Luke 9:54
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(54) When his disciples James and John saw this.—The burning zeal of the sons of Zebedee, more fiery even than that of Peter, was eminently characteristic of those whom our Lord had named as the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). Their anger was probably heightened by the contrast with His former reception in a city of the same people (John 4:40-41), and by the feeling that what seemed to them an act of marvellous condescension was thus rudely repelled. Did not such a people deserve a punishment like that which Elijah had inflicted on the messengers of Ahaziah (2Kings 1:10; 2Kings 1:12; 2Kings 1:14)? The latter words, “as Elias did,” are, however, wanting in some of the best MSS.

Luke 9:54-56. When his disciples, James and John — Who attended him; saw this — When the messengers returned with the account of what had passed in the village, whither they had been sent, these two disciples, being exceedingly incensed at this rude treatment; said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven — To destroy these inhospitable wretches immediately; even as Elias did — After the example of the Prophet Elijah, who at, or near, this very place, thus destroyed the men who had evil-entreated him. Perhaps the place might put it into the minds of these apostles to make this motion now, rather than at any other time, or place, where Christ had received the like affront. “That these disciples, so remarkably distinguished by their Lord’s favour, should have some distinguished zeal and faith, may seem less wonderful, than that a person of so sweet a disposition as John should make so severe a proposal.” But he turned and rebuked them — Jesus, whose meekness on all occasions was admirable, sharply reprimanded his disciples for entertaining so unbecoming a resentment of this offence; and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of — Ye do not know the sinfulness of the disposition which ye have just now expressed, neither do ye sufficiently know your own hearts; which if you were more diligently to examine, you would soon find that there is a great deal of personal resentment and ostentation mingled with that zeal for me, which you so warmly express on this occasion. Add to this, you do not consider the genius of the gospel, so much more gentle than that of the law; nor the difference of times, persons, and circumstances. The severity which Elijah exercised on the men who came from Ahaziah to apprehend him, was a reproof of an idolatrous king, court, and nation, very proper for the times, and very agreeable to the characters both of the prophet who gave it, and of the offenders to whom it was given; at the same time it was not unsuitable to the nature of the dispensation they were under. But the gospel breathes a very different spirit from the law, (whose punishments were chiefly of a temporal kind,) and therefore it does not admit of this sort of rigour and severity. He told them, further, that to destroy men’s lives was utterly inconsistent with the design of his coming into the world, which was to save them — Alluding to his miracles, by which he restored health to the diseased bodies of men, as well as to his doctrine and death, by which he gives life to their souls. Having said these things, he went with them to another village, the inhabitants of which were men of better dispositions. This was a noble instance of patience under a real and unprovoked injury; an instance of patience which expressed infinite sweetness of disposition, and which, for that reason, should be imitated by all who call themselves Christ’s disciples.9:51-56 The disciples did not consider that the conduct of the Samaritans was rather the effect of national prejudices and bigotry, than of enmity to the word and worship of God; and through they refused to receive Christ and his disciples, they did not ill use or injure them, so that the case was widely different from that of Ahaziah and Elijah. Nor were they aware that the gospel dispensation was to be marked by miracles of mercy. But above all, they were ignorant of the prevailing motives of their own hearts, which were pride and carnal ambition. Of this our Lord warned them. It is easy for us to say, Come, see our zeal for the Lord! and to think we are very faithful in his cause, when we are seeking our own objects, and even doing harm instead of good to others.James and John - They were called Boanerges - sons of thunder - probably on account of their energy and power in preaching the gospel, or of their vehement and rash zeal - a remarkable example of which we have in this instance, Mark 3:17.

Wilt thou ... - The insult had been offered to Jesus, their friend, and they felt it; but their zeal was rash and their spirit bad. Vengeance belongs to God: it was not theirs to attempt it.

Fire from heaven - Lightning, to consume them.

As Elias did - By this they wished to justify their zeal. Perhaps, while they were speaking, they saw Jesus look at them with disapprobation, and to vindicate themselves they referred to the case of Elijah. The case is recorded in 2 Kings 1:10-12.

