Gospel Reading: Luke 12:49-56
“I have come to throw fire on the earth. I wish that it had already started! I have a baptism to go through, and I will suffer until it is over. “Do you think I came to bring peace to earth? No! I can guarantee that I came to bring nothing but division. From now on a family of five will be divided. Three will be divided against two and two against three. A father will be against his son and a son against his father. A mother will be against her daughter and a daughter against her mother. A mother-in-law will be against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud coming up in the west, you immediately say, ‘There’s going to be a rainstorm,’ and it happens. When you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and that’s what happens. You hypocrites! You can forecast the weather by judging the appearance of earth and sky. But for some reason you don’t know how to judge the time in which you’re living.
Message: Nothing But Division
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Our gospel reading brings an image we seldom see of Jesus. We see a glimpse of the one who will sit in judgement on that final day. As we read in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 “After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ. People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw. The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done. If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward. If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”
On that final day, some will be welcomed as a good and faithful servant – see Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Good job! You’re a good and faithful servant! You proved that you could be trusted with a small amount. I will put you in charge of a large amount. … Come and share your master’s happiness.’)
Some will be turned away to whom he will say, “I never knew you.” as in Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’
So, understand, when Jesus spoke of families being torn apart, it wasn’t a threat. It was an observation. The culture was already fragmented and his clarification of the scriptures would further fragment it.
Let me explain.
For nearly 500 years the Jews had berm without a true prophet of God.
The original temple, the heart and soul of Jewish life had been destroyed in 587 BC
At the time of destruction, most of the upper class of their religion, government, and society had been enslaved and carried away to foreign lands.
Eventually, many returned to rebuild the temple in 538 BC
However, they found that in their long absences, the Jews that had been left behind, had intermarriage with non-Jews. These were the Samaritans.
When the Samaritans offered to help rebuild the temple, they were rejected. So they moved about 40 miles north of Jerusalem and built their own temple.
This division created great hatred between both sides.
Israel, who had previously been given God’s word through the prophets, began to be divided into groups with – very – political, religious, and social agendas. They also differed in their beliefs and traditions about the Messiah.
The religious tried to live the law of Moses as the understood it, but each group interpreted the scriptures from such varied perspectives that Jewish Society became more and more divided. As a result, the true understanding of who the Savior would be became confused.
Once the voices of prophets fell silent, the priests and their fellow Temple workers, the Levites, became the highest officials among the Jews and claimed for themselves the right to interpret scripture.
However, the office of High Priest became corrupted as it was bought and sold during this time.
Many Jews felt that the priests and Levites did not fulfill their responsibility to teach the law correctly,
a new group evolved who sought teach the law. Known as scribes, they model themselves on Ezra, who had helped his people feel an urgency to learn and to obey the law.
In 167 BC Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonian Empire, including Jerusalem and outlawed the Jewish faith, forbidding circumcision and desecrating the temple by offering swine on the altar.
Many Jews resisted, led by a family known as The Maccabees . The Maccabean war eventually brought freedom to the Jews and created a Jewish Nation for the first time since the fall of Jerusalem.
At the same time the hasideans, meaning the pious, formed. They showed their Devotion to God by trying to live every miniscule aspect of the law of Moses as they understood it.
Other religious groups also emerged during this time. Each claiming the – exclusive – right to interpret the scriptures.
(Sounds a lot like many modern groups, amen?)
The Pharisees came into being soon after the maccabean war. They became very influential and Jewish Society by introducing a narrow focus on food laws and on ritual Purity, aspects that were rooted primarily in their – oral Traditions, – not scripture.
The Sadducees, on the other hand, rejected any appeal to oral tradition and held strictly to the five books of Moses, turning their backs on the writings of other prophets.
Oh yes, let’s not forget that the hated Romans conquered the middle east and occupied Israel in 63 BC.
Jesus came into this mess of mixed messages and misunderstandings and – amazed his listeners because, “Unlike their scribes, he taught them with authority.”
Some there were, who embraced Jesus’s message of God’s gift of forgiveness through his Son’s sacrifice. And there were those who reject the gift. Families were divided by their beliefs concerning Jesus. There are still those that accept, those that reject, and families are still divided because of Jesus.
Jesus said, “I have come to throw fire on the earth. I wish that it had already started!
Now, let’s talk about that fire in the biblical context.
In the bible Fire is a represents so many things. It can represent the
presence of God — as in the pillar fire in Exodus (13:17-22) and the tongues of flame at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
It can also represent the final judgment as in Revelation, Satan and his army are consumed by fire (20:7-10).
Fire also represents purification — Zachariah (13:9) and Malachi (3:2-3) each refer to God’s intention to purify Israel like a refiner purifies silver by fire.
Jesus is the embodiment of all of these images. Jesus, as part of the Godhead, embodies the presence of God which simultaneously judges and purifies.
The division of which Jesus speaks is a result of the purifying fire he bears. The kingdom of God he proclaims represents a new order governed not by might but by forgiveness, not by fear but by courage, and not by power but by humility.
Those lured by the temptations of wealth, status, and power; and those who rule now will resist this coming kingdom for it spells an end to what they know and love
Therefore Jesus — though coming to establish a rule of peace — brings division, even to the most intimate and honored of relationships, that among family.
But if Jesus’s call to a new way of relating to each other — through forgiveness, courage, and humility — stirred up division during his time and that of the early church, what does it bring today?
There are Christians in some parts of the world who continue to face opposition and persecution. However, we Christians in the western world are seldom openly persecution for the sake of our faith. So, how are we to understand Jesus’s pronouncement that he brings fire and division rather than peace? Just observe how fragmented the Christian denominationsare today. Aren’t families still divided by their beliefs?
Jesus asked his listeners how it is that they could predict the weather but not understand the signs of the times. Can we do our own weather forecasting by discerning the signs of the times? There are few biblical end-time prophecy left unfulfilled. And those could be accomplished quickly.
I don’t know when that trumpet will sound and time will cease! But I do know that it is two thousand years closer than it was when Jesus berated them for not knowing. And I know that it will come suddenly and unexpectedly like a thief in the night.
Hear these words from 2 Peter 3:10 “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day heaven will pass away with a roaring sound. Everything that makes up the universe will burn and be destroyed. The earth and everything that people have done on it will be exposed.”
Knowing that the day of the Lord will come without warning, what are you and I to do in preparation?
I enjoy watching YouTube channels about Bushcraft, survival, self sufficiency, and prepping. I Was A Boy Scout and I believe in being prepared. We do not have a doomsday bunker filled with a stockpile of weapons to fight off the zombie hordes. However, we do have duffel bags packed with about a week’s worth of clothes plus freeze dried food and water and some basic tools. These are in case of fire, flood, or winds. These preparations will be useless on the Day of Reckoning. To be prepared we need to live the life of service as commanded by and demonstrated by Jesus listen again to Matthew 25:31-40
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’
Providing shelter, food, water, clothing, health care, protection, love and support, caring for your neighbor, and loving your enemies, these are the things will pass through the fire unharmed.. Simply put, “Always do for other people everything you want them to do for you. (Matthew 7:12a) That is how to be prepared.
And then pray that God’s kingdom comes. Come, Lord Jesus!
The good will of the Lord Jesus be with all of us. Amen!
Portions of this sermon used information from “The Lost 500 Years” by S. Kent Brown & Richard Neitzel Holzapfel