“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
– Luke 12:49-53
Since returning from the Holy Land back in November, I have been reading through the Gospels. The other day, I read the above passage and several thoughts flooded my mind which I would like to share with you.
First, notice that Jesus is the one speaking. These are his words. His opening statement is startling. He desires to bring fire on the earth. Not the words you would expect to hear from our gentle Savior. Perhaps we have a false view of the real Jesus found in Scripture. Perhaps we have heard too many sermons on the love of God. Or maybe we don’t really understand godly love that hates evil and desires to destroy it. To the Jews, fire was a symbol of judgment. One commentator writes:
The reference to fire appears to suggest judgment (Lk 3:9, 17; 9:54; 17:29). In the Old Testament fire often refers to the stinging word that came through the prophets (Jer 5:14; 23:29). Division is clearly the result, as the following verses show. Sometimes the truth is painful and divides. [i]
I believe the judgment that Christ has in mind when he says, “I wish it were already kindled,” is the final judgment when he will separate the “sheep” from the “goats” (Mt. 25:31-46). The truth always divides. It’s not that Jesus wanted to bring division, he just knew that his coming would bring division. All one has to observe are people. In many families, the truth of the gospel has brought division. When a family member comes to Christ by faith, often other family members don’t understand and don’t like the change they see in the one who now believes. I’ve witnessed this first hand in ministry. I’ve seen husbands come to Christ and their wives don’t like it. Conversely, I’ve observed wives come to Christ and their husbands don’t understand it. Friends are often separated as one pursues Jesus and no longer desires to do some of the things he or she used to do.
If you would like to test this truth, just bring up the name of Jesus at the next cocktail party. You will quickly see division. In fact, everyone will probably separate from you and you will be left standing all alone. Most people are not comfortable talking about Jesus. It’s okay to talk about God, but don’t bring up the name of Jesus if you fear being separated from others.
One day, in the not too distant future, Jesus is going to return to this earth. And every eye will see him (Rev. 1:7). Are you prepared for this day? Understand that when Jesus returns, he will not be coming as a baby born in a manger. He will return to judge the world and bring final separation. To be prepared for this day, simply place your trust in him now, while there is still time (John 1:12-13; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-10, 13).