Summary: While Jesus came to bring peace between God and sinners he wants us to know that our life in this world as his followers won't be peaceful.
A couple of years ago a number of Circuit City electronic stores in the States were going out of business and some of them hired a liquidator to sell off their remaining inventory. Customers lined up to purchase TVs that were supposedly discounted by as much as 75%. Some savvy shoppers, however, found out that they could buy the same TVs for even less at Circuit City stores that were not having going-out-of-business sales. It turns out that a regular practice of this particular liquidator company was to jack up the initial price on merchandise before “discounting” them sharply. The result was that people actually paid more for items at these going-out-of-business sales.
It doesn’t surprise us that travel agents, restaurants, and retail outlets will do just about anything, even resort to false advertising, to get us to part with our money. That’s business in this sin-filled world. Caveat emptor! “Buyer beware!” warns the Latin phrase. But when you come to church you don’t expect to be exposed to false advertising do you? A church that stands on God’s Word is supposed to be a place of truth. How then do you understand the Bible’s claim that Jesus is the Prince of Peace? If that’s true, why are there so many wars? Why is there such heartache in families, even Christian ones? Is Jesus really the Prince of Peace, or is the Bible, and therefore this church, guilty of false advertising? Yes! No! Which is it? Let’s find out.
About 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah claimed that the Savior would be called: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b). The angels who appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). It seems cut and dried doesn’t it? According to these inspired messengers, Jesus’ arrival would bring peace.
Jesus did make peace between God and us. Like the bank manager who stops his bank from foreclosing on your house, which would force you out on to the streets, Jesus stopped God the Father from eternally forcing us to live on the mean streets of hell. How did he do it? By paying the debt we owed for our sins with his blood. This is not the same as a bank manager having pity on you and giving you more time to pay down your mortgage. It’s like a bank manager selling his house to pay off your debt. The result? You continue to live in comfort while the bank manager lives on the streets! Who would do a thing like that? God’s Son did. He left the mansions of heaven to live on the streets of 1st Century Palestine. More than that. Jesus traded his loving Father’s embrace for blows meant to punish our sins. As Jesus thought about what awaited him at the cross he said in our text: “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50) Earning peace with God for us was no easy task. But Jesus did it. All your sins, your backsliding, your broken promises, your dirty thoughts and words, all have been paid for. You can never submit a debt of wrongdoing to Jesus that will come back to you marked “insufficient funds” (Lee Strobel).
No, we don’t need to be afraid of God anymore. We don’t need to wonder what he will say to us when we stand before him on Judgment Day. He’s not looking for revenge like the driver we cut off on the highway. Because of Jesus’ payment God sees us as his children. Be at peace. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has done his work!
But while we have peace with God, Jesus never guaranteed that we would have peace on earth. To put it another way, while Jesus wants us comforted he never said we would be comfortable. In fact he promised just the opposite in our text. 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. 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” (Luke 12:49, 51-53a).
It’s strange to hear Jesus, the Prince of Peace, tell us that he didn’t come to bring peace but fire. But the apostles certainly found this out to be true. How many times was the Apostle Paul beaten, imprisoned, or simply run out of town because he proclaimed the peace we have in Jesus? Should it surprise us then when our friends look at us funny when we insist that Jesus is the only way to heaven? Do we insist this? Or have we declawed the Lion of Judah and describe him in such a way that people get the impression Jesus is nothing more than a kitten who just wants to curl up purring in our lap? Jesus did not come to give sinners the warm fuzzies; he came to call us to repentance. It’s no wonder Jesus said that he had come to bring fire and not peace. My sinful nature burns when a family member points out I’m being grouchy. Perhaps you get hot under the collar when your parents point out that the TV show you were watching does not give glory to Jesus and therefore you can’t watch it anymore. An argument ensues and it’s easy to wonder whether it’s worth it? Why bother pointing out sin in others or the danger of false doctrine if it’s just going to lead to bickering? Why not keep the peace?