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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JESUS CAME TO SAVE NOT DESTROY

Luke 9:51-56 And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

There was a debate among the apostles regarding who Jesus would be elevated to the greatest position in His kingdom. Only Luke records this event in Jesus' earthly ministry that immediately followed His discourse that was brought about because of this misunderstanding that arose between His apostles. The text begins with Jesus and His disciples leaving Galilee and traveling toward Jerusalem. The first verse tells us the reason for this journey - it was because that the time was come that He should be received up. The translation means that it was time for Jesus to be lifted up to a much higher place, which, practically all bible scholars agree, means either to be lifted up and fastened to His crucifixion cross and/or He would be lifted up and carried up into heaven (Luke 24:51b). Not only were both of these events to take place in Jerusalem, but also in a corresponding scripture in the Gospel of John the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand (7:2), which ended on the Day of Pentecost, and served as the occasion prompting Jesus' final journey into this holy city. Therefore, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. Even knowing that death awaited Him, Jesus, without any fear of personal danger, was resolved and determined to enter Jerusalem and into the midst of the Jewish zealots that sought His life.

As Jesus and His band of disciples journeyed from Galilee toward Judea and the city of Jerusalem, it was necessary, by going the direct route, to pass through the province of Samaria. It is not possible for a journey such as this to take place in one day. Therefore, as they traveled, it was necessary to find a place to eat and lodge each evening, and, since there were so many traveling with Jesus, it was also necessary to send messengers ahead to make these arrangements. The lesson text says that they entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. Samaritan hospitality toward Jews was almost always lacking, and such was the case here. No doubt this mixed heathen nation of people were accustomed to having Jews, that lived in the northern provinces of Palestine, often traveling through their land on their way to the holy festivals held in Jerusalem. Therefore, it is easy to understand that they did not receive Him, since it was evident that He, and His companions, were determined to go to Jerusalem at this holy time of the year.

Throughout the gospel accounts the apostle Peter appeared to be the one having the fiery zeal that resulted in his speaking and acting rashly and without due thought and consideration of the consequences. Yet, here in the lesson text, when faced with the inhospitality of the Samaritans, James and John, not Peter, became wrathful and desired to revenge the insulting manner the people of this heathen nation demonstrated toward their Master. Their request to Jesus was this: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? As it was then, so it is all to often demonstrated today, religious zeal prompting sinful acts of revenge - there is no room in Christianity for religious fanaticism. Jesus recognized the unrighteous thoughts that prompted their vindictive spirit and rebuked them, saying, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. Used here, "spirit" means one's intelligence or mind; the mental capacity to think, feel, and motivate one's actions. In other words the manner in which James and John was thinking at this time was entirely the opposite of the mind of Jesus.

With this rebuke before them, Jesus reveals His God-given desire and mental attitude toward all people of the earth, For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. This mental spirit, to be acceptable to God, must be imitated by James and John, all of His apostles, and all disciples of Christ throughout all ages. Jesus did not come to destroy the Samaritans or any other nation. He came to offer all people, both Jew and Gentile, the hope of eternal salvation. This must be the spirit of the church of Christ.