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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 2, 2017
Divisions & The Times
Turn again to Luke 12. This morning we will complete our study of this particular chapter by looking at the last section of it in verses 49-59 in which Jesus teaches something that often surprises people because it does not fit with their caricature of Him.
It is common for people, especially in a country like the United States which has an historical Christian heritage, for people to think they know what Jesus was like and what He taught even though in reality they do not know because they have never read through even one entire gospel account much less all four. Their understanding of Jesus is skewed because they generally only know what is repeated the most often in popular culture instead of what the Bible actual states about Him. The tendency then is to think of Jesus being meek and mild and wanting to bring peace to everyone. They are told that Jesus loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. Sin, if it is mentioned, is left in a generic form that it is just the common human condition of abstract failure to be perfect. Jesus’ death is left in a mystical haze as is His resurrection which may even be presented as mythical. His promised return is usually either ignored or presented like a doting grandfather coming to take care of his grandchildren. The Jesus of popular culture is safe like a lamb.
This morning we will see a different side of Jesus. He is a lion, not a lamb. He became a man for a very specific purpose that would bring peace to all those that would believe and follow Him, but it would bring judgment for those that do not. The truth is that sin is individual heinous rebellion against God and His laws. Jesus died as the necessary blood sacrifice to redeem man from sin with His death on the cross demonstrating how wicked sin actually is and how much God hates it. Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead shattered the bondage of sin and death for mankind and gives hope of redemption, forgiveness and eternal life with God for all that repent and believe. His promised return is the great hope of true Christians, but it will bring judgment upon those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8). In our passage this morning Jesus warns of a division caused by the gospel in the present and the necessity of being watchful of the signs of the times.
This passage comes directly after Jesus’ stern command in verses 35-48 to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. We examined those verses in some depth last week. This week I am just going to read them to set the context for our study of verses 49-59 today.
35 “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” 41 Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44 “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 “But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
Jesus has commanded us to be ready for His return, and as I pointed out last week, that return is imminent. While there are many things that could happen before His return, there is nothing that must happen, so He could come at any time including today. There is great reward for those that are found ready because they are doing their master’s will. There will be great punishment for those that disbelieve or ignore the command and are not ready when Jesus returns. (See: Be Ready for His Return) Our passage this morning continues with this warning to be watchful while also revealing the divisions that will occur because of Jesus.
Division – Luke 12:49–53
49 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51 “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 “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.”
This seems to be a very surprising statement from the One who has the title of “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6), of whom the angels proclaimed at His birth “glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14), and who told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you”
(John 14:27). In Acts 10 Peter begins his gospel presentation to Cornelius and those with him that “The word which [God] sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace though Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)” was now going to the Gentiles. Throughout Paul’s epistles he calls God the “God of peace” and wishes His peace upon those to whom he is writing. Peter, John and Jude make similar statements in their letters. In Romans 14:17 Paul comments that the “kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” and in Galatians 5:22 he includes peace as one of the fruit of the Spirit. In 2 Timothy 2:22 Paul tells Timothy to pursue peace along with righteousness, love and faith. How then can Jesus say in this passage that He did not come to grant peace on the earth, but rather division?
The answer is simple for those that have taken the time to read through the Bible and those who are diligent to make sure any quote from the Bible is set into its context.
Yes, Jesus did come to bring peace to men, but such peace requires a reconciliation between God and man and then between men. The gospel of Jesus Christ can do both, but there cannot be peace with those who reject it. They will remain at enmity with God and His wrath will abide upon them. They will also hate the righteous because of their hatred for God and what reflects Him. In addition, a righteous life exposes their sinfulness and guilt.
Jesus begins this section with the two means by which He will bring peace to the earth. Verse 49 is tied directly to the warning He has just given about being ready for the coming of the Son of Man. The Hebrew prophets made it very clear that the Messiah would come as a conquering king that would bring His vengeance and justice to bear on the earth. These prophecies confused even Jesus’ disciples about why He was not preparing to bring judgment and set up His kingdom at that time. Here are a few of those prophecies of judgment at the Lord’s coming that include fire.
Joel 2:30–31, “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. 31 “The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”
Ezekiel 22:18–22, 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver. 19 Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Because all of you have become dross, therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 ‘As they gather silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into the furnace to blow fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in My anger and in My wrath and I will lay you there and melt you. 21 ‘I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be melted in the midst of it. 22 ‘As silver is melted in the furnace, so you will be melted in the midst of it; and you will know that I, the LORD, have poured out My wrath on you.’ “
Malachi 3:2–3, 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.”
