Episode 2 – Near the Border

The Gospel of Luke mentions the Samaritan issue several times.  Because Jesus spent most of his time in Galilee, the province north of Samaria, it was not unusual for him to encounter Samaritans whenever he travelled south to Jerusalem.  On one such occasion, he encountered resistance.  The Samaritan hostility toward the Jews in Jerusalem would have been stronger than at less religious places.  Luke 9:53 says that because Jerusalem was Jesus’ destination, he was denied entrance.

Some of Jesus’ followers were hotheads; Jesus nicknamed two of them, James and John, “Sons of Thunder.”  These bombastic young men were a lot like many today: they love and follow Jesus, but harbor a temperament quite unlike their Lord’s.  These guys reasoned, as some today, that famous Bible characters with explosive and violent tempers were okay as long as they did it for God.  They wanted to use the authority of God to do what the prophet Elijah did: call down fire from the sky (54) to zap their enemies.  Jesus did not take their reactions lightly; he turned around and rebuked them (55), explaining that he came to save people not destroy them.  These disciples actually were expressing a spirit whose intentions were the opposite of Jesus’.  Although they were called Jesus’ disciples, Jesus said they were unaware of who or what they were actually imitating.

The same can be said today for people who in the guise of Christianity express hateful and even violent intentions toward those they regard as religious or racial enemies.  Their angry reactions are so uncharacteristic of Jesus Christ that even people who do not consider themselves Christian are appalled.  These “Christians” acted like religious nuts!  Jesus’ rebuke then applies today!

Notice how Jesus reacted: he walked away, avoiding the conflict (56).  His example of quiet disengagement sent a strong message to his disciples, who had to add time and distance to their trip to accommodate Jesus’ unwillingness to enter the ideological fracas of his day.  As followers of Jesus, can we see the wisdom and understanding behind an apolitical stance amidst politically polarizing conditions?