Friday, March 14, 2014

RICH IN MERCY (Luke Chapter 9)

Luke 9:53-56, “And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them [some later mss. add “and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of’”]. And they went on to another village.”

The time for Jesus’ departure drew near, so He “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).  He had foretold of his pending death, and though the disciples couldn’t understand what he was talking about, He himself was fully aware of what lay ahead.  He was fully submitted to drinking from that bitter cup of betrayal, injustice, affliction, sorrow and death.  He was resolute and determined and would not be dissuaded from His mission of mercy.

The life of Jesus is filled with examples which speak to the riches of His mercy—he relentlessly and compassionately concerned Himself with the needs of others.  According to Vine’s mercy is “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receive it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.”  Mercy is something that we need and can relate to.  The greatest demonstration of mercy is Christ’s sacrifice for lost sinners (Cf. Luke 19:10).

On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus had sent some messengers ahead to a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Himself and His disciples (Luke 9:51-52).  But, since He was on His way to Jerusalem, the Samaritans refused to receive Him.  The Samaritans had no regard for Jerusalem and in that there was disagreement between the Samaritans and Jews (John 4:20). There was a centuries-old distrust and dislike between the two (John 4:9).  Jesus’ request of the Samaritans for hospitality was refused.  That was too much for James and John.  Their prejudice combined with the Samaritan’s inhospitality made them mad.  So mad they asked Jesus if He wanted them destroyed!  How contrary their thinking to their Master’s!

It is possible for us to entertain similar thoughts with regards to the enemies of Christ and His gospel.  How deeply engrained in the hearts of men is the spirit which gave rise to the disciple’s request!  Through the course of history thousands and tens of thousands all ‘round the world have been put to death for religion’s sake.  They’ve been crucified, burned at the stake, shot, or otherwise brutalized in the name of Christ.  And the perpetrators of violence have even supposed themselves to be doing God a favor!  I recently read the account of Anne Askew’s life.  A believer in Christ, she was burned at-the-stake in 1546 by so-called Christians, because she refused to recant of her disbelief in the doctrine of transubstantiation.  But the spirit that would incite that kind of hatred does not come from God.

There is a spiritual war ongoing.  And some are unsuspectedly led by the Devil himself to fight his unholy cause (Cf. Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:26).  We, as believers, are called upon to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18).  It will never do to wage the war with carnal weapons, for “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh.  For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).  And, as Paul instructed Timothy, “the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

James and John’s response was strikingly inconsistent that which they had witnessed in Christ.  There would come a day in the villages of Samaria when the gospel of Jesus would receive a warm reception (Acts 8:14, 25).  The Apostle John was sent there, perhaps to the same village.  One wonders what he must have thought as he recalled his previous ill-founded request seeking their destruction!  By the Spirit he was transformed, and then instructed and empowered to compassionately care for those he had previously despised.  God is rich in mercy, and, by the Spirit, those who claim His name should be too.

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