The Lord Challenges the World (Luke 12:49-59)

There is a lot conflict in our world. We do not have to look far before we discover conflict. It is round every corner and on the front of every magazine. We live in a divided and conflicted world. In October of 2013, the United States Governments was forced to shut down because our two major political parties could not agree on a compromise. We are a red and blue nation. Republican and Democrats are fighting on the front page of the paper, on cable T.V., and sadly, even on social media. Americans are sick of this political bickering and strongly desire to live in a more peaceable nation.

In addition to politics, Americans are sick of religious bickering. They desire to have religious peace and
unity among faiths. This is why Pope Francis has been applauded throughout our country (and the world) as one who is bringing unity among those of different faiths. On February 28th, 2014 Pope Francis brought together Muslims, Jews and Christians for an inner-faith dialogue. The Pope said to this diverse group, “The majority of us know how to coexist, it’s easier for us, and that’s a clear message. It’s a message that we have the same Father, up in Heaven, and the same Father down on earth, we adore him.[1]” The Pope reaching across the aisle of faith has gained him worldwide acclaim and respect. He wants to bring peace among people of different faiths.

Our culture is ready for this kind of peace. Our culture desperately wants to be united around love, tolerance and goodwill. Who wouldn’t want unity between faiths? For starters, Jesus Christ does not want unity between faiths. The Lord Jesus Christ challenges this false unity and false peace with the truth of the gospel that He came to proclaim. Beloved, we want unity, but we can never divorce unity to the truth of the gospel. Any unity of faith outside of truth should be condemned!!! Do not be deceived by the allure of unity among faiths. Jesus did not come to bring unity among faiths, but came to bring people to Himself and Himself alone. Jesus came to challenge the world. We are going to examine three challenges that Lord brings to our world. I pray that you will have the same mind of Jesus Christ and likewise challenge the ways of this world.

The Lord Challenges Worldly Peace
We pick up this section of Jesus’ speech following Jesus’ strong warning of the coming judgment. Jesus pleads with his disciples to be awake and ready on that day for the Lord will find that servant blessed. After looking ahead to the last judgment, Jesus provides one of the purposes of his incarnation. Luke 12:49-53,

I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Jesus said, “I came.” Pause and consider those two words. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth, the One who holds all things together by the word of his power, the Judge of the
living and the dead, came. Jesus came. Those two words are pregnant with meaning. Never lose your wonder and awe that Jesus came for us. But Jesus not only came, but came for a purpose.

Jesus came to cast fire on the earth. The Greek places the emphasis on fire by placing it to the front of the sentence so literally it would read, “For Fire, I have come upon the earth.” The fire is what is emphasized in this sentence so what is this fire? Fire can refer to several concepts throughout the Scripture. Fire is a picture of God’s judgment. Fire is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Fire is also a picture of God’s message. I think all three can be assumed in this passage. Jesus is coming with the fire of God’s judgment to bring the fire of the Holy Spirit through the fire of the message in the gospel of God. Let me explain. Look at how Jesus finished the statement,

I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished.

Jesus said that the fire has not yet been kindled. Then the very next statement he refers to his baptism that is coming. His baptism is referring to coming death in Jerusalem.

The fire of judgment was coming to Jesus on the cross. His baptism was to bear the sins of the world and to condemn sin in the flesh. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and had his eye on the cross. He knew what lay before him and his heart longed for it to be completed. Jesus knew that he had to be judged. He knew that he had to become sin. He knew that he had to be cursed. He knew that he had to be crushed. He knew and yet he longed for it to be accomplished. Why? Because his death meant that his people would be saved and rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought the kingdom of the beloved Son. What a great God!! He came to seek and to save that which was lost through his own blood and having satisfied God’s righteous, fiery judgment God vindicated him from death in his resurrection giving us hope for new life.

Notice how the message of the cross does not bring unity, but division. There is no unity outside of the cross. After speaking of the baptism of death, Jesus continues,

Do you think that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.

