Fire and swords (Luke 12:49-53)

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Intro: I’m glad Jesus was self-employed, because he definitely would have been referred to HR.

Text:    [Luk 12:49-53 NIV] 49 “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.”

Thesis: Jesus was unafraid to face the challenges this world would present to him and his followers. He knows his actions and truth will bring division and hardship, and he dives in head-first with a full knowledge of the consequences.

Trans: F.F. Bruce’s The Hard Sayings of Jesus devotes three chapters to the first two verses of this passage. The beginning of this section is wrapped in a mystery we get to push through to find the application to our hearts.

Fire and baptism

  1. Context points to preparedness for his “coming” (1st and 2nd)
    1. [Luk 12:40, 56 NIV] 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” … 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
    2. If this is the interpretation of this passage, then Jesus is anticipating the moment of his glorification (Ascension? Second coming?)
    3. However, he admits that it is not yet to be (already…not yet)
  2. Wider biblical lens points to his crucifixion as a possibility
    1. The Jews acceptance or rejection of Jesus was an eternally divisive issue
    2. Jesus’ claim to be the messiah who would die was a bitter pill to swallow, and itself would set people apart, which also being his fiery baptism
  3. Ultimately, we know:
    1. Jesus was bringing salvation now in preparation for a promised judgement later
      1. a) [Jhn 3:17 NIV] 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
      2. b) [Jhn 5:22 NIV] 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
    2. Jesus was inaugurating the fire of the Holy Spirit, which could only come once he left
    3. Jesus was already baptized in water, and is almost definitely prophesying his death here, and how that death would cause division among his people

Trans:  Jesus pulls no punches here. While he usually spoke in parables, and this section is no exception, the intensity of what he and he and his disciples would face was not for hiding.

Division? (In Matthew:) A sword?! – let me start by making it worse

  1. Consider the violent statements already in this chapter: [Luk 12:4-5, 10, 20, 47 NIV] 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. … 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. … 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ … 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.
  2. Look at Jesus in Revelation: [Rev 19:11-16, 21 NIV] 11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords. … 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
  3. We need to remember that our Lord is the king of heavens armies, the Lord of hosts. He has authority and the might to enforce it. Sometimes, we need a mighty conqueror to be on our side!
  4. That is why it is so much more amazing that he is the price of peace. Hear him:
    1. [Luk 10:5-6 NIV] 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.
    2. [Luk 19:42 NIV] 42 “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.
    3. [Luk 24:36 NIV] 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
    4. [Jhn 14:27 NIV] 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid
    5. [Jhn 16:33 NIV] 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
    6. [Jhn 20:19, 21, 26 NIV] 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” … 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” … 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
  5. What is Jesus’ view when violence comes his way?
    1. [Heb 12:2 NIV] 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    2. The world seeks to put us to shame. Scorn this shame! You are hidden with Christ in God, seated in heavenly places!

Trans:  If this is who you are, children of the mighty king, how should we face the challenges of this life?

Where is our loyalty?

  1. Persecution is to be expected
    1. Matthew gives some of the answer: [Mat 10:38-39 NIV] 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
    2. [Jhn 16:2 NIV] 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.
  2. This is not about seeking out division and conflict
    1. [Mic 7:4, 6-7 NIV] 4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion. … 6 For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies are the members of his own household. 7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
    2. Consider this direction: [1Co 7:13 NIV] 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him
    3. [Rom 12:18, 21 NIV] 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. … 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
  3. Are you prepared to be a fool for Christ?
    1. [1Co 4:10-13 NIV] 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world–right up to this moment.
    2. [1Co 3:18-19, 23 NIV] 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; … 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
    3. [1Co 1:18-20, 25, 27 NIV] 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. … 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Trans:  Are you already a fool for Christ? Are you ready to pursue this calling?

Conclusion:

  • Do you feel foolish for expressing your faith? Then you’re probably doing something right.
    • There is a difference between criticism from “outside” vs. “inside”
  • Do you feel the condemnation of Jesus’ fiery judgment? Then, remember that you are called to be “in” him.
  • Are you concerned with violence and intolerance? Remember that the truth is intolerant but leads to life.

 

About Michael Yates

I have taught Bible at the Secondary level for 8 years. I have a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Evangel University. I have also been educated as a husband and father by my wife and 3 lovely children. I enjoy reading about political theory and theology. Mostly I have learned that a theologian is one who prays; therefore, I pray for my family, friends, and for you. View all posts by Michael Yates

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