Change of Plans: Matthew 19:1-2
“1) When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2) and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.” Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭
A major geographical relocation now takes place for Jesus and His disciples. He is now bound for Jerusalem from Galilee. To fill in the details of the journey, we must slip over to the book of Luke.
Luke 9:51-56 deals with this same journey but adds significant details. Verses 51 says; “And when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
It appears from the next three verses in Luke 9:52-54 that Jesus intended to travel through Samaria, but they did not receive Him because He was traveling with His face toward Jerusalem. It appears that He had actually sent a few messengers ahead of Him in an attempt to make special travel arrangements, but the efforts failed.
This was the occasion that James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans and Jesus had to rebuke them. It is noteworthy what He said to them in Luke 9:55-56; “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
It amazes me how quickly those in ministry can turn on the very people God has called them to love and reach. They totally missed the meaning of His parable on forgiveness at the end of chapter 18. It takes extra love and patience to build bridges rather than walls with people who initially oppose our mission.
How did Jesus respond? Matthew 19:1 says; “… He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.” In other words, He changed His travel plans. They crossed the Jordan river and took the east route so as not to pass through Samaria. It added some time and distance, but they were able to avoid undo conflict.
Let’s take a moment and ponder this event. It was such a small ordeal that Matthew didn’t even record the tension. This speaks volumes of the calm and flexible demeanor of Jesus. He simply switched to plan B, but James and John were indignant. They became angry and vengeful.
Keep in mind, these two were recently on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and saw Moses and Elijah. They were ready to employ some “Elijah ministry technique.” They were ready to call fire down from heaven.
But there’s more to the story. Within weeks, just before His ascension according to Acts 1:8, Jesus commissioned His disciples to carry the gospel to “… Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotes parts of the earth.” Can you imagine the doors James and John would have permanently closed in Samaria had Jesus not restrained their anger?
This is no small issue! Our attitudes and actions toward other people affects the spread of the gospel. Later in 2 Corinthians 6:3, Paul would admonish believers to “give no offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited.”
Jesus was patient, loving and flexible because He had an eye on future open doors and fruitfulness in Samaria. The timing for Samaria was not right. Don’t let your anger or small perspective build walls or burn bridges for the gospel!
As a side note, I’m amazed at the change Jesus made in John over time. He was changed from being one of the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), to becoming the Apostle of Love.
So what happened as a result of plan B? Matthew 19:2 is amazing! It says “and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.” Luke 10:1-16 adds huge details. It indicates that ministry became so fruitful that Jesus sent out the seventy to go ahead of Him.
So it’s time for a little chat about closed doors. Because the door to Samaria closed, huge doors opened in Judea! Jesus didn’t skip a beat or sulk over the closed door. He just continued to minister to people in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
When God closes one door it’s because He wants to open a different door. Walking by faith invites Jesus to take the drivers seat. Plans might change but ministry remains fruitful when we realign ourselves with God. Jesus displayed amazing flexibility without becoming irritable. I love this story in the life and ministry of Jesus. Unfortunately, I’m often more like James and John, but God is working in me!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global