Summary: Jesus speaks of his commission to bring fire to the earth and division to human society. He criticizes his listeners for failing to be able to discern the true character of the present age. His words are sharp, his imagery frightening. At the heart of the passage, however, is Jesus’ expression of his own ardent desire to see justice flourish in the world. The time is now to commit oneself to that, for this season of repentance means that Jesus is urgently calling his hearers to align themselves with God’s priorities. Here, at the thresholds of our own looming mortality and the promised arrival of God’s kingdom in all its fullness, we have an opportunity to share in God’s commitment to remake the whole landscape of human well-being.
I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.