The Sons of Thunder Get an Attitude Adjustment

Bible Book: Luke  9 : 46-56
Subject: Attitude; Unity; Love; Christian Living

A young father in a supermarket was pushing a shopping cart with his little son, who was strapped  in the front. The little boy was fussing, irritable, and crying. The other shoppers gave the pair a wide berth because the child would pull cans off the shelf and throw them out of the cart. The father seemed to be very calm; as he continued down each aisle, he murmured gently: "Easy now, Donald. Keep calm, Donald. Steady boy. It's all right, Donald."

A mother who was passing by was greatly impressed by this young father's solicitous attitude. She said, "You certainly know how to talk to an upset child—quietly and gently."

And then bending down to the little boy, she said, "What seems to be the trouble, Donald?"

"Oh no," said the father. "He's Henry. I'm Donald." (John Huffman, "The Fruit of the Spirit Is Patience,"

Many of us are like Donald. We know our attitudes need a lot of work.

Mark 3:17 says that when Jesus chose the twelve disciples, he chose two hot-heads named James and John, whom he nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder.”

I don’t think Jesus chose the twelve disciples because they were the best. If they were the best, why would He choose a loud mouth like Peter who would deny Him, a doubter like Thomas, and a traitor like Judas Iscariot? I think He chose them so He could shape them and mold them. Two of the men

He had to work on the most were James and John.

Let’s look and see how Jesus gave them an attitude adjustment. But watch out! As you listen in, God may work an attitude adjustment on you, too.

I. Attitude Toward Other Church Members (9:46-48).

A. Wrong Attitude - Arrogance And Jealousy

The first attitude that we examine is the attitude toward fellow church members. Notice in v. 46 that “an argument started among the disciples.” How sad when God’s own people can’t get along.

Why were they having an argument? It was about “which of them would be the greatest.” It sounds petty, but I’ve seen people get angry and leave a church because they didn’t get elected deacon or didn’t feel they were recognized enough for their service in their church.

Who started this argument? According to Mark 10:35-45, James and John asked Jesus to let them have the greatest position and sit at his right and left side, and the other disciples were jealous   when they heard about it. More than likely, they didn’t learn their lesson, and kept bringing this up. We even read in Luke 22:24, just as Jesus is about to go to the cross, that the disciples are arguing again about who is the greatest.

B. Right Attitude - Honor The Gifts Of The Least

Jesus took a little child in v. 48, to illustrate the right attitude. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me,” Jesus said. “And whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” There is no unimportant person in the church. Christ dwells in us all. So we should treat every  church member with honor and consider them useful.

Jesus said, “For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Jesus turned all of our worldly values upside down. He was saying that we should all be humble, like a little child. The proud person is not the greatest. The humble person is the greatest.

Billy Graham has always been like that. The world considers him important, but he’s humble. I heard a story about how Billy Graham was returning home after a speaking engagement. When his plane arrived at the airport, there was a long black limousine to transport him. Just as he was about to get in the back of the limo, he stopped. He whispered to the driver who was holding the door open for him. "You know" he said, "I am 87 years old and I have never driven a limousine. Would you mind if I drove it for a while?"

The driver said, "No problem. Have at it."

Billy got into the driver's seat and then he headed out to the interstate.

Lurking behind an exit ramp a short distance from the airport, sat a rookie State Trooper operating his first speed trap.

The long black limo went by him doing 70 in a 55 mph zone. The trooper pulled out in pursuit and easily caught the limo. He pulled up behind, and got out of his North Carolina State patrol car. The young trooper walked up to the driver's door. When the glass was rolled down he was very surprised to see who was driving. Trying desperately to maintain his professional attitude, he immediately excused himself and walked back to his car and called his supervisor.

He told the supervisor, "I know we are supposed to enforce the law but I also know that important people are given certain courtesies. I need to know what I should do because I have stopped a very important person."

The supervisor asked, "Is it the governor?"

The young trooper said, "No, he's more important than that." The supervisor said, "Oh, so it's the president."

The young trooper said, "No, he's even more important than that." The supervisor finally asked, "Well then, who is it?"

The young trooper said, "I think its Jesus because he's got Billy Graham for a chauffeur!" (Source of story unknown.)

So if you get to sing solos in church or preach before hundreds of people, don’t think you’re so important—God put you there, and God can remove you. And don’t think you are unimportant if you work behind the scenes in the church kitchen or church nursery or teaching three-year-olds in Sunday School. God says you’re the greatest! Treat everybody like they’re Jesus and they’ve got Billy Graham for a chauffeur!

II. Attitude Toward Other Christians (9:49-50)

A. Wrong Attitude - Stop Them

In verse 49, we meet John again. This time he’s got a bad attitude about the Presbyterians and the Pentecostals. He tells Jesus, “We saw a man driving out demons in your name…” Now that part lets us know that this guy is a follower of Jesus. Yet John says, “and we tried to stop him.” Why would John stop him? Here’s the answer: “Because he is not one of us.”

“Not one of us.” How often do we have that attitude? They may worship Jesus Christ, but they don’t do it like we do it. They sing out of a different hymnal, or worse yet, they don’t even use hymnals! Did you hear about such and such church? Their preachers wear robes on Sundays and collars around their necks on Mondays. And this other church: They have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. And then there’s the church down the highway: They have bongo drums and no organ. They dance in church. Heathens!

And then there’s the church where all of the people look different from us and dress differently from us and talk differently than us. “They are not like us. Tell them to stop, Jesus!”

