To Rain Fire or Not to Rain Fire

To Rain Fire
Or Not to Rain Fire
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
Jan 31st, 2016
Image courtesy of Paul Brentnall at

Listen to full sermon here.

Click here to Download an audio file of the sermon.

This week we ask the question:
“To Rain Fire or Not to Rain Fire?”

Of course, we do not have the ability to rain down fire but, how fun would that be if we did…  Having trouble starting the bbq?  No problem, just rain down a little fire.  Driveway not clear because of snow?  No problem, just down a little fire.

Of course, I’m also guessing we would tend to use it when we shouldn’t…Somebody cut you off in traffic?  Not the right time to rain down fire.  Somebody in the 10 items or less line with 15 items?  Not the right time to rain down fire.

So, it’s probably a good thing that we do not have this ability because if we did, I’m guessing there wouldn’t be very many people left on earth and the world would be filled with little burned out potholes.  Thank goodness we don’t have that ability!!!

Let’s look at our scripture today.

Luke 9:51-56 (NIV)
51 As the time approached for him [Jesus] 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[b]?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

So, Let’s take a few minutes to unpack these verses and to get our heads around them before we talk about application.

Starting with vs 51
"As the time approached for him [Jesus] to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem."

There are two things we can pick up on in this verse.  The first is that Luke writes “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven.”  The interesting here, is that there were a lot of big things that happen between this verse and when Jesus returns to heaven.  A lot of big things that we, as Christians, spend a lot of time focusing on, such as:  the torture that Jesus endured, His crucifixion, the 3 days he spent in the tomb, and His resurrection.

These are all huge events that mean so much to us.  But Luke chose to focus on his ascension to heaven, representing the finish line of Jesus’ time on earth.

The second thing to pick up on is the word “resolutely.”  The scripture says Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  Resolutely in this context means with determination in spite of danger.  

And so here what Luke is saying is that Jesus was determined to reach Jerusalem even though He knew the dangers and the torture He would experience there.  His time on Earth was coming to a close and He was determined to finish His mission of providing a way for salvation.

Next in verse 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. 

The Jewish community and the Samaritan community didn’t exactly get along… for several reasons.  I’ll give a short introduction to them here but for deeper explanation be sure to listen to the audio of the sermon.

First of all, in the time of Kings and Ezra, the Samaritans occupied some of the same land as the Israelites. And because of this, began to intermarry with them.

This was frowned on among the Jewish nation because they had been commanded not to intermarry.

As a side note, they were not commanded to not intermarry because God is racist.  But one of the reasons God commanded them not to intermarry is because the Samaritans worshiped idols.  And God knew that if they were to intermarry, the Israelites would begin to worship these idols too.  So this commandment was out of concern for His relationship with His chosen people.

And that is just what happened.  So this caused friction between the majority of the Jewish nation and the Samaritans.

The next conflict they had was over where to worship.  At this point, the Samaritans had moved into the Israelite territory, but were having trouble with lions.  They reckoned that it was because they did not worship the God of the Israelites.  So they brought in a Jewish priest to teach them about God.

However, instead of abandoning their religion and worshiping God as the one and only God, they added God to the list of the gods they did worship.  But they did worship our God to some degree.

Needless to say, that as the Israelites were trying to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans tried to put a stop to it and said that Mt. Gerizim was the only place that Moses had authorized to worship.  And so the Samaritans built a competing temple on Mt. Gerizim.

So, even though Jesus had begun to mend the relationship between the two groups by having previously visited, preached and healed, there was still some friction between the two groups and when they found out that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to worship, instead of Mt. Gerizim, they rejected them completely and did not allow them a place to stay.

So the disciples, James and John, got pretty steamed at this.  Apparently they were hot heads to begin with (they were sometimes referred to as thunder and lightning). And in their anger they asked Jesus in verse 54 “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Now, I can’t help but imagine Jesus smacking his forehead and saying…”What in the world is wrong with you? No you can’t destroy them!!…When have you ever seen me rain fire down from heaven?”

Obviously I don’t know exactly how it went down, but the scripture does say that Jesus rebuked them.

Two things we need to keep in mind here is that when the disciples asked this they were essentially asking permission to judge these people. Historically speaking, when God rained fire from heaven on a people group it was in judgement.

So essentially, what the disciples were asking is… “Hey Jesus, can we judge these people for rejecting you and rain fire down on them and destroy them…once and for all proving we are right?”

The second thing to keep in mind is that the word rebuke doesn’t mean that He just said “No guys…come one…just go to another city…”

The word rebuke has much harsher tone than that…

Rebuke means to express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.

So I have to imagine there was a little bit of “tone” in Jesus’ words.  After all Jesus had not come “to condemn the world, but to save the world” (John 3:17).

So instead of giving them permission to judge the Samaritans and rain fire down on them, they instead went to another city to find lodging.

So to review…

Jesus’ ministry on earth was coming to a close, so He resolutely set his eyes on Jerusalem, despite the dangers set before Him.  He was determined at this point, to see His mission through.

So, He sent some people ahead of Him into a Samaritan town to find a place to stay for the night, perhaps expecting to be accepted, but instead they were rejected.

This fueled the fire inside James and John who then, asked Jesus if they could rain down fire in judgement on these people.  Jesus rebuked them, sharply correcting them, and then they went to another town to find rest for the night.

So…how does this apply to us?

1. Just as Jesus “resolutely” set His sights on the finish line, we should also “resolutely” set our sights on Loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, loving our neighbors as ourselves and fulfilling the great commission of sharing the gospel.

We don’t want to let anything stop us from these goals.

2. We need to understand that we will also meet rejection.  Perhaps even from people who we might not expect it from.  But this should not distract us from our goal.

3. When we meet this rejection and are tempted to rain down fire on them, we should just move on to the next city instead.

Now you might say, Stephen I have never once thought about raining fire down on anyone.  But have you been tempted to tell someone just how wrong they are and how right you are?  Have you ever wished that God would teach somebody a lesson?  Have you ever laughed a little when “karma” got somebody?  Well, in these situations, judgement is in our hearts, just as it was with James and John.

So, when we have this attitude and we are tempted to get drawn into the arguments and debates instead we need to just…

4. Move On

There are many reason that we need to move on.  First of all, when we get drawn into these heated debates and arguments, other people see this and their perception is that all we want to do is argue and force our beliefs on other people.

Furthermore, when they see this they believe that this is how we will treat them.  And so instead of engaging us in conversation about faith and God, they instead avoid the topic altogether.  And in this way, we lose out on the opportunity to witness to other people.

And finally, we need to move on, because time is running out and we do not have the time to waste on someone who has already resolutely rejected Jesus, when in Luke 10:2-3 we are told “…The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.”

And please understand, I am not saying that those people who reject Jesus are not worth our time, but instead what I am saying is we lose out on witnessing to so many other people when we get engaged in these debates with people who have already made up their minds.  All we end up doing is wanting to “prove” how right we are.  We become focused on ourselves and not those who need Jesus.

So the question is…To Rain Fire or Not to Rain fire, what is your heart’s desire?

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