Reflect again, my brethren, upon the unevangelical spirit which these apostles often showed. On one occasion even John, as mild and gentle a spirit as any of them, asked to be permitted to call fire from heaven to destroy certain Samaritans who would not receive the Savior because his face was set towards Jerusalem. Jesus the friend of sinners calling fire from heaven! This might suit Elias, but was not after the manner of the meek and lowly Prince of Peace. It would have been quite foreign to all his purposes, and contrary to his entire spirit; yet the two sons of thunder would hurl lightning on their Master’s foes. He might well have spoken to them as bitterly as David did to the sons of Zeruiah, when in their hot rage they would have slain their leader’s foolish foes; he might have said, “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zebedee?” But he merely said, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of.”
Read the ninth chapter of Luke, which is full of the failings of the disciples, and notice how John and the rest forbade the man who was casting out devils in Jesus’ name. With the true spirit of bigoted monopoly that will not tolerate anything outside the pale of orthodoxy, they said, “We saw one casting out devils in thy name;” and instead of rejoicing that there were some beyond our company who were assisted by the Master’s power, and were glorifying the Master’s name, “we forbade him because he followeth not with us.” Their Lord, instead of angrily upbraiding their intolerance, gently chid them with the sentence, “Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us.” Remember, also, how the disciples put away the mothers of Israel when they brought their tender offspring to receive the Savior’s blessing; this showed a very unevangelical spirit. They would not have their Lord interrupted by the cries of babes, and thought the children too insignificant to be worthy of his consideration. But, though our Lord was much displeased with the disciples, yet he only said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
But, my brethren, it must have wanted great patience for our dear Lord and Master, who himself would not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, to bear with these rough men who pushed the little ones on one side, who would gag the mouths of those who were doing good in their own way, and who would even call fire from heaven upon poor ignorant sinners. Admire much his patience with their impatience, and see how “Like as a father pitieth his children, so he pitied them,” because he knew they feared him in their hearts, and their faults were rather infirmities than rebellions.
From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled "The Tender Pity Of The Lord," delivered July 17, 1870. Image by tylerdurden1 under Creative Commons License.