I interrupt my previous series on “Bible Verses Taken Out of Context” to bring you the sermon I preached this last Sunday, August 18, 2013. I will pick up the series at a later date, but I have been a little too busy as of late to write an original blog post. New babies will do that to you! I hope this satiates your appetite!
“Family Ties” Based on Luke 12:49-53
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
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.
This passage in Luke 12 can be a little jarring to our ears at first. Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? Um, yeah, Jesus. That’s exactly what we think. Aren’t you supposed to be the Prince of Peace? In fact, Luke himself seems to communicate that quite clearly in the rest of his gospel. Luke 1:76, 79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! Jesus himself says in Luke 7:50 and 8:48- Your faith has saved you; go in peace. To the 72 he sends out, he says in Luke 10:5-6- Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. The crowds hailed Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem as a bringer of peace in Luke 19:38- Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! And finally, after Jesus rises from the dead, the first thing he says to his disciples in Luke 24:36 is this: Peace to you!
So what is going on in chapter 12? Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! Kind of a conflicting message, isn’t it? Maybe this is one of those contradictions in the Bible that the critics are always trying to point out. Maybe they are right!
Don’t worry! They aren’t. They never are. What we have going on here in the gospel of Luke is two different kinds of peace.
You see, the peace that Jesus comes to bring is peace between God and mankind. Jesus does bring peace on earth for those who are members of God’s kingdom. This is why Jesus came- to reconcile God and man. This peace between God and man is made possible through Jesus’ death on the cross. On the cross, all of God’s wrath against mankind, against you and me, because of sin was poured out on Jesus. And this is what Jesus is talking about in verses 49-50 of Luke 12. 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! The fire that Jesus casts on the earth is God’s judgment and wrath. Jesus came to consume and destroy sin. But he doesn’t cast fire against sin by destroying sinners. Again, God’s wrath and judgment against sin, the fire that he casts, is placed solely on Jesus on the cross. When Jesus wishes that it were already kindled, he knows what his ultimate destination is: the cross. And he is expressing his desire to do what he came to do. The baptism that he is to be baptized with is a bloody baptism, again referring to the cross. Jesus knows the pain and anguish and distress that he will undergo to pay the price for the sins of the whole world. Jesus would undergo a brutal and agonizing death to satisfy God’s wrath and bring peace between God and man.
You and I have that peace. You know that peace. It is yours through Christ and through your baptism which marks your entrance into God’s kingdom of grace, mercy, and peace. The benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection are yours and so is the peace that surpasses all human understanding. All of those passages about the peace that Jesus brings are about the peace between God and mankind which is yours because of your faith in Jesus as the One who took your place on the cross.
However, the peace that Jesus brings between God and man actually causes division on this earth between man and man. Jesus’ death on the cross might bring peace to you from God, but it causes division in this world. You will be hated by the world because of me, Jesus tells you. Paul refers to the cross of Jesus as a stumbling block for many, foolishness to the world. You will be reviled and persecuted and killed for Jesus’ sake. The same cross which brings peace will also cause division.
No doubt, you all have seen the popular bumper sticker which reads “COEXIST” and is made up of symbols of many of the world’s major religions. The implied message behind this bumper sticker is “Can’t we all just get along? All religions are equally valid. They all lead to the same place. Just stop trying to convert me and everybody else and let me live my life in peace.”
But Jesus makes it quite clear that this kind of thinking is impossible. Not that we can’t get along with everybody in the world, but the idea that all religions are equally valid is not only false according to Jesus, but it is also illogical. They can’t all be true because they are all opposed to each other. Jesus makes it quite clear that there is one way to peace with God, and it is through him. There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus. You either stand with him or against him. He is either your Savior, brother, and friend, or he is your enemy. It’s black and white, and so you can see why Jesus causes division in this world.
You can see the evidence of Jesus causing division in his own life. While Jesus brought peace and healing to many people, the religious leaders grew increasingly opposed to Jesus and his message. The division between Jesus and his opponents became so great that they conspired to kill him. And they succeeded. Jesus tells his followers that they can expect the same kind of opposition. And the division that the cross of Jesus causes among the people of this world can be extremely painful, especially when it occurs in your own family.
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. This is difficult for you and me to swallow because I am willing to bet that each one of you have experienced division in your family because of your faith. This is a reality for each one of you.