Zechariah 13:8–9, 8 “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. 9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ “
I put this prophecy of Zechariah last because it makes it clear that one third will remain to experience the peace that comes with calling upon the name of the Lord and being His people. Here in Luke 12:49 Jesus expresses His desire that the fire of that day of judgment was already kindled for it would bring about the culmination of the ages and righteousness would reign.
However, as Jesus points out in verse 50, He would first have to fulfill a “baptism” that was causing Him distress. This is a direct reference to His coming crucifixion as the blood sacrifice of atonement for man’s sins. He uses this same analogy of baptism for His suffering and crucifixion in Mark 10:38. Jesus had already told His disciples about this when they were in Caesarea-Philippi (Luke 9:22-25). This is the other means by which men could experience peace for Jesus’ atonement on the cross of Calvary is the means by which man is redeemed, forgiven and reconciled with God and adopted into His family. Jesus’ bodily resurrection proved His claims and promises to be true. Without that reconciliation, there cannot be peace with God, but with that reconciliation there is peace with God and with other believers.
The context of the verses I gave earlier are in reference to this peace with God or peace with men because of what Jesus has done. The title of “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9 is a prophecy of the coming of Messiah who would establish of a government of peace because justice and righteousness would be upheld in it. That requires judgment of the unrighteous. The proclamation of the angels at Jesus’ birth is because Messiah had arrived as the next step in the unfolding plan of God. Jesus did give His peace to His disciples and it would be different from that of the world because it would continue to exist in the midst of the tribulation they would have in this world (John 16:33). It is a fruit of the Spirit because of its supernatural origin and characteristics. The gospel is a message of peace that can exist between God and man that is to be proclaimed to both Jew and Gentile. As Paul states in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gospel enables us to have peace with other Christians because of the unity of shared belief in Jesus, but it is a peace that must be pursued because Christians still sin and disrupt the peace of fellowship. We strive, as Paul states in Romans 12:18, to be at peace with all men so far as it depends on us, but we also remember that even within the church there are tares among the wheat so such peace is not always possible.
What then is Jesus talking about in Luke 12:51? Jesus came to grant us peace with God and peace with other believers, but the same gospel that brings that peace causes division with those that do not believe. Jesus shows the depth of this division by what it does in the closest of all human relationships, a family. This family of five, a father, mother, daughter, son and his wife are split against each other. He specifically divides it between father and son and between mother and daughter and daughter-in-law, but it is not specific about who believes what and who sides together. Jesus’ point is that the gospel divides even families that would otherwise be close. Many of you have experienced this personally. Sometimes it is just strained relationships and others times it is a chasm that cannot be crossed. One of the worst cases I know about personally was a young woman whose father cut off the relationship when she became a Christian. When she called to talk with him, he refused to talk saying that his daughter had died and he did not know her. There cannot be fellowship between light and darkness or harmony between Christ and Belial or agreement between the temple of God and idols (2 Corinthians 6:14).
It is important that people are aware of the costs involved in following Christ lest they begin to follow and then abandon Him because the things of this world, including family, are more important to them. Jesus did not mince words on this issue. In Matthew 10:37-39 He said, 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Following the Creator and our Savior is more important than any human relationship and even your own life on this earth. The eternal is more important than the temporal, and the Creator is more important than what He has created.
Signs of the Times – Luke 12:54-56
Jesus continues on in Luke 12:54-56 to rebuke and warn the crowd to discern the time they were living in. 54 And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. 55 “And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. 56 “You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?”
The common weather pattern in Israel is for rain to come in from the Mediterranean which is to the west. Over many years of observation people learned that when certain types of clouds were forming to the west, there would be rain coming. For the same reason they had discovered that when a wind was coming from the south where the deserts are located, it was going to be a hot day. Those were fairly simple and common observations. Those who have lived in one place for a long time can usually make similar weather predictions for their own area.
Jesus uses this to rebuke them as being hypocrites. They were pretenders. Their ability to predict the weather gave them a pretense of being observant, intelligent and know the future, but their failure to observe the more important events that were happening in front of them proved they were neither observant, intelligent or paying attention to the obvious signs of what was coming in the future. As Leon Morris well stated it, “They understood the winds of earth, but not the winds of God; they could discern the sky, but not the heavens.” Their religious traditions had blinded them from seeing the signs that the Messiah was in their midst.
