I’ve always been so impressed with world class athletes, especially Olympic athletes. These men and women are singularly focused on their sport. It seems that they eat, sleep and dream their sport. They know what they have to do. They know their goal. They have a mission and they surround themselves with like-minded individuals who share their passion. There is a story in the gospel of Luke that shows us the focus that Jesus had.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51-55, ESV)
I love the phrase, “he set his face.” Jesus was totally focused on what He had to do. He knew His goal. He knew He was on a mission. He knew that the salvation of the entire world rested on the completion of His fate in Jerusalem. He knew that the ultimate goal was not His death, but His victory over death in resurrection. And, since He told His disciples THE PLAN, He expected them to share the same passion – to see people saved, not condemned.
That is why it is so interesting to me to see James’ and John’s reaction to the Samaritan’s rejection. They literally wanted to smoke them, to call down fire from heaven! Wow! Feel the love! They obviously were not on board with Jesus’ priorities or passion. At this stage, they still did not get it. They were more concerned about being “offended” and defending the Lord’s “reputation” than extending grace. They were all about judgment and condemnation. They were all about protecting their group from those who were not like them. I like to call these types of people, “Holy Smokers,” not because they smoke cigarettes, but because they like to see people burn.
But Jesus rebukes them. Some ancient Greek manuscripts add the phrase, “and he said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.’ ” So even though this phrase may be debated by scholars, the idea it portrays is consistent with Jesus’ mission. He wanted people saved. John’s and James’ attitude was not consistent with that goal. Unfortunately, there are still Holy Smokers in our day- groups, churches or individuals who seem gleeful when bad things happen to “sinners.” Groups that like to go around and make sure others know just how much God hates them and can’t wait to send them to hell.
Really?! Does this reflect the heart of Christ to a fallen world? Would He even have bothered to leave heaven to die an excruciating death for sinners if He was just going to send them to hell anyway? I don’t think so. Jesus was laser-focused on what He came to do and getting it done. He was not going to allow anyone to distract Him or sidetrack Him. He was in the zone. Actually, He still is in that same zone – saving, not condemning. But more importantly, He wants us to be in His zone, to pursue passionately the revelation of His heart for the lost and for the sinner.