Jesus is the Son of Man
Peace or Division?
All right! Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 12.
I want to start us off by asking a question. Are we called to mimic Jesus in everything He did? Are we called to imitate Him in everything He is called to?
Before we look at our passage this morning and see why I am asking that question, we first look at the context of Luke chapter 12. Luke has been ensuring that we ate focusing on the things that He tells us to focus on. He is telling us to focus not on the earthly, the temporary. He tells us not to have a fear of man. He tells us that Eat, drink and be merry is the wrong worldview. Instead, focus on the eternal, on the heavenly. Have a fear of God. Be faithful to what God has called us to do.
And we see in scriptures that God tells us what he wants us to do.
Teach them to obey all that Christ commanded.
Speak the Truth in Love
Love God and Love your Neighbor.
What He doesn’t call us to do is to save people. That’s the Holy Spirits job. He doesn’t call us to heal the sick, though some had been given that gift. He doesn’t call us to die on the cross as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins. That was what Jesus was called to do.
And I will contend that we are not called to wield a metaphorical sword and act divisively. Paul writes in a few places that as much as it is possible, we are to live at peace with each other. One of the qualifications of elders in 1 Timothy 3 is that he must be well thought of by outsiders.
And so, with all that, the questions begs itself, what do we do with this passage this morning?
Let’s go ahead and read it and look deep at it. We will be reading Luke chapter 12, verses 49-53. I will, as always, be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.
Luke 12:49-53, Luke records Jesus words:
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
May God Bless the Reading of His Word.
All right, so first of all, I want us to remember the context within which Jesus said this. WE just looked at a passage where Jesus said that faithful servants would be rewarded and that the unfaithful would be punished.
And so, we know immediately that sin will be punished. We also know that Jesus is the judge, the one who will judge sin. He is the one who will judge, who will determine whether we enter Heaven or Hell for eternity.
And so, Jesus says here that he is to cast fire on the earth, he is talking about divine judgment. The salvation He offers is the salvation from His wrath poured out over the sins we commit against Him. Hell, the Lake of Fire is not the devil’s domain. He doesn’t rule down there. God created it and rules over it. Jesus is King, not only of Heaven, but of Hell as well. He is sovereign over ALL of his creation.
He is saying, be prepared, be ready, eternal judgment is coming. And the fire will come through. He will cast fire on the earth. And Fire destroys the temporary. It destroys the exact thing we have been being warned by Jesus not to put our trust in, because it will all go away.
We see the correlation between Jesus’ baptism and the fire of judgment as well. John the Baptist, earlier in Luke, chapter 3, verses 16 & 17, he says:
“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Baptism is also a symbol of death and rebirth. We are baptized, in part, to show our identity with Christ dying, going beneath the surface, and raising up from the dead, out of the water in our case. It is pointing to the crucifixion. It is a sign of death and resurrection. A sign of judgment and rebirth. In our cases, a symbol, a representation of us being spiritually born again.
And we get a glimpse here of Jesus’ heart. We see the desires of his heart. Jesus knows what he is going to go through. We see the night before his death, He is praying hard and asking God the Father that if there were any other way, to do that instead. He knows the pain and the wrath that He is going to feel.
But He also knows why. He knows what it will accomplish. He knows that our souls and our eternal destinies are at stake. He knows that the cross is how His people will be brought to Him. And he longs for it to have already happened.
You ever have one of those things that you want so much, all of your focus and energy and attention is on accomplishing that one thing. You are so looking forward to it that you want it to have already been done, already been accomplished. “I want this so much; I wish I already had it!” Not wishing to skip ahead and have it in your hands without all the work and preparation and all that that needs to go into it. But looking forward to that time when you come have it and look back on it.
Jesus longed for the redemption and salvation of his people to have already occurred. He wished for and longed for the Consummation of Gods Kingdom here on earth to have already occurred.
Kent Hughes says it this way:
Through his baptism, all who believed in him would be regenerated, born of the Spirit, made eternally alive as eternal sons and daughters of God (cf. John 1:12, 13; 3:3-6)- and he longed for that. They would be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth- and He longed for that. They would no longer be alone (cf. John 14:16, 17)- and he longed for that. They would be sealed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment insuring their eternal inheritance. They would enjoy eternal life now (cf. Ephesians 1:13,14; 4:30)- and he longed for that. They would be sanctified, made holy by the Spirits fiery work of internal soul purification. He would melt their hearts, so to speak, and skim away the impure dross from their souls so they could mirror His holy image- and he longed for that. And ultimately their lives would be ignited, they would become incendiary. Pentecostal fire would flame from their lives, the Spirit of burning would rest above their willing heads, and the fire would spread- and he longed for that.
