Departure for Jerusalem; Samaritan Inhospitality (Luke 9:51-56)

There’s a collection of reasons why there was so much animosity between the Jews and Samaritans.  It actually began while the Kingdom of Israel was still quite powerful.  During that time, they disagreed on what constituted right worship of the one true God.  Their dislike for each other grew worse after the Babylonian exile.  You see, the Jews and Samaritans had been deported by their captors.  But while most of them were deported their conquerors had also occupied the land of the Jerusalem and Samaria.  During this period of occupation by their enemies, the Samaritans began to merge foreign religious practices with their own.  In the end, their religion was a mishmash that would have been very offensive to a Jew because the Samaritans had retained some of the practices that they had in common with Jews and had corrupted them with the worship of foreign gods.

Departure for Jerusalem; Samaritan Inhospitality

51 When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,

52 and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there,

53 but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

54 When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”

55 Jesus turned and rebuked them,

56 and they journeyed to another village.

I’m really torn.  There are many prophetic references in the first four verses of this passage.  But sometimes we can over-intellectualize the scriptures and miss the message entirely.  It’s like the deference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus. So, rather than point out the meaning and implications of phrases like “resolutely determined”, “he sent messengers”, or “call down fire” I’ll try to focus on how this passage speaks to me about Jesus’ relationship with humanity.

If we think back to our reflection on The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac (Luke 8:26-39) we recall that Jesus traveled to the land of the Gentiles.  After performing an exorcism there, they were all seized with fear and asked Him to leave.  In a manner of speaking, they rejected Him.

If we think back even further on The Rejection at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-30) we remember that Jesus was even rejected in His hometown.  Moreover, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem (spoiler alert, where they will initially embrace Him, but ultimately reject Him.  Only they won’t send Him away, they’ll shout “crucify him”).  Together these groups – gentiles, apostate Jews, and Jews – symbolize all the peoples of the world.  So, their rejection of Jesus symbolically represents that the entire world rejects Him.

But we can also pay attention to Jesus reaction each time he is rejected.  In each case, even at His crucifixion, He departs in peace.  In particular when he was on the cross he prayed “forgive them, they know not what they do.”  James and John could have called down fire upon the Samaritans.  But Jesus prevented them.  He knows that His plan for them is salvation, not condemnation.

Our prayerful response can be to pray for the grace to accept Christ whenever we see that He has approached us.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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