Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 12:49-53
(Proper 15C) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 15 August 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus said: 49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 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, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
This is not something we would expect to hear from He who was born the Prince of Peace. This text starts to make sense when we discover what kind of peace Jesus is talking about and what kind of peace Jesus isn’t talking about.
The most dangerous division is the one humanity caused by falling into sin. Sinful human beings are at war with God and deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment.
Because of our sin, original and actual, we deserve nothing but punishment now, and death, and hell-fire later. All are born with the stain of sin that Eve and Adam put on themselves. We are by nature sinful and unclean. And we don’t help matters. We sin all the time. Our sins and iniquities offend God and our neighbor, but especially our families and those closest to us.
This is not a popular teaching. Some are just as opposed to it as they are the Jesus revealed in the Bible. Some would just as soon ignore sin. Without an accurate picture of sin, there is no complete recognition of the need for a Savior. Divisions increase among those who reject part of Jesus. The fire burns nearer.
Fire can be an agent of destruction, division, or refinement. Jesus said: 49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Sinful human beings are at war with God and deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. That’s the bad news. The Good news about Jesus for you is that as the Prince of Peace, Jesus gives us peace with the Father.
50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! But. But. One three-letter word delays the fiery judgment by Jesus until the last day. The time has not yet come. All is not yet completed. Judgment Day is not yet. There is hope! Humanity does not have to face the fires of hell. There is hope for those who believe in Jesus.
Jesus has a baptism of fire to undergo. Already Jesus’ ministry had begun when He was baptized with water and the Holy Spirit at the Jordan River. At the time He spoke these words, He had yet to be nailed to the cross, where He would be baptized in His own blood. The fire of God’s wrath was poured out upon Jesus on the cross. There Jesus died so that He could destroy the powers of sin and hell that threatened all of us, all of humanity. There is hope! The wrath of God is satisfied in Jesus’ death. The one who was born Prince of Peace was born so that He might die and be the agent and means of peace with God for you.
The Good news about Jesus for you is that as the Prince of Peace, Jesus gives us peace with the Father. This is not the same as peace in the Middle East, peace in our community, 24-hour peace in your home. That is not the kind of peace Jesus gives. Jesus’ peace is the kind the world cannot give. Jesus’ peace is the kind the world cannot understand.
Jesus did not come to give us world peace. He came to give us peace with God once and for all, and so we will struggle with the lack of peace on the world stage and in the family unit.
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, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Opposition to Jesus splits families. Hostility to the pure Bible teaching of Christ divides. I don’t need to tell you how this division works out in real life. A parent’s heart aches when a child falls away. Countless homes in this community are divided between Christian traditions and non-Christian religions, or even no religion at all. Sometimes husband and wife are not in agreement about the peace Jesus made for us with God. This alone can lead to awkward situations between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Often it leads to division between parents and children.
Sometimes divisions show that you can’t please everyone. Sometimes people tragically misunderstand the peace of Jesus.
A parable: A group of people were on a ferry when one man began to act as if he were the only one on the boat. He started to cut a hole under his seat. The other people on the boat shouted and shrieked, “What on earth are you doing? Have you gone mad? Do you want us all to sink? Are you trying to destroy us?” Calmly the man answered, “I don’t understand what your concern is. What I’m doing is my business. I paid my way. I’m not cutting under your seat. Leave me alone.” What the fanatic will not accept, but what you and I cannot forget, is that all of us are in the same boat.
The family is often a life-raft kind of boat in this world. If one or more members of the family is punching holes in the bottom, the results will impact the rest of the family.
Those Christians who hold to the Truth of the Peace with God that Jesus gives are ridiculed. That can be the most painful kind of persecution, especially if it comes from close friends or family members.
“You mean you really believe what the Bible has to say? Why do you insist on preaching this guy Jesus when people have real problems? Who are you to say it’s sinful for us to live together or sleep together without being married?”
Only the Bible tells of true peace. Only Jesus can give it to you. Only Jesus’ peace can give hope and take care of humanity’s most serious problem—sin. Jesus’ peace is eternal. Peace with God means eternal life and forgiveness of all sin.
The Good news about Jesus for you is that as the Prince of Peace, Jesus gives us peace with the Father. This is not the same as peace in the Middle East, peace in our community, peace in your home. That is not the kind of peace Jesus gives. Jesus’ peace is the kind the world cannot give. Jesus’ peace is the kind the world cannot understand. The Church is called to peace, but sadly, there are divisions.
St. Paul writes, (1 Corinthians 1: 10) I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
Paul calls us to be united in the peace that Jesus gives, that Jesus won by His death and Resurrection—the Truth of His Gift of Peace with God. We are to be united in mind and in thought, i.e. in the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. The danger is that when people deny Jesus’ teachings, it could lead them from Peace with God to the fiery wrath of God outside of Christ. Therefore, the apostle called the Corinthians to repentance.
(1 Corinthians 11:17-19) 17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
The approval of God belongs to those who stick to the truth about Peace with God. That means teaching everything in the Bible, and neither changing it or adding to it. Therein is peace.
The Church is called to peace, but sadly, there are divisions. Sometimes, those divisions exist because people deny in some way the peace Jesus gives.
Divisions among church bodies based on ethnicity or race are tragic. Divisions that are even more heartbreaking exist even today. Some groups that call themselves Christian doubt Christ’s words. They may even allow the culture to determine the message and mission of the Church.
A Christian today lives with a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. The challenge is to determine which sets the agenda. We use the Scriptures to call to repentance those who would let the news headlines or political correctness dictate to the Lord or to us what should be taught. Allowing the culture to shape the church only leads to Godless and sinful division. There’s no peace in that.
We don’t want anyone, especially family or friends, to be lost in the fire of judgment, but to have the peace only Jesus can give—the peace He has given you—the forgiveness of sins, life in Christ, Eternal Salvation, peace with God in Christ. Share this peace with someone you care about.
When Jesus warned us of wars and rumors of wars, He wanted us to know that “world peace” was never going to happen. When He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,’ He directed us to work for peace in this world anyway—for the good of all people—especially that they may hear the Gospel and be at peace with God in Christ. Today we thank the Lord for the gift of heavenly peace. WE also pray for peace in our homes, for peace in our communities, and for peace in our world. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.