”I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12.49-53
People have a misconception of Jesus. The Jesus in the fields, portrayed as a shepherd, comforting the sheep, doesn’t tell the whole picture. It’s only a part of the equation. The other image, on the far extreme, is Jesus on the white horse as described in the book of Revelation with a sword coming to judge the nations.
This teaching of Jesus in verses 49-53 falls somewhere in the middle of sweet-comforting-shepherding-Jesus and warrior-victor-judging-Jesus. The words he offers are not words of death but words of division and of dire warning. When he begins a statement like, “I have come to bring fire on the earth…” we know he’s not messing around. Jesus doesn’t mince or waste words.
He first refers to his own baptism which he must and willingly endure. A baptism of trials, testing and suffering. He then speaks out of his anticipated anxiety and to the conflict which will occur. Not peace, he says, but division. He then discusses how families will be divided against each other apparently because of the baptism Jesus will endure. This baptism, we know, is his suffering, death and resurrection on the Cross. Those who choose Jesus choose life. Those who do not choose Jesus will face the consequences of sin and death.
It’s not an idyllic situation. He wishes everyone would choose to trust in God and turn from self, Satan and the sins of this world. But the truth of the matter is that not everyone will. Many will become lost in their own lust for greed, power and self-aggrandizement. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6.23).
Today is our opportunity to choose life in Jesus’ name. Confess your sins, lean upon his Word, offer him your heart. Allow Jesus not to become one of many things that occupies your time but THE THING. Then you will find hope, joy and comfort in this life and the life to come.
”O Lord God, you are good and you are God. Simply the opportunity you give us to follow you is so grace-filled. You had to suffer, die and rise again so we might have life in you. Help us, Lord Jesus, to magnify your name. We anxious await your return. When will you come back? Why delay? Why not stir revival, send down the fire of your Holy Spirit, and cause the world to turn to you? Come now, Holy One of God. Send your saving message through me and others so the world might know. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen