But there's something else about the audacity of James and John in this scene from Luke that we must not overlook (and if you haven't been following along, this is day 3 of this story): it's far too easy for us to try to fight God's battles for Him.
It's amazing that in the very same scene, in the very same breath, that the disciples have set out to prepare a place for Jesus (they have gone into the Samaritan village in search of such a place), they offer to call down fire from heaven in defense of His honor. So they have gone from attempting to honor Him to defending His honor, all in the space of just a couple of verses.
I think most of us understand how easy this is to do. There have been times in all of our lives, at least, there have been in mine, where I have understood what God would have me do in a particular situation, and I set about trying to do exactly that thing. When it's harder than it ought to be or when people don't buy into the same idea of God that I have around that situation, it's this subtle little switch to start preaching, to start trying to defend God. It's as if, if I could somehow plant a reminder about who God is in their mind, they would change their opinion and stop working so hard against me!
And that's the rub: they seem to be working against me.
James and John and other disciples were probably a little upset that the people of the Samaritan village turned Jesus away, but they were likely extremely upset that the people of this village turned them away. After all, they were just trying to do what God asked them to do. So if they call down fire from heaven, it looks like they're fighting God's battle here - this is Jesus, whom all fire from heaven would truly obey; turn Him away and feel the wrath of God! - but they're also fighting their battle. We, they say, were on a holy mission, and we're such powerful holy men that we can call down fire from heaven upon you. You will regret the day that you kept us from fulfilling our holy mission.
So it is with most of us. We look like we're fighting God's battles, but we're really, at least to some degree, fighting our own.
As it should be, of course. Because if it were truly God's battle and if calling down fire from heaven were truly the way to respond to the situation, Jesus Himself would be the one calling down fire from heaven. Would He not?
This is what we're doing all the time, though. Instead of just doing what God asked us to do - going into a village and making a space welcome for Him (and by the way, if a village does not receive you, shake the dust off your feet on your way out) - we end up militantly trying to clear ground for Him. Most of us aren't content to gather straw in a manger; we're gung-ho about clearing a room in the inn.
Gosh, darn it, this is God incarnate!
But of course when you clear out a room in the inn, you displace someone. You throw someone out into the dark. You pick someone up and turn them out in the name of the Jesus who never told you to make room in the inn; He only sent you to find a place for Him. He doesn't mind a manger. It wasn't God's fight you picked in room 4; it was yours. Because you wanted to do this big, beautiful thing for God.
And you forgot that God is the one who does the big, beautiful things.
Fire from heaven? Sons of Thunder, really? Shake the dust off your feet and get on after it.