Summary: Jesus gave eight reasons for coming to the earth. Two of those reasons were controversal. He came to bring fire and a sword.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It is the beginning of his last days on earth. Passover is a festival celebrated every year in Israel. It celebrates the night that the angel of death passed over the homes of the Jews, sparing their first born. God commanded that the nation of Israel celebrate this festival by insuring their bread would contain no yeast for one week. On the first and seventh day they were not allowed to work. For seven days the people were to present special gifts to the Lord. Those gifts were to be presented in the temple in Jerusalem. So the city was filled with pilgrims when Jesus entered.
Jesus has been staying at the home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Since it was only a forty minute walk to Jerusalem, this would be a good base area for him and his disciples. After the Sabbath day has ended Jesus instructs two of his disciples to venture into he city and bring him a donkey. Jesus was aware of the prophetic word of Zechariah “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (Zechariah 9:9) He knew entering Jerusalem this way would put the spot light on him. He was finally declaring himself as their King.
His disciples begin laying their cloaks in front of him as a carpet to ride on. Others follow. Still others gather palm fronds and wave them in celebration. The people are crying out “Hosanna. Hosanna in the highest.” The Pharisees look on with disgust and order Jesus to stop them. He says if they do not praise him, the rocks will. The crowd grows and now palm branches are spread across his path. This is the traditional sign of triumph and glory.
The donkey stops atop the Mount of Olives. As Jesus looks about He sees the tents on the hillside where the poor camp during Passover. He can see Jerusalem and the temple. He sees throngs of pilgrims outside the gate waiting for his arrival. Jesus begins to weep. Perhaps He weeps because Jerusalem would one day be destroyed. Perhaps He weeps at his own impending doom. But He enters into the city of Jerusalem to fulfill his purpose.
Jesus gave us eight purposes for entering our world. He said he came to fulfill more than 400 prophetic statements made concerning him. He came to serve others and give his life as a ransom. He came to preach to all men, Jews and Gentiles. He came to save the lost. He came to be a light in a dark world. He came to testify to the truth. But the most controversial reason he came was to bring fire and division.
Luke 12:49“I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!”
The Old Testament is filled with examples of fire reigning from heaven. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone. One of the plaques on Egypt was fire and hail from heaven. Elijah called down fire from heaven to destroy soldiers sent from King Ahaziah. All of these were destructive fires. So was Jesus saying He had come to destroy the world and, in fact, wishes it was already destroyed. This does not line up with all the other reasons He gave for coming.
The fire Jesus spoke of was the fire that John the Baptist prophesied about in Luke 3:16 “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” This happened on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Feast of the Passover, when divided tongues of fire appeared to the disciples and rested on each one of them. It was the dissension of the Holy Spirit onto the earth that would set the world on fire. Three thousand converts in one day was the result of that fire. When Jesus set the world on fire he accomplished three things.
1) It is a fire of cleansing.
Often forest fires are set on purpose to cleanse away the dead brush. It is what is called a control burning. The Holy Spirit works in this same manner. When you allow Jesus to become your savior, the Holy Spirit begins to burn away all the dead things in your life that sin has left behind. Often they are things we do not want to be burned away but it is beneficial. They can even be things that we do not even know needs to be burned away.
The prophet Isaiah had been delivering the word from the Lord to Judah for several years. One day he has a vision of standing in God’s presence. His reaction was to declare “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5)