Difficulties and frustrations are a part of life. Yet, how often do we allow the challenges of life to get the better of us. I was thinking of this recently as I was making my way through traffic in the Portland area during rush hour. Usually my attitude is not too good in these situations, but it was different this day because I was thinking about how the Lord’s fingerprints were on this potentially frustrating situation.
I was focusing on a passage of Scripture for the sermon this past week that reminded us that God allows difficult and frustrating situations to prepare us for serving Him. It is easy to respond the wrong way when we are confronted by these life inconveniences. In Luke 9:51-56 we see Jesus’ men facing a similar frustration. We learn that Jesus is beginning to make His transition from ministering in Galilee to the ministry of the Cross in Jerusalem. The passage records that Jesus sent out some of the team to go ahead to the next city and make preparation for His team to spend the night. Here is a little side note. It hit me that Jesus was strategic in doing ministry. He probably did not fly by the seat of His pants as we often assume. The size of his entourage would have required advanced planning. And that is what we see in this passage.
We also learn that Jesus is sending his men to a Samaritan village. It does not take much knowledge of the Bible to know that the Jews and Samaritans did not always get along. And as in the case here, the Samaritans refused to accommodate Jesus’ team. Now the passage reveals that Jesus’ men responded much the same way that you and I might respond in this situation. “And when his disciples, James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54) Oh the times I have wanted to bring the fire in a frustrating situation. I think that most of us can relate to the disciples desire to teach these Samaritans a lesson. Now, for you and I it may involve giving them a piece of our mind, speeding up to cut someone off or keep them from cutting in or even withholding our help in a situation to make a point.
Scholars commenting on this passage suggest that maybe the disciples even had a Biblical precedent to justify their actions, Elijah dealing with the “Samaritan prophets of Baal!” Whatever their real motive, I do think it is safe to say that they blew an opportunity to put the lessons Jesus was teaching them into practice. What they failed to see was that this situation was an opportunity for growth. Instead it revealed that they needed more work in this area of their lives. What they failed to see was that Jesus was the one who the picked the city. Jesus was the one that sent them there. And Jesus would have known what was going to happen. But because His followers failed to see His fingerprints on this situation they missed the opportunity to grow.
Most translations simply end the account with, “But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.” (Luke 9:55-56) And we can easily imagine the content of Jesus’ rebuke. There is a variant reading that is very insightful that reads, “and [Jesus] said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” “ This situation was an opportunity for Jesus’ men to demonstrate that they were seeing life from a “Jesus’ perspective.” They were not seeing this as a problem, but as an opportunity.
As I was sitting in traffic I was thinking of God’s fingerprints being on this situation. My previous plans got changed, for a good reason, which meant I was going through the busy city at the “wrong time.” Yet it was the right time and I had the opportunity to practice my Christian values to those around me. So how about you? Are you failing to see the Lord’s fingerprints on that frustrating situation in your life? Just remember it is a chance to put into practice those things He has been trying to teach you. Oh, and it is preparation to be used by Him in a great way in the future. (The two apostles were none other than those Son’s of Thunder, James and John!)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson