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(Read this series from its beginning here.)
The language of baptism (immersion) is also a metaphor for the concrete hardship or distress that Jesus’ protest and speaking out could possibly cause. In this passage we are reading of a Jesus who is in distress on one level but also resolute and embracing the reality that he will cause division and the personal cost that will involve. He doesn’t wish to avoid it but rather wishes that it was already over.
It’s also noteworthy that the divisiveness that Jesus is talking about will thoroughly permeate his society’s social structures, all the way to the family unit. The family unit in 1st Century Judea and Galilee was the central economic and social structure of Jesus’ society.
Our reading this week calls to mind times when we have also had to make decisions about speaking out against things we feel are unjust or harmful and facing division or controversy as a result. How many times have we found ourselves in a situation where doing what we feel is right or speaking out would involve a personal cost?
I think of whistleblowers who have to make these difficult decisions.
I think, too, of social truth tellers in religious and nonreligious contexts who suffer personally because they chose to speak truth rather than silently go along with things they knew were harmful.
I don’t quote Leo Tolstoy very often anymore, but this week’s reading reminds me of a statement that I love. We’ll begin with that quotation, next.
(Read Part 3)