The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods






Section XXIX

jesus prevented from travelling through samaria

(Luk 9:51-62)

It was a part of Jesus’ plan in journeying towards Jerusalem to go first through Samaria. We are constrained to conjecture that He hoped to arrive at Jerusalem at the feast of the Dedication, and that it was His purpose from thence to visit Perea, for the purpose of spreading His Gospel in that district before His pilgrimage should close. But through circumstances altogether out of the ordinary run He was induced to adopt a different course.

We turn back to the ninth chapter in St Luke’s Gospel. That the Evangelist has not related the several incidents belonging to our Lord’s last journeys in their proper chronological order, has already appeared on another occasion. But most especially is it plain that he is here speaking of the closing period of Jesus’ pilgrimage. He speaks of a time when the ‘days were drawing to an end of Jesus’ still finding acceptance with the people’ [ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ἀναλήψεως αὐτοῦ],1 and when He had decidedly ‘set His face to go to Jerusalem.’ These words evidently set forth the time when He was bidding farewell to Galilee with the view of completing His course at Jerusalem. But if we preferred understanding the words referred to as they are commonly taken, namely thus, that now ‘the days were fulfilled that Jesus should be taken up,’ we should thereby be only the more constrained to adopt the view, that the Evangelist is speaking of our Lord’s last departure from Galilee.

Even the Samaritans were destined to make good to the experience of Jesus, that the days of the welcome which He at the first had met with in the world were now coming to an end. Jesus ‘sent messengers before Him into a Samaritan town to prepare for Him lodging.’ We can the more readily understand this forethought of our Lord, if we call to mind that He was travelling with a great train of disciples. The same circumstance serves also to explain what followed. The Samaritans of that town refused to receive Him, and in truth for the reason that He was directing the march of His pilgrims towards Jerusalem. Time was when the Samaritans at Sichem had received Him joyfully, when He was travelling with a small train from Judea to go to Galilee: His spiritual glory had then made a great impression upon them. But it was different with the Samaritans of this town. Though they perhaps might know something of Jesus, yet they were not inclined to receive Him, because He proposed to turn in to them in the character of a Jewish pilgrim, who was about to celebrate one of those feasts at Jerusalem which they so much abhorred, leading also a great company of pilgrims in His train. It seemed to them to be asking too much, that they should be required to give entertainment to such a large Jewish procession,—which was what the company of disciples might seem to be in their eyes.

Such a repulse the disciples could not help regarding as an intolerable offence. These Samaritans, men who should have accounted it as the highest honour put upon them that the Messiah should offer to stop at their town, propose to arrest His triumphal march! Most especially did this rouse the indignation of the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who generally at this time seemed to be burning with a fiery zeal for the honour of their Master. We may imagine that strains of ancient Messianic prophecy were resounding in their soul, such as those of the psalm: ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye doors of the world; that the King of glory may come in!’ and that they might remember the admonition addressed to the gainsayers of the Lord’s Anointed, ‘Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way!’ They recollected the judgments which holy Elijah had called down upon the gainsayers of Jehovah’s honour;—these gainsayers of their Lord seemed to them to have in a yet higher degree merited the judgments of God. Under an impulse of lofty zeal they came to Jesus, and proposed that they should speak words of prophet-power, drawing down from heaven fire and destroying these men, in the same way as Elijah had done.

Jesus had already turned His back upon that village for the purpose of quietly pursuing His journey, when they thus sought to summon Him to the work of retributive punishment. He therefore turned Himself round and asked them, ‘Know ye not of what spirit ye are the children?’2

This question proved a salutary warning to them. The spirit of passionate zeal departed from them, overcome by the might of His spirit of gentle holy patience. They had not only mistaken the spirit of Christ; they had misapprehended also the spirit in which Elijah had formerly wrought. For the time of Elijah was different from that of Christ. In the stern zeal which marked the personal character of Elijah, that prophet had, however, dimly descried the spirit of Christ, and had done homage to it (1 Kings 19.) But in his official ministration he had with implicit self-surrender served the Spirit of God; and the Spirit of God judged it needful to save the Old Testament theocracy from the overthrow which threatened it by severe judgments. These disciples, on the contrary, were now seeking to bring the spirit of Christ in subserviency to that zealotry of theirs which they imagined to be the same impulse of divine power as that under which Elijah had acted. Nevertheless their Lord is not unaware that His spirit has begun to work in them; only, this spirit is darkened by that zeal for His worldly honour which is just now hurrying them away. He therefore calls them to self-recollection: they must reflect what spirit they are the children of: they must reflect upon their deepest spiritual experiences;—in the light of these they would perceive that their present tone of feeling was utterly antagonistic to that new cast of sentiment which claimed to be a fundamental principle of action, and which in the innermost depths of their being was beginning to dawn as the working of His spirit. What that spirit was, He characterized by the words, ‘The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s souls, but to save them.’

They now turned to another village, in which they met with a kinder reception. It is not said that this village was a Samaritan one; but, at all events, there is no doubt that it was a village on the borders between Galilee and Samaria.



1. The offers of discipleship which Luke here (vers. 57-62) brings into connection with the anecdote respecting the sons of Zebedee, we have already considered (above, p. 142).

2. Stier thoughtfully reminds us, that the same John who would now fain have so severely punished the Samaritans, ‘was afterwards constrained to call down upon them, by the efficacy of his apostolic prayer, the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit.’



1) So Wieseler, p. 324 seqq., explains the passage. His interpretation appears to us (eyen after considering the objections of Stier, iii, 474) to be preferable to that which is commonly given, both in respect to the grammatical construction and with reference to the connection, But, however, we cannot altogether confine to Galilee the decline of popular acceptance which is here indicated, any more than we can concur in the chronological inference which Wieseler draws from it, as supposing that through this interpretation the hypothesis is established that the Evangelist is not here speaking of the last journey which our Lord took. The author has since seen cause to abandon Wieseler’s interpretation and to accept Stier's. His reasons are given below, Book III. Part iii, see. 15, first foot-note—ED.]

2) This question of Jesus is wanting in some manuscripts. It is, however, not likely that no answer of Jesus was recorded (cp. Stier, iii. 470). The addition, For the Son of man, &c., is certainly less authenticated.