Verse 40 does not say that John stopped him. It says, “we tried to stop him.” Can you just picture the scene? Some Magdalene Methodist is over on the other side of the valley casting out demons. John comes up and sees this guy laying his hands on a demon-possessed man and saying, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out of him!” John runs over and says, “Who do you think you are?”

“I’m the Methodist from Magdala. I’m healing this man in Jesus’ name.” “You can’t do that!”

“I just did.”

“But you’re not one of the twelve.”

“So? Magdala is in Galilee. Aren’t you guys from Galilee, too? Does Jesus have an affirmative action plan that forbids any new apostles being from Galilee?”

John doesn’t know what affirmative action is, so he leaves the guy and goes to complain to Jesus.

Years ago at my previous church, I had this kind of sorry attitude. A church member at the Baptist church that I served had a family member who was director of the student choir at Lee University, a Church of God school in Tennessee. The choir was traveling through, and she wanted the choir to sing at our church. I told her no, because they weren’t a Baptist choir! I deeply hurt their feelings because I was afraid to let a group of Christians who weren’t exactly like us sing in our church.

Now, I’m still a Baptist to the bone. I’m Baptist bred and Baptist fed, and when I die I’ll be Baptist dead. I believe that Baptists are the closest to the Bible of any denomination. But over the years, God has shown me that we Baptists aren’t the only people who love Jesus.

B. Right Attitude - Encourage Them

Jesus’ reply to John in v. 50 was, “Do not stop him.” By the way, John couldn’t have stopped him anyway. Notice that Jesus made it a relationship issue for you. John said “he is not one of us.” Jesus said “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

We don’t have to agree with other Christians on every point of theology to love and encourage other Christians. There was a big article in the newspaper the other day about the Greek Orthodox Church that opened on Fort Howard Rd. We have some differences; they are very formal in their worship style, but they preach from the same Bible that we use, and they believe in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The other day I met a man who is starting a Pentecostal church in a trailer in Rincon. They shout a lot at their church. But they preach from the same Bible that we use, and they believe in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. And you know something? Those Greek Orthodox are going to reach some people in their gold dome church building, and those Pentecostals are going to reach some people in their trailer that we won’t reach. So we don’t need to stop them; we need to encourage them.

III. Attitude Toward Unbelievers (9:51-56)

A. Wrong Attitude - Destroy Them

Verse 51 says that Jesus resolved that it was time to head to Jerusalem, where He would die for our sins on the cross. He sent messengers on ahead to a Samaritan village, and verse 53 says, “the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.”

These people weren’t fellow church members. They weren’t even Christians from a different denomination. They were outright unbelievers. They were lost.

So here come the Sons of Thunder again in verse 54. Look at what happens: “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?’” No wonder Jesus called them the “Sons of Thunder.”

James and John were thought they were imitating the prophet Elijah. According to 2 Kings 1, Elijah was approached by soldier who wanted to capture him, and Elijah called down fire from heaven and consumed the soldiers.

Verse 55 says that Jesus rebuked them. The Sons of Thunder needed to cool their heels. They thought they were like Elijah, but they were really like Jonah. Jonah had preached that Nineveh would be destroyed, and the Ninevites repented. Jonah got a good seat on the edge of town so he could watch the fire come down from Heaven and destroy Nineveh, and when God decided to spare them, Jonah pouted.

Unfortunately, there are still Sons of Thunder in the church today. They show up at gay pride parades with signs that say, “God hates fags.” They throw blood on abortion doctors and bomb abortion clinics. And then they wonder why the world thinks Christians are right-wing fanatics.

Yes, we are opposed to the homosexual agenda, not because God hates homosexuals, but because God loves homosexuals and has a better plan for their lives. Yes, we are opposed to abortion, not because we hate abortionists, but because we hate what abortion does not women and how it destroys the unborn. But for so long, the world has heard so much about what we are against that they don’t know what we are for.

B. Right Attitude - Reach Out To Them (See Acts 8:14-17)

Some Greek manuscripts have additional words in v. 55 that say, “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.” Although this statement is not in the most reliable Greek manuscripts, it certainly reflects the heart of Jesus.

Verse 56 says that instead of blasting those Samaritans who rejected Him, Jesus “went to another village.”

When Jim Elliott and Nate Saint and the other missionaries made contact with a remote Indian tribe in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador and decided to go in and meet them, Saint’s son asked, “If they attack you, will you shoot them?” His father responds, “No, they’re not ready to go to Heaven yet.”

Unlike the Sons of Thunder who were willing to destroy the Samaritan village, these missionaries were willing to give up their own lives rather than kill the Indians who had not yet heard the gospel.

And although James and John had the wrong attitude about the Samaritan village, God changed their attitude. Acts 8:14-17 says that the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaritans had accepted the gospel of Christ, so they sent a two-man committee to check it out. Who did the send? Peter and John! Yes, the same John who had wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village years before.

John and Peter arrived and prayed for them. God had delayed the Holy Spirit coming upon them. Why? I believe it was because God wanted John to see what real fire falling looked like.


So how’s your attitude? How is your attitude toward your fellow church members? Have you felt put down by another member? Have you looked down on another member? Do you need to get it right today? Do you need to go to another member and ask for forgiveness for your attitude?

How’s your attitude toward fellow Christians? Do you have a neighbor or co-worker who believes in the same Jesus? Have you made fun of his faith, or do you encourage him? Do you need to go to them tomorrow and ask for forgiveness for a wrong attitude?


And how is your attitude toward the lost? Have you argued with them and looked down on them? Or do you have a heart broken over their lostness? Will you share with your lost friend your testimony? If you do, you may see Holy Spirit fire fall. And then you’ll be a son or daughter of thunder.