James and John often make me laugh. Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down. There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character. One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56. The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?” I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus. It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.” What is even funnier is the story immediately before. Jesus has just told them that the
greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48). Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.” Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on. Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.
In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD. Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus. Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts. They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who
would reject him. They fail to see the love that Jesus has. Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.” So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem. James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors! But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world. Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation. Glory is found in making the enemy your family. Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep. James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength. But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness. Jesus is going to die, not kill. James and John do not see
that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win. But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved. The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge. They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will. Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?
How does one know the will of God? In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to
conform their life to the will of God. Make your will to DO His will and you will know. James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission. Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart. Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.
In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!” Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here. People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus. But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda. John was on the team, this other guy was not! This other guy did not
follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped! John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did. Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing! Again, Jesus corrects John.
You know… the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them. But I am
no different. I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do. They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly. They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do. They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer. (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word! But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.) Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death. Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision. So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10