When I read the Gospel reading for the first time, “Nuke ‘em” was the first thought that came to mind.
Jesus had sent others ahead and they went to a Samaritan village to set up accommodations. However, they didn’t receive Jesus and followers because his determination was Jerusalem. We are not given much information regarding their motivation to not receive Jesus. We do know that Samaritans and the Jews didn’t get along well. When Israel was conquered as a nation a few hundred years earlier, the Jews who were not deported but allowed to stay intermarried with their captors. Samaritans and Jews were cousins who didn’t get along. The Samaritans were considered dogs by their Jewish cousins. When someone you look down on insults you, the natural response is put them in their place. So, the brothers James and John lived up to their nickname of ‘Sons of Thunder’ and wanted to call down fire from heaven – nuke them.
Our humanity doesn’t look so good these days. It didn’t look that good back then either. Apparently, we haven’t grown in understanding of what it means to be children of God and people of the kingdom.
Have you ever expressed an opinion only to have an opposing one slammed back at you? What is the word being used to describe Middle East tensions? “Obliteration.” What happens when children held in detention are looked down upon as lesser? A toothbrush, bar of soap and a blanket are considered too generous. Nope, our humanity doesn’t shine very brightly these days. So when the disciples wanted fire to destroy the village, Jesus called them on it. There is enough ‘nuke ’em’ talk and death and crosses.
This was not the reason Jesus came. There is enough killing going on without having to participate in it and make it worse. He didn’t come to support or reinforce our ways. His own death on a cross was coming soon. His death and resurrection was to bring about a new creation and establishing the beginning of a different reign, the rule of God. Kingdom of Heaven. Kingdom of God. This is where the focus needs to be placed.
What happens next, are the encounters that Jesus has with others. One Jesus invites to join in with the cause. Another asks to follow along. Jesus’ reaction to them was difficult to hear. Jesus sounds very harsh. He also gives a lesson on how to plow a field.
One person was rather bold in claiming that they will follow Jesus everywhere. Jesus responded, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” In other words, a world that hollers ‘nuke ‘em’…that abuses children… is not a world where he will live in comfort or call home. The person boldly proclaiming to follow Jesus needed to know this upfront.
Jesus invited some to follow him. One had details to clear up first while another needed to tend to their father’s burial. Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Jesus is making a point. This world is obsessed with death and abuse and crosses and ‘nuke ‘em.’ The kingdom of God Jesus showed us is about mercy, grace, healing, forgiveness, justice and resurrection. These are the characteristics that foster life. Go be obsessed with these things instead.
Jesus finishes with a word about plowing and the kingdom of God. A person plowing focuses their attention on a tree or large rock. If you don’t make that your focus and look all over then you’ll end up with a furrow that is all over the place. If you are going to be a part of the kingdom, then your focus needs to be on what is up ahead. The kingdom of God which Christ is bringing is about life that is filled with the resurrection. It is about life.
There is more than enough “nuke em” in this world. More than enough crosses. More than enough death. Jesus tells us to put our focus in a different direction – the kingdom of God. The kingdom which is about life. You know it is present because you see mercy and grace and forgiveness and justice and resurrection. These are characteristics that bring life. This is where we need to be.