As I mentioned yesterday, Sunday’s Gospel lesson is a tricky one. It is a lesson full of apocalyptic imagery, difficult teaching, and enmity. I’ll deal with that portion of it more in the days to come, but what I’m drawn to this morning is a glimpse into what brings Jesus to this point of seeming frustration. Jesus gives us a clue as he begins this diatribe by turning his attention to himself, saying, “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!”
This journey from Mount Tabor where Jesus was Transfigured and enjoyed fellowship with Moses and Elijah to Jerusalem where he will turn the tables in the Temple, engage in intense debate, and ultimately be arrested, abandoned by his closest disciples, tortured, and killed has been going on for quite some time, and there is a pretty good hike left to go. For days on end, Jesus has been thinking about what is to come, wondering how it will all play out, but certain that death on a cross is just over the horizon.
Jesus has been stressed out for as long as he can remember, and here lets his disciples know that he is ready for this period of intense pressure to be over. Here we find Jesus in his full humanity; feeling the effects of long term stress just like we all do. High blood pressure, lack of sleep, upset stomach, headache, trouble focusing, irritability, and even a speeding up of the aging process are all effects of ongoing stress in someone’s life.
Jesus is clearly ready for this very long walk to Jerusalem to be over, but there is still more to come. More teachings. More healing. More parables. More encounters with the least and the lost. More controversy with the religious powers-that-be. The road to Jerusalem is long and winding, and today, we see Jesus at his most vulnerable and yet his most determined. He may wish the fire was already kindled and the waters of baptism already troubled, but he can read the signs, he knows that his hour has not yet come, and so he will continue on, faithfully proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.