Jesus has not come to unite all the faiths in the world, but to provide the only true faith. The only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father accept through him. Only those who receive Jesus Christ have right to become children of God and to call Him, Father. We have been given the Spirit of adoption that calls us sons. Muslims and Jews do not have the same Father. We only call God, Father, through the Spirit which is given when we receive the Son. Without Jesus Christ, there cannot be any true unity. If people speak of unity outside of Jesus Christ, then they are going against the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus not only does not bring unity between different faiths, but divides even the closest of relationships. Jesus challenges a worldly peace by creating true peace through the gospel. Jesus demands your full allegiance. Jesus’ death for sin and resurrection for life demands our complete allegiance. So the question for us is who will we side with? Will we fight for interfaith unity and forsake the gospel? Or will we fight for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and forsake all even are most cherished relationships?

Jesus is the great dividing line. We are either with Him or against Him. We either believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven or we believe that other faiths are legit and stand opposed to the message of the New Testament. Which would you rather faith, peace with your fellow man or peace with Almighty God?

The Lord Challenges Worldly Perspective

In verse 54, Jesus turns his attention away from his disciples and again addresses the crowd:

He also said to the crowds, “when you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘there will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Jesus rebukes the crowd because they so easily can interpret the weather, but cannot interpret meaning of his coming.

In the days of Jesus, people had to trust their own interpretation of the weather. They would look at the sky and predict what kind of weather might be coming. We listen to the Weather Channel as many of us did this past week to prepare for a storm that never happened. My wife normally does not prepare for the catastrophic claims of meteorologists, but she did this week. She purchased batteries for all the flash lights, filled pitchers of water, made sure we had plenty of peanut butter and the crisis was averted. If we would have just looked to the blue sky, we could have interpreted that it wasn’t going to rain. My wife claims that the storm missed Rock Hill because she actually was prepared… so you’re welcome. Please thank my wife the next time you see here for saving you from thousands of dollars of damage due to her preparedness.

Our culture loves the weather channel, don’t we? We love to know what kind of weather is coming our way and attempting to interpret the signs, but are you interpreting the present time? The crowds knew the weather, but they did not rightly interpret Jesus Christ. Jesus calls them hypocrites. You take such great care in understanding the weather, why then do you not take care in understanding the things of God? Beloved, would Jesus call you a hypocrite? Do you take so much time looking at the things you can see and miss the unseen? Are we so focused on temporal peace and relational happiness that we miss the true purpose of life?

As Jesus came to bring division through the message of his judgment so we also come bringing that same message. Jesus has come into the world to cast fire upon the earth. 1 John 4:1-3:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

Simple application, interpret the present time in light of the revelation of Scripture. Everyone that confesses that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is from God, and everyone else stands opposed to God.

Beloved, we live in a very interesting culture. We love tolerance, yet are intolerant. We love unity, yet are divided. One of the most important things that we can do as a church comes from 1 Thessalonians 2:13. I will be praying this verse over and over and over again for Park Baptist Church. Listen:

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

We have to resolve in our hearts, in this changing secular society, to accept the Word not as the word men, as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers. Jesus speaks of division to his disciples to remind them that when they chose to follow Jesus they chose to follow the road of hostility. The life of the Christian will not be easy in the changing American landscape. The Word of God strikes against cultural sensibilities. It offends the sinner and the skeptic. It offends the religious and philosopher. And yet, as we accept it as God’s holy and inerrant Word, we know it is at work. So I know that when I stand to preach from this book, I know that God is speaking. I know that God is calling people to repentance. I know that God is drawing people. I know, because that is what God does through His Word. He is at work in you believers. And I will continue to give thanks for this. You accept this Word as from God and it works in you to change you for His glory.

Beloved, interpret the present time in light of eternity. Do not be on the wrong side of history by going with the cultural flow of secularism and following a worldly perspective, but resolve in your heart to trust the Word of Christ Jesus above all else.

The Lord Challenges Worldly Prudence
Jesus closes with an appeal to the crowd for them to judge rightly. He wants them not to think with a worldly wisdom, but with the sound judgment that comes from contemplating one’s sin against a holy God. Jesus says in verse 57,

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.

Jesus is encouraging the crowds to settle their accounts. Settle accounts while you are on the way before it is too late and you will have to pay the very last penny. If you wait and do not settle your accounts, you will have to pay in full.

