Summary: Not Peace but a Sword - Luke chapter 12 verses 49-53 - sermon by Gordon Curley. PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:


(1). The Cross is key regarding Fire. (vs 49).

(2). The Cross is key regarding Suffering & Death (vs 50).

(3). The Cross is key regarding Division (vs 51-54).



• Oftentimes, a logo signifies the presence of a product or a company;

• That we know all too well.

• When you see a McDonald's golden arch,

• You think of Big Macs and French-fries.

• When you see the BMW logo, you think of a slick car.

• When you see the Google logo, you think of searching for answers online.

I googled the world’s top logos and these are the top four responses!

• Fourth place: Apple

• Third place: Ford

• Second place: Coca-Cola

• First place: Nike

• TRANSITION: That may be true when it comes to business;

• But the world’s greatest and most recognisable symbol has to be the cross.

• We see it on buildings, across skylines;

• And people of faith or no faith wear it as a symbol,

• i.e. as an item of jewellery.


• In New Testament times the cross was a problem, a stigma:

• To Jewish people the cross is a stumbling block;

• They wanted a conquering king not a dying Messiah.

• To the Greeks it was foolishness.

• Death and this type pf death was humiliating and a sign of weakness;

• Their gods were gods of power and glory.

• To the Muslim the cross is an offence.

• They despise this symbol of the Christian faith.

• i.e. Even the red cross organisation use a different symbol in Moslem countries!

• (It is known as the Red Crescent in most Muslim countries)

TRANSITION: To the Christian, the cross is our supreme boast!

• Because we know the truth behind the symbol;

• That Christ died for our sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God!

• To the Jew the cross may be a stumbling block;

• To the Greeks it may be foolishness.

• To the Moslem the cross may be an offence.

• But to the Christian it is our supreme boast!

• And the cross is the key to understanding this passage this morning.

• It makes sense of the symbolism Jesus uses in his teaching!


• An arch-bishop was getting ready for an important function.

• He laid his robes out on his bed.

• Alongside was his cross that he wore;

• And he also placed his watch, his wallet and his car keys.

• He popped in the shower and while in there;

• His wife wanted to go out but could not because her husband,

• The archbishop had blocked her in the drive with his car.

• So she said to their little boy;

• Run upstairs and get daddy’s car keys so I can move his car.

• The little boy duly obliged but when he entered the bedroom;

• He was confused.

• He could see the shiny cross but not the keys;

• So he picked it up and popped into the bathroom.

• His dad was in the shower and the little boy held up the cross and said;

• “Daddy is this the key?”

• His dad the arch-bishop replied; “Yes, son, it’s the key to everything!”

• TRANSITION: Obviously it was not the key to the car;

• But it certainly is the key to life’s most important issues.

• i.e. It is a picture of violence key to peace

• i.e. It is a picture of suffering key to healing

• i.e. It is a picture of death key to life

• i.e. It is a picture of utter weakness key to power

• i.e. It is a picture of capital punishment key to forgiveness

• i.e. It is a picture of hatred key to love

• i.e. It is a picture of shame key to boasting!

• TRANSITION: We will see in a few minutes time;

• Exactly why the cross of Jesus Christ is ‘the key to everything!’

Note: Before we see that I want you to notice;

• That the Jesus we meet here in these verses;

• Is not one that fits the stereo type image “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”:

• This is more like “Angry Jesus, bleak and wild.”

• Yes, Jesus was meek but never weak;

• He was gentle but when the occasion called for it, he could also be strict.

• He was tolerant and forgiving;

• But he also demanded justice and righteousness.


• The great composer Ludwig Van Beethoven used to sometimes played a trick;

• On some of his audiences.

• If he was invited to play in a certain situation,

• Where they were more concerned about having a celebrity to show off to other guests;

• Rather than a musician whose talents you could listen to and enjoy

• He would start playing a very gentle, slow piece on the piano;

• Everyone was lulled into a soft, cosy, relaxing mood,

• Then as the piece came to its conclusion;

• Beethoven would bring his whole forearm crashing down across the keyboard;

• And laugh out loud as the gathered group jumped with shock.

• TRANSITION: these words of Jesus in this passage;

• Would have had a similar effect on his audience;

• They would shock and wake up and disturb his listeners.


