51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village. Luke 9:51–56 (ESV)
How did John go from Luke 9 to 1 John 3?
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:11–18 (ESV)
The change began with “but he turned and rebuked them.”
Young men (and women) in the Lord have a zeal which has not been tempered with wisdom. They hold a love for the Lord which has yet to become the Lord’s love. In his final letter, Paul wrote to Timothy and warned him of this:
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:22–26 (ESV)
The “youthful passions” in view here are not explicitly sexual passions (which is the common use of this verse) but rather the passion of wrangling and arguing and winning. It is quarreling. Too many young men have undertaken the work of ministry before their heart and expression of love have matured. The Lord has yet to turn and rebuke them, to humble them. And so these men cause damage and sorrow in their churches.
It is important to note that the zeal of the “young man” is not necessarily the trouble. Nor do these young men brawl without warrant. Often their expositional doctrine is correct – better than the aged saint whose theology has come from poorly remembered lines from bad hymns and backed by worse organ playing (it is amazing how much bad theology has been shoveled into the church by prayers and songs which should never have been written or repeated).
John and James had “good reasons” for their confrontation of the village. The Samaritans – if nothing else – had insulted the Lord of Glory! Before we snicker at John and James we must remember that the Samaritans had refused hospitality to God incarnate, to Jesus himself!
In some ways, the rebuke of Jesus is harder to understand than the zeal of John and James.