Jesus responds to inhospitality

In today’s reading, Jesus and the disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. En route, they meet some Samaritans who refuse them hospitality because of their Jewish identity. In this case, it’s not an ethnic bias so much as a religious concern: the Samaritans did not believe in the centrality of Jerusalem for religious practice, and departed in other ways from the Judaism Jesus practiced.

The disciples are amazingly bad at knowing how to respond. They ask Jesus to rain down fire on the inhospitable Samaritans. Jesus rebukes them and not the Samaritans, though. And then he moves on to a different village that is more welcoming.

We can notice three elements to Jesus’ response. The first is that he asks for what he wants but then accepts the freedom of the Samaritans to respond the way they want to—with hospitality or rejection. The second is that he is not at all punitive of the people who refuse him kindness but takes it in stride. The reason must be because he is confident in his own identity as the beloved Son and does not need limited human beings to confirm it for him. He knows who he is, while the disciples are at some level acting out of an anger grounded in insecurity. The third thing is that Jesus still recognizes his human need for hospitality and acceptance but goes on to receive it in places where it is freely and generously offered.

We can apply this to our own lives, too. In personal conflicts do we reach out across differences to find out whether fellowship is a possibility? If we are refused, can we take it in stride and not respond defensively? Are we capable of both inviting and being able to shake the dust off our sandals when we are refused? Like Jesus, we flourish when we remain grounded in God’s love and aware that God accompanies is in our missions.