Luke 12:49-56 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15—Series C)
“Peace and Division”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
August 18, 2019
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson from Luke 12:
49“I came to throw fire on the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled. 50But a baptism I have to be baptized with, and how I am distressed until it stands accomplished. 51Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52For there will be from now on five divided in one house, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54And he also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say that a rainstorm is coming, and so it happens. 55And when a south wind blows, you say that there will be a scorching heart, and so it happens. 56O hypocrites! You know how to examine the face of the earth and of the heavens, but how is it that you do not know how to examine this critical time?”
Again this morning in the Divine Service, we have sung the words of the angels in the Gloria Excelsis, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth!” Jesus, the Son of God-made-flesh, is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). But our Lord speaks a hard saying in our Gospel reading, “Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” What makes this even more difficult are the words preceding, “I came to throw fire on the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled. But a baptism I have to be baptized with, and how I am distressed until it stands accomplished.” What are we to make of all this?
Naturally, we want success in life. We want victories and happiness. You and I like complete and understandable answers. We are attracted to the things that offer us this, including any religion that promises us such things. But that’s not what we receive from God. No, God gives us a cross.
God the Son came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He took to Himself a true human body and soul in womb of a poor virgin named Mary. Jesus’ first bed was a cow’s feed trough. Yes, the angels sang at His birth, but the message was announced to shepherds, not kings. Certainly, this is not a child who appears destined for success and victory, a carpenter’s son. Jesus, the all-powerful God who made heaven and earth, emptied Himself of His glory. As we read in Philippians 2:8, Jesus, being found in human form, humbled Himself. Jesus was unpopular, scorned, even without a permanent home. He was not the picture of success. He was as He said He would be through Isaiah the prophet, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
Jesus came to be in solidarity with His sinful, fallen creation. You and I and all people stood under God’s wrath and judgment because we are sinners from the moment of our conception (Psalm 51:5). We have inherited original sin that condemns us to God’s wrath and anger, forever separating us from Him because we lack true fear, love, and trust in Him. But the Son of God came to stand alongside sinners. The sin-less One stood in the Jordan River and received John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Christ came to be humanity’s substitute, the ONE upon whom the fire of God’s wrath and judgment against the sins of the whole world would fall.
In speaking of both the fire Jesus came to throw on the earth and the baptism with which He must be baptized, Jesus spoke of His destiny in Jerusalem. Jesus knew that the fullness of God’s wrath was to fall on Him instead of against you and me. Our Savior here yearns that His substitutionary atonement would come soon. And so it did come, not with the flair of success, not with elation of happiness, but with a cross. Jesus was arrested, tried, and nailed to the cross so that He might suffer death and hell because God’s wrath against humanity was placed on Him.
Jesus appeased the fiery wrath of God against our sins, both with His perfect life lived in our place, for which we get the credit, and with His suffering and death on the cross, which purchased and won for us the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. This saving work of Christ’s death and His resurrection victory assure us that, because we now stand forgiven, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). God the Father declares us “not guilty.” The dividing wall of hostility erected by our sins and sinfulness has been torn down by Jesus’ saving life, death, and resurrection just as surely as the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom when He offered up His dying breath (Eph. 2:14; Matt. 27:51).
This is good news—Gospel—for sinners! Jesus lived a perfect life for us and gives us His righteousness as if we have lived a perfect life. Jesus endured and suffered under God’s fiery wrath and anger against our sins, dying on a cross, to win our forgiveness and peace with God, which is signed and sealed as guaranteed in His resurrection on the third day. Jesus does indeed bring peace—peace with God—through His saving work. This peace is received by faith through the Word of the Gospel, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the eating and drinking of Jesus’ own Body and Blood with bread and wine in His Supper. This peace is yours by grace through faith in the forgiveness of sins. You have life everlasting.
But this holy, Christian faith and the means for administering the peace of Christ—Word, Baptism, Supper—will cause division and conflict among people. “The cross brings peace with God and absolves those who are marked with the cross in Baptism, but the cross also brings enmity from the world.”
The effect of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in the name of Jesus is divisive. Sinners do not want to be confronted with their sins as they hear God’s holy Law. By nature, we rebel against it. The sinful nature wants to reject the gifts of God in His Means of Grace as being too simplistic, mere outward signs or symbols that don’t actually accomplish anything. But the Word of God brings salvation by faith in the hearing of Gospel. Holy Baptism actually does deliver faith, forgiveness, rescue from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation because of the Word. The Supper of Christ delivers forgiveness, life, salvation, and the strengthening of faith in the eating and drinking of the Savior’s Body and Blood according to His Words of Institution. But, as I said before, we naturally look for success, happiness, victory, easy answers in things we can understand, in things that are flashy, in things that look spiritually powerful.
Our Lord who saved us by living a life a suffering alongside us, who died on a cross, and who truly rose again from the dead invites us to be aware of the divisiveness of His Gospel. While you and I enjoy peace with God through His Word and Sacraments, many do not as they reject what the Savior offers. Opposition to Jesus splits families. Some of you know this from your own experience. Some family members outright reject the Gospel. Some family members wander from the truth and seek after other so-called “Gospels” that deny the power and effectiveness of God’s Word, Baptism, and Supper to give the forgiveness of sins.
We Christians also face hostilities from unbelieving world and those who have wandered from the truth. Dr. Luther illustrates this lecturing on Galatians in 1535, “When Christ foresaw in the spirit that a great disturbance and revolution in the world would follow His preaching, He comforted Himself this way (Luke 12:49): ‘I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!’ Thus we see today that because of the persecution and blasphemy of our opponents and the contempt and ingratitude of the world many evils follow upon the preaching of the Gospel. This bothers us so much that we often think, according to the flesh, that it would have been better if the teaching of godliness had never been circulated and peace had been preserved than that the public peace should be disturbed as it has been since it was made public. But according to the Spirit, we courageously declare with Christ: ‘I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!’ Once this fire has been kindled, great upheavals immediately arise. For it is not some king or emperor but the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) who is provoked; and he is a powerful spirit and the lord of the whole world. This great adversary is attacked by the weak Word that preaches Christ crucified. . . . This is the source of the tumult and uproar in the world.”
But know this from the Lord’s mouth to your ears, you are not alone. Even if forsaken and persecuted by family, friends, or strangers, you are part of the family of God. Through your Baptism, you have peace with God. By the working of the Spirit through Word and Sacrament, you receive the forgiveness of sins and life eternal Jesus won for you at the cross. This makes you brothers and sisters in Christ in the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church throughout the world. You have a kinship with all who hear the Word of Jesus and believe in Him by grace through faith. In the time of trial and in the moments of division, know that you are Christ’s and a part of His Church. His love and peace and the support of the whole people of God in Christ are yours. Amen.
 Arthur A. Just, Jr. Luke 9:51-24:53, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 1997), 525.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 452.