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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the days of Elijah the prophet, before he was taken up, King Ahaziah sent messengers to him. Elijah had stopped previous messengers of the king, because they were going to inquire of the god Baal-zebub (whose name might sound familiar) about whether the king would recover from a serious injury. But the Angel of Yahweh told Elijah to stop them. So he said to them, “Is it because there’s no God in Israel that you are inquiring of Baal-zebub? Your master, the king, will not recover. He will die.”
So when Ahaziah found out that it was Elijah, he sent 50 men to Elijah. They said, “Man of God, come down from the mountain.” Elijah said, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you.” And it did. Ahaziah sent another 50 men: “Man of God, come down from the mountain.” “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven.” Ahaziah had rejected the one whom God had sent, and so rejected the God who had sent him. The leader of the third group of 50 was understandably less eager to approach Elijah in this way (2 Kings 1:2-16).
In the days of Elijah the prophet, he told Elisha to follow him and take up the mantle of the prophet. Elisha said, “Let me go back and say goodbye to my parents and then I’ll come and follow you.” Elijah said, “What does that have to do with me? Go ahead.” So Elisha did and then he followed Elijah (1 Kings 19:20-21).
But these are not the days of Elijah the prophet. These are the days of the Son of God in flesh. So when the Samaritans rejected Jesus, as Ahaziah had rejected Elijah, James and John say to Jesus, “Do you want us to call fire down from heaven to consume them?” No doubt they had Elijah in mind. But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on. These are not the days of Elijah the prophet.
Later, when someone says to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family,” Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Because these are not the days of Elijah the prophet; these are not the days of fire and wrath and judgment, but the days of the Son of God in flesh. And He has set His face to go to Jerusalem, to fulfill everything that He has come to do in His death and resurrection.
And Jesus sends messengers—the Greek word is “angels”—ahead of Him wherever He is going. Right after this, at the beginning of chapter 10, Jesus sends out 72 to go ahead of Him to all the places where He was about to go, to say that the Kingdom of God was coming and was here in Jesus. He was going on to the cross, and nothing was going to stop Him—not unbelieving Samaritans, not a lack of a place to rest in this world, not deaths and funerals, not families and farewells. Nothing was going to get in the way of Jesus going into Jerusalem to die. And nothing is going to stop Him as He leaves Jerusalem in resurrection. He will do what He came to do.
And He has sent me here this morning as the messenger of the resurrected Jesus to tell you that He is here. The Reign of God has come near to you. He is here with His forgiveness, and His words, and His life. He comes to this place with His own body and blood. And He will do what He came to do, even if some reject Him, even if some turn back and go away from Him. He gives the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit preaches Him. These are not yet the days of fire and judgment, though the Revelation says that that Day will indeed come, when fire will come down from heaven and consume the enemies of God and the works and ways of the devil (Revelation 20:7-9).
But today is not that day. Today is the day of salvation. And Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit with fire, not to condemn, but to destroy the desires and works of the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other. But He has given us the Spirit to struggle, to battle, to put to death the works of the flesh. Those works are obvious, Paul says: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. O God, we’ve had enough of the works of the flesh.
But He has sent His Spirit to destroy those works and purify the ground for His work. When fires go through an area, it isn’t long until the ground is teeming with life. So the Spirit comes to burn, but only in order to make fertile ground, for fertile plants, to produce good fruit. There may be some burning, but it is to produce the repentance unto forgiveness and life. And the fruit He produces is this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. We have the Spirit of God. And if we walk in the Spirit, let us live by the Spirit.
Wherever the Word of God in flesh speaks His Word, the Spirit of God is. And He will do His work as He has promised. Nothing can stop Him from doing what He said He would do. Let nothing turn us from Him, let nothing turn us back. God, do not let us ever reject Him or turn away from Him. He will keep us following Him where He leads. We are not the children of wrath, but the children of God in Christ. May it be so today and in all the days to come.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 6/28/19