the only power that he truly had at his disposal. 

While the reader goes on to find Jesus saying, in regards to the rejection of the kingdom and Gospel message: “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town” (10:12), that falls squarely into the prerogative and business of the Creator God.  If the Creator God wants to call down fire (echoing James and John) in judgment, then it is He that will do that.  This is not the role of the disciples.  At the same time, along with this mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in association with the rejection of the Gospel message and the action of wiping the dust from the feet, it is worth noting that, for all practical purposes, Lot wiped the dust of those cities from off of his feet when he fled with his family.  

To these words Jesus adds: “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects the One Who sent Me” (10:16).  For what it’s worth, there are echoes of Sodom and Gomorrah in this statement as well.  Of course, Caesar could say much the same thing, and he could then justify his murderous actions to the people of his kingdom (empire) by saying that those that he slaughtered (or ordered to be slaughtered) had rejected Rome and the people of Rome (the one who had sent him).  In his eyes, this would be something akin to a cardinal sin.   

So no, the job of the disciple was not to pronounce judgment and call down fire and condemn, but rather, to preach the kingdom of God while caring for and bringing healing to the sick and those that perhaps have been cast off by the world.  The job of the disciple is to preach that Jesus of Nazareth was, is, and forever will be the crucified and resurrected Messiah of Israel and Lord of all, while consciously recognizing that it is the Creator God, through the mysterious activity of His Spirit, that goes to work to make that message effective and impactful and transformational in the hearts, minds, and lives of those who hear it and see it in action, doing so according to His purposes for them and for the world. 

When one desires to call down fire, urging “conversion” or “acceptance” through the coercive preaching of hell’s eternal fires of judgment, or act as if he or she is functioning as the God of Israel’s duly appointed representatives when propositionally calling down said fire through referencing the judgment that the covenant God Himself brought to Sodom, it would seem that such is an act of simply rejecting Jesus and asserting that His Gospel message lacks any true functional power. 

Is Jesus as weak as Caesar?  Is death the only tool at those that believe in Him and His disposal when it comes to extending His kingdom?  Are those that believe in Him, call Him Lord, and order their life accordingly, not charged to speak the words of life in Resurrection?  When these things are grasped, and believers are brought to the point at which they fully and truly believe that there really is a power in the very proclamation of the Gospel, that there really is a Spirit that brings, activates, and works within that power, and that there really is a God in heaven that has a purpose and a plan for His creation, it is then that they can hear Jesus speaking and saying, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!  For I tell you that many prophets and kings longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (10:23b-24).      

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