• The context of these verses:

• They come on the back of Jesus teaching some parables;


• The tale of the rich fool (verses 13-to 21)

• The main character being a man who was only concerned for the here and now;

• He was only interested in this life;

• And he is the only man Jesus ever called, “a fool” (vs 20).


• Then Jesus continues his teaching regarding how to live this life;

• By teaching on the topic of worry;

• His conclusion is don’t worry about this life but rather (vs 33);

• “Lay up a treasure in heaven that will never fail”


• Jesus then tells another parable on the topic of watching and waiting

• (Verses 35-48):

• He tells a parable concerning the master who is returning home;

• The servants should be busy working and waiting for him to arrive;

• TRANSITION: That is the link with these verses;

• As we wait for our master, our king Jesus to return to planet earth;

• We should be busy in his service;

• Even though life will not be easy.

• The reason life will not be easy is that we are aliens in enemy territory,

• We are citizens of heaven, who for the moment are living on earth,

• We are pilgrims passing through someone else’s country,


• The word “pilgrims” comes from three words: ‘along-side’, ‘upon’ and ‘pagan’.

• This is someone who lives ‘along-side pagans’.

• He stays temporarily in a place that is not home.

• He is living among pagans but he is different from those pagans.

• TRANSITION: The world should view Christians;

• Like we view the drifters of Calais, the immigrants from Syria,

• We maybe be well dressed and well fed and materially better off;

• But we do not belong here!!!

• Christians serve a different king;

• We hold different values and have different life outlook than those around us.

• Christians are not citizens of planet earth.

• We are just passing through. We are citizens of heaven.

• We simply dwell on earth.

• We are pilgrims passing through a foreign country.

Now with all that in mind:

• We are ready to look at these uncomfortable words of Jesus;

• And his teaching in this section revolves around three symbols.

(1). The Cross is key regarding fire. (vs 49).

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

• There are many times in the Bible in which fire is a symbol of judgment;

• But in the vast majority of references fire is used to illustrate God’s divine presence.

• i.e. We remember God spoke to Moses at the burning bush,

• i.e. It was through the fire that God revealed his presence.

• Moses turned away from the sight "because he was afraid to look at God" (Exodus 3:6).

• i.e. We remember that God led the Israelites by night with a pillar of fire;

• As they wandered through the desert to the promised land,

• (Exodus 13:21)

• i.e. God descended upon Mount Sinai "in fire" ( Exodus 19:18 ; Deuteronomy 4:11-12

• Deuteronomy 4:15 Deuteronomy 4:33 Deuteronomy 4:36 )

• i.e. In the New Testament John the Baptist predicted;

• That Jesus would baptize "with the Holy Spirit and with fire"

• ( Matthew 3:11 ; Luke 3:16 ),

• i.e. We remember that tongues of fire that hovered over the disciples at Pentecost.

• Again a symbol of God’s presence.


• Jesus is clearly using symbolism in these verses;

• He is speaking not of a literal fire but rather a spiritual representation.

• The meaning of these words of Jesus; “I have come to bring fire.”

• Is Jesus brings with him God’s presence.

• Those who receive Jesus;

• Receive the burning, exciting, dynamic presence of God in their lives.

• That presence, that fire will illuminate his dazzling presence in them;

• And it will generates his power;

• It will burn away the dross and impurities that pollutes a believers life;

• And that fire in his followers will also attract people to Jesus

• That is the Fire of God.

APPLICATION: The Cross is key regarding fire.

• You and I can know the presence of God in our lives;

• Because on the cross Jesus experienced the separation that was ours!

• The fire of God’s judgement burnt out against Jesus,

• When on the cross he became our sin bearer.;

• So that you and I can experience the fire of God’s presence in our lives.


• Years ago in the American West;

• Some settlers were making their way across the land.

• They traveled in covered wagons drawn by oxen,

• And progress was necessarily slow.

• One day they saw a long line of smoke in the west,

• Stretching for miles across the prairie.

• The dry grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly.

• Only one of the men seemed to know what could be done.

• He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them.

• Then when a space was burned over, the whole company moved back on it.

• As the flames roared on toward them from the west,

• A little girl cried out in terror, “Are you sure we shall not all be burned up?”

• The leader replied, “My child, the flames cannot reach us here;

• Because we are standing where the fire has been!”

• TRANSITION: The cross teaches us that Jesus has come to take our judgement,

• God’s wrath burned on him;

• So that you and I can be spared!

