Calling Down Fire from Heaven


Lk.9:51-56
Zec 8:20-23 / Psa 87

Jesus turned and rebuked them (for their pride).
(Luke 9:55)

He could have “called down fire from above,”
To prove His own divinity,
But Jesus’ power He used for love
To teach us true humility;

When the days approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to prepare for His reception there. But the people there did not welcome Him, because the destination of His journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then He and His disciples went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

Reflection

The evangelist Luke seems to be portraying the difficulties that Jesus experienced in trying to teach His closest apostles the virtue of humility and forgiveness. This was the third time in this chapter that the Lord had to rebuke John and the others for their wrongful attitude towards others and the right purpose of their delegated powers (Lk.9:1). First they were arguing among themselves who was to be the greatest; then they complained about some other person who was using the name of Jesus to cast out demons. Now James and John wanted to “do an Elijah” (see 2Kgs 1:10) by calling down fire from heaven. They deserved these rebukes because they were showing signs of pride, the greatest sin that Jesus had been condemning, while teaching them about humility and true greatness.

If humility is the foundation of all virtues (the primary characteristic of Jesus Christ), pride on the other hand is the “mother of all sins”, being the first sin in creation, giving birth to all the evils in the world. This was the reason why pride (or its manifestations) was so abhorrent to the Lord, and why He constantly taught His followers to be always on their guard against it. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord; be assured of this: he will not go unpunished.”

God humbled Himself by becoming a human being (and even chose to be born in the worst of all places, fit only for animals) in order to show us that the true path to the kingdom of God is the way of humility. Satan and his minions fell from heaven because of pride, and from the time of creation up to the present, he has been using this greatest sin as his primary lure for mankind’s failure. In this world, it is a rare find, or an oxymoron, to see a rich and powerful man who is humble. Such a man, like the prophet Elijah, could only be so faithful and intimate to God that he could have the power to call down fire from heaven. But all of us know – based on what many of our “honorable” politicians have shown – that power corrupts, and “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These boastful lawmakers (should be called lawbreakers) have been hogging power for so long that in their pride they are convinced that they are untouchable. If only they read (and believe) the Bible, they might be touched by God’s writers, like St. John, who wrote, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1John 2:16). May God protect us all from the sin of pride.

In Your mercy, help us, Father God, to steer clear of falling into this greatest of all sins; instead, let Your Holy Spirit guide us in the path of humility, the path of holiness that is most pleasing to You, which our Lord Jesus taught us to follow. Amen.

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