Read Luke 9:51-56
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village. (NIV)
It is so easy to adopt a vengeful spirit. To want to hit back at those who hurt us. To take the side of righteousness and secretly or openly hope that the bad guys get punished by God. It was that sort of spirit that caused the disciples of Jesus to want to wipe out a Samaritan village. How dare these Samaritans treat Jesus like that! In their case, they figured they were acting in the cause of justice and righteousness in calling for thunderbolts from heaven.
They belong to a long line of those who want to be human agents of God’s justice. It is a power game rather than a serious attempt to do justice. In the passage preceding this one, Jesus reminds his disciples that true greatness is not to be had by throwing one’s weight around. Little children, not vengeful adults are his model of greatness.
The irony here is that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to show true greatness, to do true justice by dying on the cross. He would not summons fire from heaven to punish his enemies. He would die for them. Meanwhile, along the way, he has to rebuke his followers who want to vent their ancient hostility against the Samaritans under the guise of exercising divine wrath against sin.
We do best to allow God to deal with such sin. We mess things up by our self-serving hypocrisy and selective outrage. We might hope for revenge and seek ‘justice’. God hopes for repentance and offers mercy.