In Luke 9:51-56, Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem. He sent messengers to secure lodging in a Samaritan city, but the Samaritans turned them away. This disrespectful rejection prompted James and John to ask, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” While the intentions of James and John could be seen as noble (seeking respect for the Messiah), their intended actions were inappropriate, resulting in a rebuke from Jesus.
The disciples mistakenly thought Jesus would rule over an earthly kingdom beginning in Jerusalem (e.g., Acts 1:6). They thought the Jews would be citizens of high standing in that kingdom, excluding all others. This mistaken expectation helped create divisions between Christians of Jewish and Gentile descent in the early church (e.g., Gal. 2:12ff). The truth is that Jesus never desired an earthly kingdom over which to rule. Instead, He purchased a spiritual kingdom with His blood, over which He rules until the final day when He hands it to the Father (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 15:24).
Every Christian is part of the kingdom of Christ, and we need to remember how He has taught us to behave. He did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them, and He has sent us into the world with that message for every person (Mark 16:15). It is not for us to respond wrathfully toward those who reject Jesus today. The day will come when God judges every person for their choices regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we need to allow Him to select the right time for that to occur (John 12:48; 2 Pet. 3:9-10). For now, live in peace and encourage obedience to Christ (Rom. 12:18-19).