“James and John, the followers of Jesus, saw this. They said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy those people?’”(Luke 9:54).

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The English poet Alexander Pope said, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Puck, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream said, ”Lord what fools these mortals be!” We, humans, do tend to be pretty foolish, an awful lot actually, yet God loves us any way.

The burning zeal of the sons of Zebedee, was perhaps more fiery than even that of Peter. No wonder Jesus called them Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). When the messengers returned with the account that the people would not welcome Jesus into their town, James and John were clearly incensed. “James and John, the followers of Jesus, saw this. They said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy those people?’”(Luke 9:54). Fortunately, for the townspeople, Jesus reprimanded James and John, and the town was spared that day. If the brothers had known their own hearts (Luke 9:55), then they would have undoubtedly found personal resentment and pretention mingled with all their zeal for Jesus.

In this instance, instead of destroying the town, as James and John suggested, Jesus sought out another village where the inhabitants were of better dispositions. Jesus rebuked the sons of Zebedee for entertaining such hostility in their hearts, but to be honest, I could see myself reacting the same way. Pride and carnal ambition wait for an opportunity to pounce; the Sons of Thunder weren’t immune and neither am I. I have never wished to call down fire from heaven to incinerate anyone, but I have reacted to personal offense with plenty of pride and carnal ambition; I’m no stranger to resentment and pretention. There’s room for accountability in God’s grace; grace without accountability seems a lot like apathy to me, but grace without love is no grace at all. Grace is meant to save; grace is meant to transform; censure should follow its pattern. Vengeance belongs to God.

Jesus has a purpose for everything, including the calling of two Sons of Thunder into his fold. Jesus knew all men; he didn’t need any testimony (John 2:25), and these two disciples were among Jesus’ closest friends. James was the first of the twelve apostles to be martyred (Acts 12:2), while John went on to live a long life. John never lost his fervency of spirit, but his fervency was tempered by love. In fact, the once Son of Thunder would one day become known as the Apostle of Love. I guess Jesus can have that effect on a person.

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