I again ponder how some people view Jesus in ways that paint him and his gospel in sweet pastels, denying the division he brings and the urgency of decision he requires. You wonder if they have ever even read the gospels. Here, Jesus makes some remarkable statements about his purpose for coming: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” Jesus was not running away from the cross; he was running to it! And his person and message is like fire that divides men; it refines those who receive it, and burns up those who reject it. Jesus even divides the closest of family ties. Jesus was desperate to fulfill the divine plan which he and his Father established from the beginning, to save a people from their sins and from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). God is real; His Son’s passion was real; the gospel message is true; that message divides; some will receive and others reject; those decisions are the difference between eternal life and eternal death; those decisions will necessarily affect our lives as we must reject the things of this world – and the world will not appreciate it. If you are one who thinks that Jesus came to bring us all together into one big happy family, everyone doing their own thing – please read the gospels for yourself.
Then comes the urgency. Jesus mocks the hypocrites among the crowd: You are good meteorologists, but you are poor prophets! The Son of the very God you say you worship is standing before you and you can’t see it. The gospel that prophets, kings, and priests of olden times longed to hear is preached in your ears, and you can’t discern it. Open your eyes and ears and plow the parched ground of your hearts. The Kingdom of God is at hand. And if it was near then, how much closer must it be today (Romans 13:11). So the time in which we live is rightly called a time of grace; that is, until he returns, and then comes judgment. Now is the time to settle accounts. Yes, even we believers have sins in our lives that must be rooted out before he returns, not because we fear hell, but because we fear shame when we stand before the One who ran to the cross to save us (1 John 2:28).
Jesus cast fire onto the earth; it’s burning and separating people from one another even now; and one day, fire shall be cast onto the earth again (Revelation 8:5), and there shall be a great separation, and many will be cast into the fire (Revelation 20:15). Sweet pastels, indeed.