Article: Unveiling the Heart – The Disturbing Questions we ask! | Jacob Varghese, IND

The questions we ask reveal a lot about us, whether it be the ones we openly ask or the ones we fail to ask. Questions are not merely tools to acquire information; rather, they are mirrors reflecting the depths of our thoughts, values, and unspoken desires. They unveil layers of our psyche, providing a unique insight into our individual and collective consciousness.

I would like to draw your attention to the most intriguing and disturbing question asked by the beloved disciples James and John to Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:51–56). I can’t remember hearing it in my Sunday school days. It goes on like this, Jesus and his disciples were on their way to  Jerusalem.  Jesus and his disciples were travelling towards Jerusalem when they encountered a Samaritan village. It was late, and they required a place to stay overnight. Some disciples asked the villagers if they could provide overnight hospitality, typically extended to travellers. However, these Samaritans decided they would not oblige and refused to give them the requested hospitality.

Now, weren’t these Samaritans being bad in refusing hospitality to Jesus and his group? Not really, because the centuries of conflict and distrust between the Samaritans and the Jews must be remembered, and the disciples’ response in this narrative shows how justified the Samaritans’ decision was. Would any of you gladly offer hospitality in your home to people who basically disrespect you or may even want you dead? I don’t think so. Understandably  the Samaritans said, “Sorry, find some other place for the night.”

That’s when our beloved apostles, James and John, became very upset because they could not digest the insult by the Samaritans. They might have wondered, “How dare these annoying Samaritans refuse to offer us hospitality when travelling to Jerusalem? Let us show them their place and prove our superiority! After all, we have God on our side.” The “sons of thunder” were prepared to compensate for the insult inflicted upon their group, and the other disciples would probably have agreed. Then, they burst out with this astonishing question: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” What a revealing question about them!

Here are a few things that struck me while I looked at it. Firstly, they possessed great, unmatched faith! They sincerely believed that if Jesus would give them the go-ahead, they could give the command like Elijah, and fire would surely fall to destroy those Samaritans. They would serve them right for messing with God and God’s people. Secondly, they imagine that Jesus wants to do what they want to. God’s people can easily make this mistake of thinking that what they think and feel passionately about must necessarily be in line with what God thinks, Even good followers of Jesus can have these inherent evil attitudes that they still hold on to. Are you like this?

Why did they want to completely destroy an innocent village of strangers who had done them no harm? Also, let us not forget that earlier in this chapter, these same disciples were busy preaching, teaching and healing people (verse 9:6). Now, without warning, the worst came out of them. How come preachers of the good news appear to have become destroying angels?

What is wrong here? These disciples of Jesus were good, pious Jews who had left everything to follow the Messiah. The disciples’ question shows exactly how they felt towards Samaritans. I wonder why these disciples never seemed to have discussed the possibility of destroying the synagogue in Nazareth while in session, just to teach the people there a lesson for trying to kill Jesus (see Luke 4:28–30). Of course, not! They are “their own people”. But Samaritans were not! On one hand, they were busy following Jesus, even carrying out a successful evangelistic mission at Jesus’ command. Yet, on the other hand, when they encounter people they customarily disliked, even hated, they forget their evangelistic mandate and put on a demonic mantle. No wonder Jesus sharply rebuked them.

In case we want to grasp the full impact of the well-known (but little-understood) parable of the “Good Samaritan” found in the next chapter in Luke’s Gospel, one needs to grapple with this preceding Samaritan episode. This intended but cancelled destruction mission helps get to the heart of the Jewish-Samaritan relationship.

The questions we ask, or don’t ask, tend to reveal the issues we care about. Who do we seek to serve? Will we only ask those questions that comfort us and those around us? Are we willing to have a larger vision of God’s work and ways than what our cultures, loyalties, and even our church traditions constrain us to envision? Can we see God’s immeasurable love for all people rather than just for the little world of friends we have created? Can we hear Jesus rebuking us? The irony is that, after his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples not to bypass Samaria in the powerful outward spread of the Gospel empowered by the Holy Spirit  (Acts 1:8). Jesus wants us to see how much He loves all—including our enemies.



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