Understanding Luke 9:54

And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

There are some bible verses that really “trouble” me. This is one that has bothered me for a long time. Is it required that I believe they could actually do this? How do other people look at this verse?

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Are you asking this with science in mind? As in “am I required to believe that they would actually have been capable of physically pulling a miracle like this off?”

Or are you more disturbed by what this shows of the disciples’ character - that they could wish such a thing on a village?

Or both?

If I can presume the first one above is nearer the mark - and that you have science in mind, one quick answer is that you aren’t “required” to believe anything on this. For one thing, it didn’t happen - so it is reduced to a mere “what if” which is forever hypothetical. Though one can then look further back and inquire, then, about Sodom and Gomorrah. But I’ll wait for your clarification before chasing off after such things.

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I too am a bit confused why Jason finds this troublesome, since Jesus rebuked them.

52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; 53 but the people would 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 bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?”[a] 55 But he turned and rebuked them.[b] 56 And they went on to another village.

I guess the question is why did Jesus rebuke them?

After all we have both the original story of Elias calling down fire from heaven, and we have Jesus words, “Mark11:23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” But I think the point is that if you really believe something is possible then you keep trying and looking for a way to make it happen, and not that God is going to magic everything for you. And the fact is that with science we have learned that extra-ordinary things are possible. Not for free, to be sure. Extra-ordinary things tend to require extra-ordinary efforts. For example, it is possible to change lead into gold. It is too expensive to be worth the effort, but it can be done.

So it seems more likely that Jesus was rebuking them for the reasons for which they suggested calling upon God for a miracle. Calling down fire from heaven on those who slight you in any way is not an example of calling upon God for a good reason.


Yes, that’s true. Though I think that the setting is in part that the disciples were trying to say they were like Elias, and Jesus as God’s son-that they would have Elias’ power. In a way to me, this also seems (maybe on the surface) to be a deliberate unhitching of Jesus, by himself, from the New Testament–that He would not be acting in the vengeful way of the OT. He didn’t say he negated it, it’s true; but had a new message.
My own personal bent on the OT is that it was, as Greg Boyd put it in “Cross Vision,” that the OT was mistaken and culturally blinded as to God’s real intent. I don’t think that fire actually came down, though I have a lot to learn.


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I apologize. I should have been clearer with my question. I suppose it would be a science question. When I read this I get a mental image of wizards throwing balls of fire.

The question of evolution used to consume me the same way before I found this group. After a lot of reading and a lot of thinking I finally got over that. Thank you everyone here. This question might have been better handled the same way…reading and thinking more.

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I believe that miracles occurred through the prophets, apostles, and God.

When reading and coming to things that clash with science I consider a few things.

  1. Can it be explained through a natural phenomenon?

  2. Is the textual evidence suggesting fiction at play?

  3. Does it undermine scientific facts and theories to the point that it’s a black or white debate on by believing in one you must disbelieve in the other.

Scripture says Jesus often healed the sick and once even did so by merely command it.

  1. Can it be explained through a natural event? I guess you could argue coincidence or placebo effect but I would feel it’s a straw man’s argument.

  2. The stories read as a fact. It’s not ambiguous. It’s not metaphorical or proverbial. The text seems to indicate healing was available through supernatural means and that reasoning is shown for thousands of years.

  3. Does it undermine science. No. Isolated miracles are not told to undermine pathology or language. Someone can believe in a miracle, make it fit with systematic doctrine, and still be viewed as a isolated event while still believing that’s not typical to speech or pathology.

I think Jesus rebuked them for their retaliation mentality.


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