The passage can be read here.
This reading marks the end of chapter 12 of Luke’s Gospel and so we are roughly half way through! If you are new to reading the Bible and you have managed most of the days – well done. It would be nice to have a nice easy passage but sadly that is not the case today, instead, we have come to one of those ‘contradictions’ that allegedly make up so much of the Bible’s content.
We have already read in chapter 1 that Jesus would; “guide our feet into the path of peace” (1:79), how can Jesus now say; “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” As always, in difficult passages, there is more than one view held by Christians but unless we are start spending a lot more time on the passage; we only have time for one view today.
Jesus said; “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (v50). We know that Jesus had already been baptised by John (3:21) so the baptism he was talking about was not being baptised in water. We know too, that he was ‘distressed until it was completed’. The Greek word ‘baptizo’ found in the verse means to plunge or submerge, it’s one of the reasons we believe in baptising in water by total immersion, but Jesus had already been plunged into water. When we put this together with his words in Mark’s Gospel; “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?” (Mark 10:38), it becomes clear that Jesus is referring to the cross, where he will be plunged into suffering.
Just before John baptised Jesus in the Jordan, he said that while he baptised with water, Messiah (Jesus) would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. In my view, and I could be wrong, the fire Jesus was talking about was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. So, after Jesus was baptised into suffering (on the cross), he brought fire on the earth (the baptism of the Spirit upon the Church in Acts 2) and this caused a division between those who responded positively to the good news of the kingdom and became Christians and those who rejected the message. The division remains today, the only question is, which side are you on?
In this last section, Jesus contrasted the way people could anticipate changes in the weather (I suspect this is a lot easier in the Middle East where weather patterns are generally settled than they are in Wales where we can have four seasons in a single day), and yet totally unable or unwilling, to see that the spiritual climate had changed. It was possible to act on the appearance of a cloud in the west and yet Messiah was right there, proclaiming the good news and spelling out that the alternative was to face God’s judgement.
Lord we thank you that Jesus was prepared to undergo this terrible baptism that we can be set free. May we constantly follow Jesus and respond appropriately to your word. We pray for opportunities today to share this good news with others.