"WILT THOU THAT WE COMMAND FIRE?"
--LUKE 9:51-56.--OCTOBER 23.--
Golden Text:--"And it came to pass, when the days were well-nigh
come, that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his
face to go to Jerusalem and sent messengers before his face."
THIS week's study relates an incident which occurred on the occasion of our Lord's journey from Galilee to Jerusalem just before his crucifixion. He knew that his hour was come; that his sacrificial life of three and a half years should be accomplished. The Great Teacher was full of courage. "But of the people there were none with him" in the sense of sympathetic appreciation of the conditions. True, he had informed the twelve Apostles respecting the consummation of his work and its nearness, but they had been slow to believe all the things written in the Law and the prophecies concerning him. Their minds naturally grasped the glorious things spoken of the Messiah. They were so busy thinking of his glorious Kingdom, and of their glorious association with him in that Kingdom, that they failed to note the other prophecies which, with equal distinctness, foretold his sufferings and ignominy. Similarly, they overlooked the Master's own words concerning his death. They thought of him as speaking in some figurative, hyperbolic manner. And Peter even attempted to rebuke him, saying, "Be this far from thee, Lord; it shall not happen unto thee."
REFUSED BY THE SAMARITANS
Another account intimates that James and John visited the Samaritan city for the purchase of bread and supplies for the party. The Samaritans recognized them and inquired, would the Great Teacher recognize the Samaritans and heal their sickness or would he treat them as Jews in general treated them--unkindly? They believed the latter. The Apostles frankly told them that the Great Teacher was sent only to the Jewish nation and would not stop to heal their sick ones, because he was "not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Naturally enough the Samaritans resented this and were angry. They said, Very well. Buy bread from the people whom you instruct and whose sick you heal.
St. John and St. James were greatly incensed at this. Was not Jesus the greatest Teacher? Was he not the Messiah? Had he not, as such, the right to determine the will of God respecting who should and who should not receive his benefactions? With this answer they came to Jesus and, relating the circumstances, asked, "Wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven to destroy these men and their city?"
WHAT SPIRIT ARE YE OF?
We listen with keen interest for the Master's response. As we once viewed the matter of the Divine program it would have seemed right for the Great Teacher to have said to the Apostles, Never mind, my dear disciples; wait just a little while and all those Samaritans will die and my Heavenly Father will deliver them over to the devils for an eternity of torture. In comparison with eternal [R4702 : page 330] torture that which you propose in the way of burning up their city and incidentally burning them for a few minutes would be as nothing. I appreciate, my dear disciples, your spirit, that it is God-like; that you desire to do all the roasting and burning within your power, and I commend you for it. Continue to thus copy your God and to cause suffering to as many as possible of your fellow-creatures who do not think exactly as you do.
Was this the answer of the Great Teacher? Thank God, No! His teaching was the very reverse--sympathetic, loving, kind. And he had the Father's Spirit and understood it and followed it perfectly. In answer to their query, we read, "Jesus turned and rebuked them" and said, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of! The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them!"
"A SAVIOR AND A GREAT ONE"
The language spoken in Palestine in Jesus' day was the Syriac. One of the Great Teacher's titles is The Savior. And this, in the Syriac language, signifies, "The Life-Giver." The whole world was damned enough before Jesus came. He came not to damn (condemn) them more, but that they through him, might have life!--John 10:10; 3:17.
Life! Did they not have life? No. All human life [R4702 : page 331] was forfeited through father Adam's disobedience. All mankind are dying as a result. A Life-Giver, a Savior from death (and not from eternal torment), was what was needed.
The first work of the Savior is the redemptive work of Calvary. His second work is the selection of his Church to be his joint-heirs in the Kingdom. His third work will be the saving of Adam and all of his race from sin and death--from all the mental, moral and physical degradation which came through father Adam's disobedience and through his children being born in sin and shapen in iniquity and in sin conceived by their mothers.
The saving of the Church is a great work! How faithful we should be if we have heard, if our eyes have seen, if our hearts have tasted of the grace of God in this wonderful privilege of becoming members of the Bride of Christ. However, we cannot suppose that the saving of merely a handful of select ones is the purpose of God in the creation of the world and the redeeming of the world. On the contrary, this elect "Little Flock" is spoken of as a "first-fruits unto God of his creatures." (Jas. 1:18; Rev. 14:4.) This implies an after-fruitage much more numerous. While God does not propose to save anyone out of death and to life eternal contrary to the individual will, he does propose that every creature lost in Adam and redeemed by Jesus shall be brought to a clear knowledge of the Truth, that they may be saved. He does propose that only the willingly obdurate shall be lost; and their loss will be the loss of life--as the Apostle declares, "everlasting destruction."