When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 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, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.
Luke 9:51-56 NASB
In the days of Jesus, there were only two ways to get to Jerusalem. Either you had to go through Samaria, or you had to go around it. Through Samaria was easier in terms of distance, but it was harder because of cultural tension.
When the disciples heard that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, they were excited but for the wrong reasons. They believed that He was going to become an earthly king. They hoped that Jesus would finally liberate the peasant class. The Samaritans, however, thought that Jesus would increase the divide that existed between them and the Jews. Neither the Jews nor the Samaritans understood Jesus’ mission.
Jesus’ goal, however, was to follow His Father’s will. By going to Jerusalem, He would complete God’s mission to extend the gift of salvation to both the Jews and the Samaritans, and by extension, the whole creation.
The disciples were sent ahead of Jesus to find a place to stay in the Samarian village. They are shocked by this notion and are doubly shocked when the Samaritans rejected them. When the disciples suggest that they call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans, Jesus rebukes them.
The disciples made a mistake. They had spiritual power to call down fire, but they lacked the necessary spiritual maturity to make wise decisions. Jesus had to remind them that His mission includes the acceptance of those who are rejecting Him. So, they went to another village.
Jesus had to consistently deal with painful rejections and emotional turmoil as He was doing God’s will. Similarly, if we didn’t have to deal with immature or negative responses from others, following God’s will for our lives would be much easier. But sometimes, challenges help us define our focus in life. Sometimes we may not know how convicted we are about our walk with Jesus until our walk comes under heavy criticism.
When we walk away from criticism, cradling the pain of being misunderstood, and make the choice that obedience to God is more important than being understood by those who don’t want to understand us, we can develop stronger spiritual purpose. When our purpose is central to our lives, we will sometimes have to, like Jesus, set our face towards God’s purpose for our lives.
Whenever it is time to set our faces towards Jerusalem, we need to do so thanking God that He blesses and strengthens us to take the long road, if necessary. Sometimes it is important for us to keep on walking past rejection and criticism so that we can arrive at God’s purpose for our lives.