When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.Luke 9:51-56
Then the king sent a captain with his company of fifty men after Elijah. The prophet was seated on a hilltop when he found him. He said, “Man of God, the king commands you, ‘Come down.’” Elijah answered the captain, “Well, if I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men. The king sent another captain with his company of fifty men after Elijah. He shouted up and said, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down immediately!’” Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And divine fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.2 Kings 1:9-12
With rumors circulating that Elijah had arisen again in Jesus of Nazareth, James and John naturally lunged with the fiery spirit of the Tishbite in the face of Samaritan contempt.
Jesus was a prophet of an entirely different order, however. While rebuking authorities who were leading his sheep to destruction, he also refrained from the use of violence toward those who rejected him. Jesus’ actions surely appeared unfathomable and unpredictable to his disciples. The Son of Man who is the Son of God could not be put into a box.
The New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Luke 9:51-56 offers this insight:
In this episode Jesus disassociates himself from the attitude expressed by his disciples that those who reject him are to be punished severely. The story alludes to 2 Kgs 1:10, 12 where the prophet Elijah takes the course of action Jesus rejects, and Jesus thereby rejects the identification of himself with Elijah.
Note: In an earlier post, emphasis was placed on Jesus’ attitude to foreigners. However, the point of contrast between Jesus and Elijah mainly concerns the use of violence. Elijah also transcended ethnic boundaries by healing Naaman the Syrian.