Optimism in a Falling World- Luke 9:52-56

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.

COMMENTARY

And they did not receive him, and when 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?
Yesterday I considered Jonah’s desire to destroy the wicked. Today we see an example from Jesus’s own disciples to do the same. Because Jesus and his followers were denied access to a city, James and John sought to kill all the inhabitants with fire.

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.

James and John might have believed they were serving the spirit of justice, yet Jesus avowed that they were serving another. What they sought was simply vengeance, and Jesus’s purpose was not to bring vengeance, but salvation.
I believe that many of those who hope for the destruction of the wicked take their cues from the stories of the Old Testament. It is in those early books that we read accounts of the earth being flooded, of fire and brimstone consuming cities, of the armies of the Lord stamping out other nations. In these stories there is a definite immediacy between evil actions and divine retribution. One could not go to war against God without quickly enduring the consequences of that action. But what is forgotten is that this was the Old Testament and the earth was in a fundamentally different situation than it is now. Mankind had been expelled from the Garden of Eden and the atonement had not yet been made. Things were far stricter, and there was little to buffer between sinful acts and the holy justice administered in return.
But Jesus Christ had come to be that buffer. Jesus Christ had come so that the immediate justice for evil works could be born out in his own body instead. Divine justice still applies, even to this day, but now it is executed in him, while mankind is given a second chance.
Thus today we now live under the New Testament. And that means that if we look at the evil in the world today and crave punishment for the guilty, we are denying the fact that that punishment was already endured by our Savior. We are therefore looking for a double punishment, one carried out upon Christ and one carried out upon those he died to save. That isn’t justice at all. Like James and John, we are not comprehending what manner of spirit we are of. It is a cold, cruel, and evil spirit, one that has nothing to do with Christ.

Who Am I?- Matthew 4:21, John 15:16

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

James, and John his brother, in a ship , mending their nets; and he called them
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Yesterday we considered how Moses was not a prophet when God called him to be a prophet. Now that might seem stupidly obvious, but it is actually a very important lesson for our own journey of self-identity and it is a pattern that was later repeated when Jesus called his disciples.
They were not disciples originally. They were fishermen and tax collectors, individuals that had already carved out a definition for themselves and had their own lives, which he came along to disrupt. And Jesus didn’t limit the surprise callings to his lifetime, either. After his death and resurrection he came to Saul, who had defined himself as being against the church, and called him to be a disciple instead. It frankly didn’t matter who the disciples were, only who they were to be.
And sometimes they didn’t measure up to the identity he gave them, but still he gave it to them, and did so repeatedly. Whether they were ready for it or not, whether they would perform it well or poorly, whether they even wanted the identity or not…they were all still called, named, and given who to be.

That They Might Have Joy- Acts 16:23-25, John 14:27, Hebrews 10:34

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison…And at midnight Paul and Silas sang praises unto God
There are several stories like these in the scriptures, ones where the disciples are persecuted and yet remain in utmost joy. When we read these accounts we might have one of two responses:

  1. Wow, I wish I could have abiding joy like that. My own emotions seem so fickle, coming and going depending on my circumstance. Is there any way I can be happy even when my world is turned upside down?
  2. Well that’s just weird.

Now don’t feel bad if you find yourself in that second category. Truly the joyful singing of Paul and Silas after being beaten and imprisoned is irregular. It is, because it defies the common order of things, and there’s no shame in recognizing that fact. And that recognition naturally leads to an important question. Are they madmen, then, or they have found a way to live outside the systems of our common world?

Peace I leave with you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you
For ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that ye have an enduring substance
There is a simple reason why our emotions seem to be so fickle. It is because they are usually based upon the things of the world, and the world itself is fickle. Nothing earthly can be guaranteed, they come and go without warning, and with them so do our emotions.
Jesus invites us to know a more enduring peace, a joy based on a substance that is constant. Abiding joy can only come by being based upon abiding things. Something that is necessarily outside of this world, something that cannot be undone by this world. When one ties their emotions to that more eternal source, then it doesn’t matter what happens in this world anymore, the joy remains. Now they are truly free.