Luke 12:49 ¶ “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
Luke 12:50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
Luke 12:52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
Luke 12:53 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.”
Well, Merry Christmas!
When the angels showed up, they said “Peace on Earth and goodwill towards those on whom God’s favor rests.” Now Jesus is saying, “Do you think that I have come to give peace? No way!” So what’s the deal?
This conversation is in the context of the coming of Jesus and judgment for all people, Jewish and Gentile. Peter just asked if the disciples would get judged in the same way and Jesus is giving a long, sobering answer. Nobody is going to escape their responsibility towards God. No matter what family they were born into or what self-righteous deeds they did in their life.
Thirty-ish years earlier, the whole world was struggling and hurting under the burden of sin. When angels showed up in the middle of the night to a bunch of scraggly shepherds, they were terrified. They probably thought the whole world was about to be burned up with fire and everything destroyed. Nope. It was the birth of the promised Messiah. Everything was about to be rescued.
Fire is a cleaner. In the Odyssey, written around the time Abraham was alive, they clean up a house after a slaughter with burning coals and fire. That’s where the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah come in. It’s not just that it burned stuff up, but it was a known way of cleaning up the worst filthy messes. Verses 49–50 go right together in that way. The cleansing of the world from sin and Christ’s baptism are the same process.
It’s not His baptism into water, but the tomb. Remember, people use expressions and only talk literally once in a blue moon. His cleansing of the world — His immersion into all of our sin and resurrection up and out of it forever — was truly miserable for Him. But for the hope set before Him, the salvation and adoption of all who call on His name, He endured it.
The truth of this is deep. Salvation by dependence on Christ alone apart from our paltry offerings is difficult and wonderful. Jesus is not wishing it, but alerting us that faith in Him would cut to the very core of all of our relationships. How we follow Christ will always bring to light the idolatry of our relationships. When He is held up as the chief, primary, and foundational relationship in your life, other people might object.
Don’t give Him up, but love every one of those people through Christ. They are each a teacher, used by the Holy Spirit, to deepen our love and devotion to Him. As we see Him show others mercy, we can follow suit and show them the same mercy we’ve been shown, and we grow.
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