Jesus’ words do not always come to us in seeming gentleness and with hope, but convicting and with warning…….unless we are able to read with hearts that are open to his own heart, with minds that desire to know his own mind. I’m preaching on this text Sunday. Over and over again he called the religious elite hypocrits…… I’m preaching on how the Pharisees lost sight of the promises to and purpose of the Chosen people of God. Part of the covenant was to bless all the families of the earth with the blessings promised to Abraham, but the religious elite wanted a preferential status, political and military dominion, exclusivity for the Jews and themselves, in particular.
I would suggest to you that the fire that Jesus says he came to kindle, is the fire of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people….in fact, the fire is already present with us since his resurrection and is among us doing its refining work. The work of division and the lack of peace that Jesus said he would bring is already at work within the hearts of individuals who are struggling with and seeking the Truth. It is within families, between nations and between religious, social and political factions. The faithful and obedient spiritual children of Abraham are already being winnowed out from the faithless and unproductive who are not the children of the promises. Jesus says, as surely as the clouds foretell rain and the south wind promises heat, their legalistic, nationalistic, judgmental, and self-serving ways and lack of understanding of the spirit of the law of love will be their downfall. May we, the church today, heed the warning and learn the lesson of Christ’s words to the Pharisees and claim the promises of the Covenant to ourselves and our children through faith and obedience.
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”