54. James and John—not Peter, as we should have expected, but those "sons of thunder" (Mr 3:17), who afterwards wanted to have all the highest honors of the Kingdom to themselves, and the younger of whom had been rebuked already for his exclusiveness (Lu 9:49, 50). Yet this was "the disciple whom Jesus loved," while the other willingly drank of His Lord's bitter cup. (See on [1616]Mr 10:38-40; and [1617]Ac 12:2). That same fiery zeal, in a mellowed and hallowed form, in the beloved disciple, we find in 2Jo 5:10; 3Jo 10.

fire … as Elias—a plausible case, occurring also in Samaria (2Ki 1:10-12).

The history of Elijah to which the disciples refer, is doubtless that, 2 Kings 1:10, where Elijah, not without direction from God, called fire from heaven to destroy those captains and their fifties which the king sent to take him. And when his disciples, James and John, saw this,.... The Persic version reads thus; when "James and John, and the disciples saw this"; that is, the other disciples besides them, so making all the disciples say what follows; whereas only those two are intended, who having been the messengers, were the more provoked at this indignity to their Lord and master:

they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them; being enraged at this conduct of the Samaritans towards, Christ, and burning with love to him, and zeal for his honour; being "Boanerges's", sons of thunder, they were for punishing of them in a most terrible manner, even with, fire from heaven; by which Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain, were destroyed: this they doubted not of doing, knowing what miraculous power was conferred upon them; but did not think proper to attempt to exert it, until they had asked leave of Christ to do it:

even as Elias did; upon the two captains of fifties, with their fifties, as recorded in 2 Kings 1:9 This clause was wanting in a certain copy of Beza's, and is not in the Vulgate Latin version; but is in other copies and versions, and by all means to be retained.

{12} And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

(12) We must take heed of zeal and fond imitation which is not moderated, even in good causes, that whatever we do, we do it to God's glory, and the profit of our neighbour.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 9:54-56. Ἰδόντες] they saw it in the return of the messengers, who would not otherwise have come back.

The two disciples are not to be identified with the messengers (Euthymius Zigabenus, Erasmus).

πῦρ] Fire, not: fulmen (Wetstein, Kuinoel), a modern mode of explaining away, of which, neither in 2 Kings 1:10-12 (when at the word of Elias fire from heaven devours the people of Ahaziah) nor on the part of the disciples is there any notion.

οὐκ οἴδατε κ.τ.λ.] As in respect of ὑμεῖς the emphatic contrast with Elias is not to be disregarded (“retunditur provocatio ad Eliam,” Bengel), so it is objectionable to explain, with Bornemann: “Nonne perpenditis, qualem vos … animum prodatis? Certe non humaniorem, quam modo vobis Samaritani praestiterunt.” The Samaritans had not, indeed, refused to receive Jesus from lack of humanity; see on Luke 9:53. Rightly the expositors have explained οἵου πνεύματος of a spirit which is differently disposed from that displayed by Elias. In that respect the form of the saying has been taken by some affirmatively (so Erasmus, Beza, Castalio, Calvin, Grotius, and others; latest of all, Ewald), some interrogatively (so Luther, Zeger, and most of the later critics); but the matter of it has been so understood that Jesus is made to say to the disciples either (a) that they knew not that they were allowing themselves to be guided by a wholly different spirit from that of Elias (see as early as Augustine, C. Adimant. 17, Calvin, Grotius: “Putatis vos agi Spiritu tali, quali olim Elias …; sed erratis. Habetis quidem ζῆλον, sed οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν, et qui proinde humani est affectus, non divinae motionis”), so in substance Ch. F. Fritzsche also in his Nov. Opusc. p. 264; or (b) that they knew not that they as His disciples were to follow the guidance of a wholly different spirit from that of Elias,—the evangelical spirit of meekness, not the legal spirit of severity (so Theophylact, Erasmus, Zeger, Jansen, Bengel, and most of the later commentators). The view under (a) bears on the face of it the motives on which it depends, viz. to avoid making Jesus rebuke the spirit of Elias. The view under (b) is simply in accordance with the words, and is to be preferred in the interrogative form, as being more appropriate to the earnestness of the questioner; yet πνεύματος is not to be explained, as most of the later commentators explain it, of the human spirit (“affectus animi,” Grotius), but (rightly, even so early as Euthymius Zigabenus) of the Holy Spirit.[124] To this objective πνεῦμα the categorical ἐστέ points (which does not mean: ye ought to be). As to εἶναί τινος, whereby is expressed the relation of dependence, see on Mark 9:41, and Winer, p. 176 [E. T. 243 f.].