Jesus is saying that he longed for all that was going to happen to have already happened. And he was in great distress until it would.
And then he says something that goes against, or at least seems to go against, everything that the disciples and all Israel was expecting form its coming Messiah. They wanted and expected peace. They wanted peace within their borders, and a strong border and a strong king and leader ensuring peace with their neighbors. The coming Messiah was the Prince of Peace. The angels declared on the night Jesus was born, Peace and goodwill to all whom his favor rests upon.
And with all of this known and expected, Jesus says, I have not come to bring peace, but to bring division. So, again, I ask, what do we do with that? Once again, we look at the two hermeneutic rules of interpreting scripture. First, scripture always interprets scripture. Second, we let the clear passages of scripture interpret the unclear passages. So, we take what we know from scripture and use that to inform what we are not sure about.
First of all, Jesus was not talking here about interpersonal conflicts. He was not talking about one-on-one interactions. He tells the crowds during the sermon on the mount, blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Sons of God. Alastair Begg says at this point:
Clearly Jesus did not advocate conflict. He didn’t put together a group of individuals who were going to be insurrectionists. In fact, he taught his disciples that at least in terms of their personal conduct, retaliation was not an option for them.
And he is not saying that we should be divisive. The Gospel is offensive in and of itself. Scripture attests to that. It is a stumbling block, and it convicts sin and people will get offended at that. But while the Gospel is offensive, we are never called to be offensive. We have to be careful that we don’t use this verse or others like it as an excuse to be a jerk or to offend others.
Instead, we are called to sow the seeds of the Gospel. We are to live at peace with those around us. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to speak the truth in love and are given a ministry of reconciliation.
We are, in fact, called to be ambassadors for Christ. Think about what an ambassador does, what he is called to do. He does not lay down ultimatums. He does not wage or declare war. He does not decide who is a friendly and who is an enemy of the person they are speaking on behalf of. Their job is to present the message and stance of the one whom they represent. Their job is to speak on behalf of the one who makes those decisions. To diplomatically communicate what their boss, or king or president, or in our case, LORD has declared and wants communicated. And nothing more and nothing less.
Jesus will divide. The truth will divide. He has drawn a line in the sand and has told us all to choose a side. That line in the sand is what divides.
Jesus addresses our part in this in Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
It is not our job to determine who is on which side of the dividing line. IT is not our job to determine who is in and who is out.
It is our job to communicate what that line is and what the consequences are for picking the wrong side of the line. We are also responsible for doing so firmly, but politely, respectfully and lovingly.
We stand against and we confront sin, but we don’t judge who is in and who is out, and we don’t divide. We don’t determine the outcome, or the results. We are especially called to peace with our fellow believers, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times does Jesus tell his disciples to “love one another?”
Jesus will punish sin. He will return and he will judge the living and the dead. He will divide the righteous and the unrighteous. He will decide who gets into heave and who goes to hell. And he will divide based solely on who is clothed in his blood. The dividing line in the sand is simply who is clothed in his righteousness or who is depending on their own righteousness.
SO, when he talks about bringing division, Alistair Begg says, “Now, what he means by that is clearly not that his ultimate objective was division but that the effect of his accomplishment of salvation would be division—
I will say this. We will be shockingly surprised at who we see in Heaven. And we will be shockingly surprised at who we do not see in Heaven as well.
Blood is thicker than water. We have all heard that, right? So, our own natural hopes, our beliefs are that we will be with family when we get to Heaven. That could be blood family. It could be our chosen family. It could be our church family.
Jesus says that our families will be divided. Not all are saved because of their family. We can’t trust that because our grandma used to take us to church, and we went to Sunday school or awana that we are good. Not all are saved because they go to church. We cannot trust in our attendance or our reputation for being a part of the church to save us.
Many who think they are saved, many who we think are saved will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And many who think they are saved, many who we think are saved will hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
This should install a sense of urgency to share the Gospel, to let friends, family and church members know that it is only though God’s grace and his blood and faith in His Son that we can be saved. That those who believe will be welcomed as children of God. And those who do not believe will be divided and sent to eternal judgment and wrath.
The results are in Gods hands. Obedience and faithfulness are in our hands.
I will leave you with a quote from JC Ryle, who says:
Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon the earth… It is not the Gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt heart of man…So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, and some will, there must needs be division. To be surprised at it is the height of folly. The very existence of division is one proof of Christs foresight and the truth of Christianity.”