Pentecost 10, August 18, 2019
Text: Luke 12:49–53 (54–56)
We live in a time and a place in history where our country is severely divided. We are divided politically, we are divided culturally, we are divided racially and by income. We are also divided spiritually. We see these divisions every time the President goes on Twitter. We saw these divisions again after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. This is no secret, right? We all live in this world, go on the internet, talk to people. We are divided. We are not yet “Civil War” divided, but we see and know divisions all around us. (Vietnam Vet Story) If you have a really good memory, you may remember we talked about this on Christmas Eve, here. And because of all the divisions and the bad stuff happening around us, we may dread each morning going to the paper, the TV, your phone, and see what the news is each morning because each day we wonder if things can get worse.
In a similar way, in this lesson, Jesus is dreading what lies ahead. He is not looking forward to being beaten, whipped, crucified. Can we blame Him? At the time of this text, He wishes the fire was already kindled. He’s distressed until his bloody baptism is completed (He is referring to His suffering, crucifixion, and death). Jesus said other stuff like this: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Holy Week) (Jn 12:27). In Gethsemane, when Jesus’ soul was overwhelmed with sorrow and He prayed that “the cup” be taken from Him. He didn’t want to go through with Good Friday, and yet He knew He had to, as He prayed “your will be done” (Mt 26:42).
In today’s text, Jesus dreads the fire and the bloody baptism, not just because of the physical torments, and not just because He would endure the wrath of God, but also because of one of the side effects of the Gospel: division. It’s not the fault of the Gospel, for the Gospel brings peace, but it’s the fault of sin that Jesus’ death and resurrection causes painful divisions. Ironic, but true: The World is Divided Over the Gospel.
Now we expect Jesus to bring peace. Isaiah says Jesus is the Prince of Peace. On the night of His birth, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” (Lk 2:14 ). The night when he was betrayed, He said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27). On Easter evening, Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19, 21). Jesus gives us a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that surpasses all understanding. Isaiah talks about that peace in poetic ways: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb” (Is 11:6), and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (2:4).
This is the peace between God and man. It’s a peace in believers’ hearts. It’s the peace of knowing that our sins are forgiven. Some would like the Gospel to give world peace, a utopia on earth. Some expect a God kingdom on earth. But that will never happen. Because of sin, Jesus divides like nothing else—even more than politics! Some believe, and some don’t.
Ever since the fall into sin, there has been division in this world. Adam and Eve were divided from God and each other. Cain and Abel were divided. Think of the division between believers and unbelievers in the days of Noah. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah. Think of the children of Israel and Pharaoh. Think of all the prophets: they spoke God’s Word and people were divided. Some believed; some refused. The same was true throughout the New Testament. Whenever Jesus preached or was preached, people were divided. Some believed, and some rejected the Good News. Even the thieves on the crosses on each side of Jesus were divided: one repented and was saved; the other refused.
There are many references to Jesus as one who brings division. Simeon said, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Lk 2:34). Jesus’ entire ministry brought division, especially between the scribes and Pharisees, who rejected His teaching, and the disciples, apostles, tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, and everyone else who received Him in faith.
So that’s why Jesus says, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled” (v 49). He said, “I wish it was already over!” He began His ministry with a water Baptism in the Jordan, where He placed Himself under God’s wrath for all the world, for US; and He completed His ministry with a bloody baptism on the cross—the full wrath of God placed on Him as He paid the price for the sins of the world.
And one of the saddest things where people reject the Gospel is division in the family. Jesus gave an example of a family of five—a father, mother, daughter, married son, and His wife. There were two against three and three against two. Some believed in Jesus; some didn’t; no one was neutral. This is probably where it hurts the most. Not enough families have the blessing of all being together, united in faith in Jesus Christ.
All of us have felt this pain. Take comfort, if there is struggle in your life because of divisions. I know the divisions out there hurt you, and the divisions within hurt even more. Jesus knows your pain. He knew all about divisions in the family. You are not alone in this. Once, Jesus’ mother and brothers came to where He was teaching to take Him back home. They were saying that He was out of His mind. It seems that much of His own family rejected Him until after the resurrection.
Another way that Jesus knows division is that He was divided from His/Our Heavenly Father. Our lesson says, “They will be divided, father against son and son against father” (v 53). Well, that’s what happened at the cross, isn’t it? The Father was divided from the Son. The Heavenly Father cut Himself off from Jesus. Not because the Son did any wrongs Himself. This was part of the punishment for us and our sins. He paid for the things we do that are wrong. Our sins divided the Father from the Son. Jesus went through all that so that our relationship with God could be fixed forever.
So how do you deal with division? Remember that Jesus knows your sadness. He was persecuted within His own family and hometown. He comforts you: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). He is always with you.
Again, so what do we do? Keep on witnessing—not in an obnoxious way, but in a loving way, kindly. Keep praying for them. Keep hearing the Word. Keep receiving the Sacrament. God will strengthen your faith through all these trials. If you find no support in your earthly family or friends, there is support in here in your church family; those united by faith in Christ can be closer than blood relatives anyway. Even if you are ditched by your friends or your family, you are part of the family of God.
I know all this division stuff is sad. It’s heartbreaking. It’s everywhere. Right? Well, remember the Good News. When we look around and see all the divisions, and the hatred, and the awful way people treat others who disagree with them about anything, know this. It will not be this way forever. Take heart: in heaven, there will be no more divisions, but perfect peace and unity.
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Material in Concordia Pulpit Helps, Vol. 29 Part Three.