• But we are only spared;

• If we choose to find safety in him.

(2). The Cross is key regarding Suffering & Death (vs 50).

“But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!”


• The word ‘Baptism’ always refers to immersion,

• That is being plunged, being dipped completely under water.

• TRANSITION: Jesus is not talking here about water baptism.

• He’s talking about the baptism he will endure at the cross.

• It is a picture of Jesus going down into suffering and death;

• You can tell he means that because of the language he uses,

• Notice he goes on to say: “How great is my distress until it is accomplished.”

• We get a real sense of Jesus’ human emotions here.


• Perhaps you have a big operation coming up.

• You know that the operation is necessary, but it fills you with fear.

• And as you wait you just want the time to speed up.

• Let’s get on with it.

• That’s the kind of emotions Jesus is going through here:

• “How great is my distress until it is accomplished.”

• That distress will reach its climax in the Garden of Gethsemane

• When he falls to his knees and sweats drops of blood.

• Jesus is distressed here;

• Because he is going to be fully immersed into the judgement, the wrath of God.

• That is his baptism.

Quote: Hymn: “In Christ alone my hope is found” by Stuart Townend.

“In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,

Fullness of God in helpless babe.

This gift of love and righteousness,

Scorned by the ones He came to save:

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied -

For every sin on Him was laid;

Here in the death of Christ I live”

APPLICATION: The Cross is key regarding suffering & death.

• Because he suffered, he knows how we feel when we suffer!

• God is not distant from human suffering and pain;

• He has experienced it first-hand!

• And because of that suffering on the cross;

• One day you and I will be with Jesus in a place where there is no suffering and death!

• This is no hopeful fairy story theology;

• It is a fact.

• Because Jesus conquered death and is now seated in glory;

• We too, who belong to him, one day will be with him!

(3). The Cross is key regarding Division (vs 51-54).

“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.’”

• Jesus says he has come not to bring peace but division on the earth.

• At first reading, this is a hard saying and it does not make any sense.

• Especially in Bible translations that say, “Sword” instead of “Division”.


• In a few weeks-time we will be singing carols and giving Christmas cards;

• That bear the words; “Jesus the Prince of Peace”

• Yet, these verse suggest division, conflict and hostility!

Well both these statements are true:

• Jesus brings peace;

• Peace with God when are sins are forgiven.

• Peace with other people as we get reconciled in Christ.

• But others will take offence against Christians;

• And they will be hostile and even violent against us.

• i.e. we see that on the news with The Islamic State, or ISIS,

• TRANSITION: Jesus is NOT talking about inciting violence;

• That would go against and contradict his character and his other teaching.

• Some Bible translations even say, “sword”,

• Because that is literally what the Greek text says.

• But the context makes it clear that Jesus is teaching about division;

• And not inciting violence.

• Because of him people, communities and even families;

• Will be divided, separated, disconnected;

Jesus is warning that those who wanted to follow him, they must be ready:

• Because for some following Jesus will mean they will be forced to leave home;

• Forced to leave family;

• Forced to leave their communities and maybe even their countries.


• One of our helpers on Camp, a young lady called Mary;

• Was forced to flee Pakistan because as a Christian she was being persecuted.

• She has fled to this country for safety and to be able to practice her faith.


• In my own Church fellowship we baptised a young woman a few weeks ago;

• She was told by her older brother (who isn’t even religious),

• If she gets baptised she will not be allowed see her nephew and niece again.


• We have friends in Turkey and when we go to Church there;

• (A Church made up of Turkish & Kurdish believers)

• When they choose to follow Christ and be baptised;

• Many of them are cut off from their own families and never see them again!

• TRANSITION: This is the sort of division Jesus warned about.

• But please note that this hostility does not take away the peace that Jesus spoke about.

• On the contrary,

• It is only by being true to one’s convictions and one’s integrity whatever the price

APPLICATION: The Cross is key regarding division.

• ‘I came to bring, not peace, but a sword.’

• Think carefully about those words.


• Take a sword and stick into the ground. What do you see?

• I tell you what I see. I see a cross.

• A sword that you stick into the ground looks like a cross.

• And not only are they similar in shape,

• But they are also similar in their function.

• They are two instruments of death.

• You see, the more you meditate about the meaning of this sword,

• The more it leads you to the cross.


• A Cross by Lifetone