54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
Personally I am not interested in the LeBron James, muscular, slam-dunk, in-your-face, power basketball. I like the grace of the high arching shot of Steph Curry. I choose David over Goliath. But it doesn’t mean I don’t want my teams to crush certain opponents. If next year’s Michigan-Ohio State score is 55-0 Michigan, I will enjoy every minute. We have endured their superior attitude too long (OSU has won four straight and 13 of the last 15 in this most intense of football rivalries, first played in 1897).
There is something of an innate thrill at the obliteration of your enemies. I understand why James and John wanted their journey to Jerusalem to be a victory march. God’s anointed is coming to the holy city to set the world right, and we could do with a little slam-dunk lightning against those who stand in God’s way. Make those Romans quake in their boots. Give em a taste of their own medicine.
It seems it’s always the innocent who get struck down by lightning. Orlando. San Bernadino. Sandy Hook. Syria beneath barrel bombs. The Janjaweed striking with impunity in Darfur. The devastation done with machetes in Rwanda and with gas in Nazi occupied Poland.
Maybe that’s why we love the David story: a giant finally got knocked down. We could use some well-placed lightning in the world.
But who will be the one to call the targets?
For all that James and John have seen, for all they have heard, despite their call to be fishermen gathering people into the net of God’s embrace, they want lightning against God’s enemies.
They don’t get what they want. We don’t get what we want. In fact, it is the anointed one, the Messiah/Christ, who will take the lightning strike that should fall on us.
The disciples have seen great acts of mercy. They have already been sent out on a mission to announce the dawning reign of God and bring God’s healing. They have returned to witness a remarkable meal, five thousand seated together in peace. But they haven’t quite figured out that the kingdom doesn’t come with thunderbolts; it comes with mercy and truth and the opening of graves.