Summary: Jesus talks about a mission that seems foreign to his character as the Prince of Peace - that of causing divisions. Come and explore this strange text with me.
August 29, 2004 Luke 12:49-53
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 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.”
When a young man enters the Army he is basically trained to do one main thing - follow orders. If he is told to destroy and kill stuff - that’s what he does. A soldier’s main duty is not to think about the why - but to only to follow orders and stay focused on the mission.
Like soldiers - God wants us to have a mission in life. If I were to ask you - what is your “mission” in life - I suppose a few of you would give very simple answers like - to survive - to get by - to take life day by day. Maybe some of you would be a little more specific like - to get married - buy a house - or retire by the time I’m 63. Other optimists have loftier missions such as world peace or to end hunger or war or poverty. A more spiritual answer might be to get to heaven, to spread the gospel, or to grow in faith.
But what if someone told you, “my mission in life to make people angry at each other.” Such words would be expected out of a crazed maniac or an evil mind. Ironically, however, they come from the Prince of Peace - who at His birth was declared by angels to bring “peace on earth.” What did Jesus mean with these words - tell us that He didn’t come to bring peace, but division. Today we’ll examine these strange words from the Prince of Peace and look at -
The Mission of Division
I. Is needed in a “peaceful” world
God’s Word has statements that at first glance seem to completely contradict one another. At one point Paul says to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4) Yet in Matthew 5:4 Jesus says, “blessed are those who mourn.” Any reasonable person reading such passages would say to themselves, “this God of yours doesn’t make sense. First he tells me to mourn, then He tells me to rejoice! What does your he want me to do?” The answer to the question is rather simple - revolving around one main thing - circumstance. In other words - it depends on what is happening in the person’s life as to what they should do. If you went to a funeral and broke out in a belly laugh people would obviously think you were a little crazy. In the same way, Paul and Jesus are addressing different people or different times. The same thing goes here with what Jesus says.
Jesus is primarily the Prince of Peace - his main mission was to bring peace. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus was always a “peaceable” person - as our world understands “peaceable.” On His carefully chronicled way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 – 19:44), our Lord Jesus was beset by accusations from His fellow Jews that He was driving out demons with the help of Beelzebub, “the prince of demons” (11:15). These were fighting words - words of unbelief and words of rejection. Instead of just returning their insults with a smile, Jesus soundly answered them with some of His most intense preaching of the law in Six Woes (11:37-54) against the Pharisees and the experts in the law who dared to side against the Truth. As a result of this Luke says that, “When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.” (Lk 11:53-54)
This seemed to be a time where all of the Jews were “united” under the same “religion” - which seemed to involve performing their sacrifices and hoping for some sort of a Messiah to come. Within this religion they seemed to at least worship together in the temple - even though they disagreed over a resurrection and how strictly to obey the Law. The sad thing was that a majority of the Jews’ religion had turned into a mindless sacrificial system with no hope of the Biblical Messiah whatsoever. With this religions scene, Jesus came and said, I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! . . . Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. Jesus seemed to be tired of this “peace”, and was ready to bring some division to His family of Jews - and also to the world. He couldn’t allow them to remain at peace with their religion. Like with the money changers’ table, the whole seemingly peaceable religious system of the Jews was about to be turned on it’s edge.