The Accuser in this passage is God, Himself. Jesus is encouraging us to settle up our accounts with God before it is too late. This weekend I was talking with someone about his relationship with his family and his faith. He had a lot of bitterness in his heart against his family. He had been hurt by his family and instead of working to reconcile, he was embittered and closed himself off from this family. He said, “I know that I am bitter old man. I don’t know. Maybe I will forgive them on my death bed.” I encouraged him to settle his accounts now before it was too late. I told him that Jesus says that if we do not forgive those who have sinned against us then he will not forgive us our sins. He needed to settle his accounts before it was too late, because he will stand before the judge and have to pay his debt for his sin.

There are grave consequences to judge wrongly. Jesus says in verse 59, “I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny (emphasis added).” Those are strong words. God will make every person pay their debt until the very last penny. Jesus is saying that the debt will never be paid unless you settle your accounts now. Jesus came to settle our account for us. John MacArthur shares a story of a particular tribe in Russia that provides a great picture of how God settles our accounts:

The tribes which controlled the best hunting and the choicest natural resources were the tribes which had the strongest and wisest leaders. The single tribe which controlled the very best of the territory was the tribe with the most powerful and the most wise leader. One particular tribe maintained its control of the choice land because its leader was not only the most physically powerful but the most wise of all. And the success of the tribe was due to the fairness and the equity and the wisdom of the laws this great leader gave and enforced upon his people. His word was law and among his greatest laws were that parents must be loved and honored. He also said that murder was punishable by death and stealing was to be severely punished.

The tribe was prospering greatly when suddenly a disturbing thing began to happen. Someone in the tribe was stealing. It was reported to the great leader that this was going on and he sent out the proclamation that if the thief was caught he would receive that severe punishment, ten lashes from the tribal whip master. Stealing continued despite the warnings, so he raised it to 20 lashes. It went on so he raised it to 30 lashes. And finally he raised it to 40 lashes and knew there was only one person in the whole tribe that could survive that lashing and that was him because he was superior in strength.

Finally the thief was caught. To the horror of everyone it was his own mother. The tribe was in shock. What was the leader going to do? His law was that in everything parents were to be loved and honored. But thieves were to be whipped. Great arguments arose on the day of judgment. Was he going to satisfy his love and save his mother or was he going to satisfy his law and have her die under the whip because she could never endure that?

Soon tribal members were divided and even making wages on what he would do. And finally the judgment day came. The tribe was gathered around the great compound in the center of which a large post was driven into the ground. The leader's great throne sat in the place of prominence and with great pomp and ceremony the leader entered, took his place on the throne. The silence was deafening.

Soon his frail little mother was brought in between towering warriors. They tied her to the post. The crowd murmured in debate, will he satisfy his love at the expense of law? Or his law at the expense of his love? The tribal whip master entered, a powerful man with bulging muscles, a great leather whip in his hand and as he approached the little lady, the warriors ripped her shirt off, exposing her frail little back to the cruelty of the lash. Everyone gasped. Was the leader really going to let her die?

He sat staring without moving. Every eye was darting from him to the whip master and back again. The whip master took his stance, his great arm cracked the whip in the air as he prepared to bring the first lash upon her. In every heart was the question, would he allow his love to be violated or his law?

Just as the whip master started to bring his powerful arm forward with the first cutting stroke on that frail little back, the leader held up his hand to halt the punishment. A great sigh went up from the tribe. His love was going to be satisfied. But what about his law? They watched him rise from his throne and he strode toward his mother. As he walked he was removing his own shirt. He threw it aside and proceeded to wrap his great arms around his little mother, exposing that huge muscular back to the whip master. And then breaking the heavy silence he commanded, "Proceed with the punishment." Thus both his law and his love were satisfied.[2]

Beloved, Jesus came to settle your account. He came to be judged that you may live. Settle your account before it is too late. Receive the judgment of Christ on your behalf and live. Or wait and settle you accounts without Christ and you will never get out until you pay the very last penny.

Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and no one settles their account except through him. He offers Himself for you, will you receive Him? And Him alone?