Summary: All Is NOT Easy in the Kingdom of God 1) It wasn’t easy for Jesus. 2) It won’t be easy for us.
There was a young girl who loved to sing and wanted to make a career of it since it seemed like an easy way to make lots of money. So when the girl won a pass to meet her favourite artist, the first thing she blurted out was: “Oh, I would give anything for your career!” “Anything?” the artist asked. “Yes, anything” the girl vigorously nodded. “Would you give eight hours a day to practice like I do?” the star queried. For the first time the girl realized that being a successful singer wasn’t as easy as it looked!
What kind of things have you thought easy only to realize later that they were quite difficult? To me skating always looks so easy until I get on the ice and realize that I can’t stop without crashing into a wall or another skater. As Christians we sometimes expect living in the kingdom of God to be easy. After all, God loves us and has promised to take care of us, right? Today we’re going to learn something we probably already know from experience. We’re going to learn that all is not easy in the kingdom of God. It wasn’t easy for Jesus, and it won’t be easy for us.
I wonder if the Disciples weren’t a bit shaken when they heard Jesus speak the words of our text. After all, Jesus made everything look so easy. He hardly broke a sweat when he walked on water or raised the dead. And yet Jesus said: “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed” (Luke 12:50). The baptism that Jesus was alluding to was not like his first baptism. It didn’t involve water, nor did his Father speak from heaven at this baptism. This was a baptism of fire that led to Jesus’ abandonment by his heavenly Father. This baptism was nothing less than his appointment with hell on the Good Friday cross.
We’ve all had appointments that made us feel anxious – appointments to the dentist for example. But that’s nothing compared to the dread that Jesus experienced in waiting for this baptism of fire. When we go to the dentist we do so because it’s for our good, and we often take a friend with us to lend support and encouragement. When Jesus kept his appointment with the cross he did so because it was good for us, and he went alone, jeered by his enemies, abandoned by his disciples, and rejected by his heavenly Father.
While Jesus shuddered at the thought of going to the cross he did not shrink from it. And thank God he didn’t. Because Jesus was whipped for the times I grumble about doing my chores; because he was spat upon for my hesitancy to forgive; because he was crucified, I have peace with God (Romans 5:1). My sins won’t condemn me come Judgment Day because in Jesus they have been forgiven, and so have yours. I don’t suppose we would expect anything less from someone who was prophesied to be the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Yet it wasn’t just the end of his life that was difficult for Jesus. Jesus did not grow up in a privileged family. His stepfather was a tradesman, working hard with his hands all day long making things out of wood. You can be sure that Jesus worked alongside of Joseph as a child. He probably even had calluses from working around the shop. He probably had to complete chores before he could go out and play with his friends just like you do. Even after Jesus became popular in the first year of his preaching things weren’t easy for him. He didn’t own a home or drive a fancy car (Matthew 8:20). He didn’t even receive a salary but had to rely on others to provide food and shelter. Then there were the religious leaders who ridiculed Jesus and finally brought about his death. No, things were not always easy for Jesus in the kingdom of God.
Should it surprise us then that things aren’t always easy for us Christians? It shouldn’t especially when Jesus said: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!…51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division ” (Luke 12:49, 51).
That sure doesn’t sound the way the Prince of Peace of should talk, does it? While Jesus came to make peace for us with God by earning forgiveness, he did not come to make life peaceful. That’s not surprising when you consider the nature of Jesus’ message. Jesus tells us that all those who believe in him will not perish, but that all those who do not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). There is no middle ground there. You either trust in Jesus alone for eternal salvation or you don’t, for eternal condemnation. Therefore wherever the message of the cross of Christ goes, fires are ignited. When Jesus told the Jews that the only way to the heavenly Father was through him, they got hot. Tell that to a Muslim today and you’ll get the same reaction. Or just tell your polite neighbor that the fact he has stayed out of jail his whole life and has never cheated on his wife is still not good enough for entrance into heaven. If he wants to be good enough for God, he needs to be as good as God. Even family members get upset when we say things like that. Yet that’s just what Jesus prophesied: “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 12:52, 53).