Summary: Preparing for the coming crisis as set forth in Luke 12:49-59 teaches us to settle our eternal destiny before it is too late.
This is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is the season of the Christian year in which we remember the first coming of Jesus and also anticipate the second coming of Jesus.
In our study of the Gospel of Luke Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem from Galilee. He only had a few months left to live before his death. He knew that he was going there to die to pay the penalty for sin. He would sacrifice his life in order to reconcile sinners with a holy God.
In Luke 12 Jesus gave his followers some very important teaching regarding discipleship. He also gave a series of warnings. Commentator Philip Ryken notes, “Luke 12 ends with a fiery blaze of judgment and an urgent warning to find safety in Christ before it is too late.” I would say that we could call the final verses of Luke 12 a call to prepare for the coming crisis.
Let’s read about the coming crisis in Luke 12:49-59:
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Luke 12:49-59)
Commentator Tom Wright tells the story about the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven who sometimes played a trick on polite salon audiences, especially when he guessed that they weren’t really interested in serious music. He would perform a piece on the piano, one of his own slow movements perhaps, which would be so gentle and beautiful that everyone would be lulled into thinking the world was a soft, cozy place, where they could think beautiful thoughts and relax into semi-slumber. Then, just as the final notes were dying away, Beethoven would suddenly bring his whole forearm down with a crash across the keyboard, and laugh at the shock he gave to the assembled company.
That is not very proper. Nevertheless, the jarring shock of the crash of notes following beautifully quiet and peaceful music is a good illustration of what Jesus did at the end of Luke 12.
Jesus was urging people to become citizens of the kingdom of God. He knew about the coming crisis, and he wanted everyone to be prepared for that coming crisis.
In planning this preaching series I was going to divide today’s lesson into three separate messages. However, in preparation for today’s message, I noticed that the sequence of the three messages was significant, and Jesus really was pressing home a single idea: prepare for the coming crisis!
The analysis of the topic of the coming crisis as set forth in Luke 12:49-59 teaches us to settle our eternal destiny before it is too late.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Coming Crisis Shows Us the Cause of Division (12:49-53)
2. The Coming Crisis Calls Us to Interpret the Time (12:54-56)
3. The Coming Crisis Calls Us to Settle With Our Accuser (12:57-59)
I. The Coming Crisis Shows Us the Cause of Division (12:49-53)
First, the coming crisis shows us the cause of division.
Jesus said in verse 49, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!”
What does the fire represent? Some say it is a reference to the Holy Spirit, a symbol of God’s Word, the gospel, faith, or spiritual fervor. But I think R. C. Sproul is correct when he says, “Frequently when the Bible uses the image of fire, it uses it in one of two ways: either, the refiner’s fire that purifies, or the fire of judgment which destroys.” As Philip Ryken says, “So Jesus was talking about coming in judgment and fulfilling John the Baptist’s promise that he would baptize ‘with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Luke 3:16).”