Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine
The mission of the Son of Man, which is the subject of the first part of this speech, is related to a theme established early in the Gospel: John the Baptist talking about the fire. John said, "He will be like a burning fire…" This beginning is related to the theme of the mission of judgment and purging that John the Baptist identified. This is a very Baptist episode focused on the mission of the Son of Man, the mission of Jesus to establish the kingdom of God.
The second part describes the impact of this new government. One of the themes that runs through the whole of the Gospel of Luke is that the government or rule of God, the coming of the Son of Man, will establish peace. Thus, in the birth narrative, the angels announce peace. That is a dimension of the story throughout the Gospel, but in this instance Jesus is talking about a dimension of the mission that will not bring peace but rather division—division in households, division between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters and mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. That division is around whether or not people will believe in and follow Jesus and will believe in the government of God and change their lives in relation to that new reality.
What Jesus describes has happened throughout the history of Christianity and the history of the world ever since. There have been divisions over Jesus, divisions over what does the government of God mean, resulting in various Christian denominations. There has been division in families. It happened in my family, it happens in many families. Two things that people can't talk about in families are politics and religion because people get into big fights. Jesus is describing a reality of our experience.
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