“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Luke 12:49-56, NRSV)
This is the gospel of our Lord! It was hard for me as a pastor to say that after reading this text this morning, because upon first hearing and thought process there is not much good new to be heard here. Jesus tells us that He has come to bring fire to the earth and He wishes it was already here. And then He goes on to tell us that He didn’t come to bring peace but division!
So the second destruction of the earth is coming by fire and Jesus is going to set this place ablaze. And not only that, but He is going to cause families to be at odds with each other. So just where is the good news. You read a text like this and you want to run to the other texts for the day and see what they have…
But hold on. Is the problem we have with what Jesus says here the texts fault, or something within us?
The text has done nothing wrong, and Jesus is getting His feelings out. He has done this before when tables are over turned in the temple. He has done some harsh things…
So what is this fire? We saw this earlier in Luke when the disciples asked Jesus if they should call for fire to rain down from heaven on the Samaritan village… It could be the second destruction of the world. God gave us the rainbow to tell us He would never again destroy the world with water, but that left every other element up for grabs.
The thing we need to look at here is what the context of this text is. This text is part of the journey to Jerusalem. Jesus has set His face towards Jerusalem and the cross. And this text is part of that. So in the whole grand scheme of things, this is before the cross…
So what if this fire, is not destruction? What if this fire is the inhabiting of all of the earth by the fire baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes on Pentecost? You see Jesus has not died, or risen yet in Luke, so Pentecost has not happened. What if this fire that Jesus is bringing is the coming Holy Spirit, and how He wishes it was already blazing on the earth and in the hearts of all men? He wishes this was so, because he is going to the baptism of His death.
And because of this He is stressed. Did you hear that? Jesus is stressed because He s going to be killed. To me, that right there is the good news! Jesus understand the stress of having to do something or face something. He came to earth and became human and understands what it is to feel stressed. He gets what we go through. And He understands what it can do to your life.
So do not think of the fire as destruction, but as the coming Spirit, and know that no matter what you are facing, Jesus has seen what it is like to be stressed, and it will all be something you can make it through with Him at your side!