Luke 9:56. ἑτέραν] into a village which was not Samaritan. Theophylact: ὅτι οὐκ ἐδέξαντο αὐτὸν, οὐδὲ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Σαμάρειαν. Thus the journey at its very commencement diverged from the direct course that had been decided on (in opposition to Wieseler, p. 326). To suppose the further progress of the journey through Samaria (in this place consequently Schenkel misplaces the incident in John 4) is altogether without authority in the text.

[124] Τοῦτο γὰρ ἀγαθόν ἐστι καὶ ἀνεξίκακον, Euthymius Zigabenus. But not as though Jesus indirectly denied to Elias the Holy Spirit (comp. already on Luke 1:17), but in His disciples the Holy Spirit is in His operations different from what He was in the old prophets, seeing that He was in them the instrument of the divine chastisement.Luke 9:54. Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης: their outburst of temper, revealed in their truculent proposal, probably indicated the attitude of the whole company. In that case journeying through Samaria was hopeless.—καταβῆναι, infinitive, instead of ἵνα with subjunctive as often after εἰπεῖν.54. James and John] “What wonder that the Sons of Thunder wished to flash lightning?” St Ambrose. But one of these very disciples afterwards went to Samaria on a message of love (Acts 8:14-25).

fire to come down from heaven] To avenge their helplessness under this gross and open insult of the Messiah. “Christ wrought miracles in every element except fire. Fire is reserved for the consummation of the age.” Bengel.

even as Elias did] These words are omitted by N, B, L. But (i) they are singularly appropriate, since the incident referred to also occurred in Samaria (2 Kings 1:5-14); and (ii) while it would be difficult to account for their insertion, it is quite easy to account for their omission either by an accidental error of the copyists, or on dogmatic grounds, especially from the use made of this passage by the heretic Marcion (Tert. adv. Marc. iv. 23) to disparage the Old Testament, (iii) They are found in very ancient MSS., versions, and Fathers, (iv) The words seem to be absolutely required to defend the crude spirit of vengeance, and might have seemed all the more natural to the still half-trained Apostles because they had so recently seen Moses and Elias speaking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They needed, as it were, a Scriptural precedent, to conceal from themselves the personal impulse which really actuated them.Luke 9:54. Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης, James and John) Who had been selected above the others to see the glory of Jesus, Luke 9:28, along with Peter, who however in this instance remained quiet. After that they had heard of the approaching death of Jesus [Luke 9:44], on that account the more they try now to preserve His life. They seem also to have had in mind that injunction which is recorded, Luke 9:5 : see Mark 9:41.—πῦρ, fire) It was not for this end that they were named the Sons of Thunder. Christ wrought miracles in all the elements except fire. Fire was reserved for the end (consummation) of the present world.—ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, from heaven) Vengeance being impotent on earth, is readily disposed to stretch out its hand, its wishes, its sighs, to heaven for the weapons from above.—ὡς καὶ, even as) We are too willing to imitate the saints just in the cases where we ought not.—Ἡλίας, Elias) who also did so, as in the present case, against the Samaritans, 2 Kings 1:2, seqq. They at the time had Elias fresh in their remembrance and thoughts; Luke 9:8; Luke 9:19; Luke 9:30.Verse 54. - And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? The natural fiery temper and burning zeal of these highly favoured and loved brethren - who, we know, received, perhaps in half-playful rebuke from their Master, the epithet Boanerges, sons of thunder-flamed forth at this insult offered to their adored Master in return for his tender, loving consideration for this hated people. Possibly, what these two had lately witnessed on the Transfiguration mount had deepened their veneration for their Lord, and caused them the more bitterly to resent an insult levelled at him. So they prayed him - him whom they had so lately seen radiant with the awful fire of heaven - prayed him to call that fire down, and so wither in a moment those impious despisers of his gracious goodness. The words, "even as Elias did," form a very appropriate historical instance, but they are of doubtful authenticity - the older authorities have them not.
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