Sunday

'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!' (vs 49-50)

Luke 12:49-56 Sunday 14 August 2022

Psalm 82

Background

I always find that this passage starts a bit abruptly, almost like someone walking into a quiet room and suddenly shouting. In my experience people very rarely just walk into a room and start shouting for no reason, there is always something that leads up to it.

This passage is not a beginning without any back story, it is part of something much larger. The central part of Luke’s Gospel, 9:51-19:44, is often called ‘The Travel Narrative’ as it details the journey Jesus takes that will eventually lead to his crucifixion. Despite what lay ahead, Jesus used this journey to teach his disciples and the crowds, and also to heal the sick.

In today's short passage we get a rare insight into pressures that Jesus was under. He has been sent to start a metaphorical fire in the world; this fire is the gospel message, the good news of God, but it is frequently rejected and, more often than not, even the disciples don’t really get what Jesus is saying. It is no wonder that Jesus wished the fire was already burning well and that he didn’t have to keep building it.

The message that Jesus brought was always going to be divisive. The people's idea of the Messiah was a person who was going to restore the fortunes of Israel, unite all the people, and bring a time of eternal prosperity. But this was not the message or mission of Jesus, and it was the cause of division as some accepted his teaching and some rejected it.

It is no wonder that Jesus spoke about the stress he was under, although the word that the NRSV translates as stress would probably be best translated as ‘being caught between a rock and a hard place’. He was caught between the unbelieving people, who can recognise the signs in the weather but not the message of God, and the baptism he was facing, which in this context was the end of his journey and Calvary.

 To Ponder:

  • Think of a difficult journey that you have been on (physical or emotional). Maybe the journey itself was difficult or perhaps what was waiting at the destination made it difficult. How did you cope with it and could you recognise God helping or guiding you through it?
  • Even though it was difficult, Jesus never faltered in his journey. How can we continue Jesus’ journey in a world that doesn’t want to hear the message?
  • During this week pick one person to pray for and ask God for an opportunity to share the gospel with them.

Prayer

Dear Lord, we appeal to you for strength. Help us choose the vocation set for us. Help us take up our daily burden and navigate the hazards of this life. Help us manage the burdens upon our backs and see us safely to the other side, where we shall receive our promised reward. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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