Luke 9:54-56 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?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.
An entire city rejects Jesus and in response Jesus’ disciples ask if they can pray for God to turn the city into hell, essentially; to burn it up. They ask if they can pray that God would send fire to consume the city.
This is somewhat astonishing because of what happened only verses earlier, and what is said just verses later. In Luke 9:1-6 Jesus gives his disciples power and authority to heal people and cast out demons while they proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. Their mission? To bring restoration physically and spiritually.
Jesus even tells them what to do if they are rejected: they are to shake off the dust of their feet as a testimony against them, showing that they do not want even the dust from the city to cling to them because of their rejection of God. Shaking the dust off their feet? That’s it? No prayer to turn the city into a bond fire and get out the stuff for s’mores? Nope. Just some dust being shaken off to be clear that the people have turned away from God.
In light of Jesus’ mission for them, what they ask of Jesus is out of line. Jesus rebukes them for their request. Their desire and request seems to be a glimpse of pride in them, which also reveals pride in us. Ever asked God to blow someone up for something they did?
It reveals pride because it seems James and John have forgotten where they come from. Do they not remember the grace they need? The mercy they need from Jesus on a daily basis? If they knew how much grace they needed, why would they so quickly want to ask for God’s wrath on another city, rather than more of his grace?
This haughty spirit is in all of our flesh. Even though we come from under God’s wrath, restored in Christ to a right relationship with God, we quickly want to condemn others. We’re in. You’re out. Do we not remember that at one time we were out? That only by God’s grace are we now in? And that we have been given a mission to bring others in?
Later in chapter 9 Jesus says some culminating things that speak to the heart of our pride. He says to the Father, “…no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Lk. 9:22). Why do you know Jesus? Because He was graciously revealed to you by God? Why do you know the Father? Because He was graciously revealed to you by the Son. There is no room for pride.
So when you look on others who do not know him, pray for grace and mercy, just as you received it.