Many of you parents and grandparents know the pain of a child or grandchild who has rejected Jesus and his church. You may have sisters and brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, close friends, distant relatives, who do not know the peace that Jesus brings through the forgiveness of sins. And this tears you apart. You often don’t know what to do about it. So you pray. You try to bring it up when the time seems right. At times, you get angry and say things you shouldn’t. You have experienced the anger and rejection from an unbelieving family member or friend who tells you to mind your mind own business and to let them live their life in peace.
But that’s just the thing. There is no true peace without Jesus and faith in his death and resurrection. There is only one way to true peace, eternal peace, and in your deep desire for everyone you know and love to experience that eternal peace, peace with God, you have experienced division and heartache here on earth.
When Robert Short, the author of The Gospel According to Peanuts and Parables of Peanuts, spoke at Concordia Univ. in Seward, Nebraska, he disclosed that as a high school student in Texas, he became an agnostic, although he had been raised in a Methodist home. He became president of the science club, whose activity caused such a stir that the high school principal complained to his parents. He remembered sitting across the table from his mother as she spoke to him. Tears were running down her cheeks as she said, “I thought we raised you right. I never thought it would come to this: our son an agnostic.” During his college years Robert Short, through contacts with a campus pastor, repented and was renewed in his relationship to Jesus and decided to become a minister! He went home to tell his mother about his decision. They were sitting at the same table. Again tears rolled down her cheek, this time tears of joy, as she said, “I never thought it would come to this: my son a religious fanatic.”
Some of you have experienced the first half of that story with a family member or friend and are desperately hoping and praying for an outcome like the second half of the story. Your own family is broken and divided and it tears your heart apart. You may even get angry at God for allowing something like this to happen. What can you do, where can you turn, when your own family ties are severed because of Jesus?
You turn to him. You ask for his forgiveness when you have lashed out in anger or said something you regret to someone you love who has lost their way. You receive his forgiveness over and over again, experiencing the peace that comes from his cross and empty tomb. You rest in His mercy and grace, and you listen to his promises: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” “My peace I give to you.” You thank God for your baptism and your inclusion in His kingdom of grace, mercy and peace.
You remember the joy that is yours because of the peace you have from God. An English officer once told this story: “In Belgium I met a man who had converted to Christianity from Buddhism, and whose confession of Christ had cost him everything. No sooner had he been baptized than his possessions were taken from him, and his friends deserted him. “Are you able to bear your troubles?” the officer asked him. “Many ask me that,” he answered, “but they never ask me whether I am able to bear my joys; for I enjoy a happiness in my heart since I know that Christ has forgiven me that nobody has been able to take from me.”
What else can you do? You pray. Pray continually. You pray for your family members who are believers that they would remain in their faith. That certainly is my desperate prayer to God for my children and my whole family. You ask God for strength and wisdom when dealing with family members who do not believe. You pray that God would soften their hearts, that they would recognize their sinfulness and their need for a Savior. You pray that they would repent and believe in the Gospel. You pray that God’s will be done in all things for his desire is that all people would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. God desires not the death of a sinner, but that all would turn to him and live.
You proclaim the Gospel. Only the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, is able to change hearts and create peace with God. God promises that His Word will never return empty. Never stop talking about Jesus and what he has done and let God do the rest. It is ultimately up to him. I planted the seed, Paul says, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth. Plant the seed and let God do the rest.
Finally, when your family ties are broken and divided, you rely on your other family, the family of God, your church. We are family. Jesus illustrates this truth in Luke 8:19-21. Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Jesus has provided you with another family, the body of Christ, united under him. The Church is a family of unconditional love and acceptance because of the love and acceptance we have received from God in Jesus. We are family, and we are called on to support each other in good times and in bad. Weeping when others weep and rejoicing when others rejoice. Praying for each other and supporting each other, especially when our earthly families let us down.
The family of God is blood related! We are joined together as brothers and sisters through the blood of Christ.
In Jesus, you and I and all people in the church are blood related. We are connected by the blood of Jesus which washes away our sins and makes us sons and daughters of God. Look around you and see your brothers and sisters in Christ, your family, and thank God for them. While our earthly families may be full of division and heartache, God has provided you with a family that will last forever. The Church may not be perfect, but it is a family brought together and united by Christ, and together we have the peace which surpasses all understanding through the forgiveness of our sins.
May God strengthen his family, the Church, that we would support and encourage each other, forgive each other, grieve with each other, rejoice with each other, and spur each other on to love and good works through faith in Jesus. In his name, Amen.