Teaching on Tolerance
56. Teaching on Tolerance
The first thing we need to understand here is that the Jews and the Samaritans were not chums. The Samaritans, who practiced a hybrid form of Judaism, were considered at best “half-Jews” by the Israelites and were no doubt discriminated against.
Now suppose the Samaritans of this village had heard about Jesus and believed the common misperception that he had come to ring in the apocalypse, where the wheat is separated from the chaff, and chaff is all burned up. Who would the Samaritans be in that analogy? Chaff. How eager would they have been to receive Jesus? Not very.
So the disciples, being offended, want to know if Jesus wants to burn up those nasty Samaritans right then and there (yet more proof that they could not shake the apocalyptic expectation). Of course Jesus does not want to do that at all, because that is not consistent with the spirit of God, which is the spirit of wholeness, not divisiveness, and which desires mercy, not sacrifice. The disciples are ignorant of the true spirit of God, the very spirit that animates their lives. Hence Jesus’ rebuke: Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
[See also “Teaching on Tolerance,” Commentary 10-52.]