This was not the first rebuke Jesus had given for such spiritual blindness and it would not be His last for people are often easily led astray by cultural customs, family traditions, societal standards as well as their own personal desires. Judaism at that time had already fallen far from a quest to know the Scriptures and the God who gave them to one of customs, traditions and standards of man. These things had their origin in supposed efforts to explain the law, the Torah, and how to keep its commandments, but in reality they had usurped God’s revelation with their own rules. This was the reason for the constant conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. Jesus kept God’s law perfectly, but in doing so He was often in conflict with their traditions, interpretations and practices. The perfect man kept God’s perfect law, but He could not and would not keep their religious rules, and they likewise would not obey God’s revelation of Himself and His will.
They should have know the prophecies concerning Messiah and easily seen that Jesus was fulfilling those prophecies. The religious leaders knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but none of them were even curious enough to travel the five miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem when the Magi arrived looking for the one “born King of the Jews.” Jesus performed miracle after miracle proving His authority over disease and sickness (Matthew 8:1-22), nature (Matthew 8:23-27), demons (Matthew 8:28-34), sin (Matthew 9:1-7), and death (Matthew 9:18-26). The most recent one earlier that day was casting out a demon and healing a man who had been mute (Luke 11:14), but some used the occasion to accuse Jesus of doing it by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons. Jesus had already pointed out to this particular crowd that the Queen of the South traveled a long distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but they were not paying attention though one wiser than Solomon was in front of them. The Gentile people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, but they were not repenting though they were in the presence of a preacher far greater than Jonah (Luke 11:19-33). The Pharisees had just been rebuked for how closely they paid attention to ceremonial washing and paying a tithe of even garden herbs, yet were neglectful of the robbery and wickedness in their hearts. The lawyers present were rebuked likewise for how they weighed other men down with heavy burdens of their rules that they themselves would avoid through the loopholes they had created for themselves (Luke 11:45-52).
Some of those that had been present at these events and heard these teachings earlier in the day would have also been present at this teaching session which was taking place after lunch. Jesus had both warned them and told them the hope given to those that would believe God, trust Him to provide and would confess the Son of Man (Luke 12:1-12). Yet, someone in the crowd was more concerned about getting his inheritance and wanted Jesus to arbitrate without even hearing the evidence (Luke 12:13-15). They were spiritually blind.
When John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent two of his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Jesus’ answer was, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Luke 7:18-23).
They could predict the weather because they paid attention to observe what was happening. They could not discern what was going on spiritually even though the Messiah was standing in front of them and He had proved His fulfillment of the prophecies of the Hebrew prophets over and over again. They were hypocrites.
Judge Rightly to Be Prepared – Luke 12:57-59
Jesus concludes this section with a strong rebuke and warning. They were in great danger if they did not change. 57 “And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? 58 “For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59“I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.”
Verse 57 is a rebuke that they needed to take individual responsibility to pursue and discern what is right – what agrees with God’s requirements. Too often people defer to others whether they actually know what they are talking about or not, and it is my own conclusion that it has only gotten worse. For most people, unless it is the area of their own particular expertise, they yield to the opinion of the supposed “expert,” and even more so if a lot of supposed “experts” agree. While there is some wisdom in that, you are still individually responsible for the outcome of any decisions made even if you yielded it to the “expert.” For that reason alone, you need to make sure whatever the “expert” is telling you is at least compatible with known truth in other areas.
I personally find this very irritating in fields of science when an “expert” makes claims that are actually ludicrous because they contradict known facts and sometimes even laws of science. Regardless of how many initials are behind your name, your hypothesis cannot contradict the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics or laws of Probability or it is philosophical musing and has nothing to do with science. Such is the case with evolution. Your hypothesis also has to match the historical data, and sorry, but even when the advocates of climate change – global warming by man-made causes – change the data in the historical record, they still can’t change the reality. It has been both warmer and colder in man’s historical record long before the industrial revolution.
I find this dangerous when it comes to your health, and frankly, there are a lot of doctors out there that did not graduate top of the class. If the condition is serious or has the potential of being serious, it is good to get a second opinion with someone trained at a different medical college and ask a lot of questions yourself. At the same time, unless you have some science or medical training and even then be very careful of self-diagnosis by reading internet sites. There are a lot of self proclaimed experts that are quacks and frauds as well as the sincerely wrong out there. You want an objective opinion by someone that has proven they know what they are talking about.
What is irritating in science and dangerous in health is absolutely terrifying when it comes to the spiritual realm because the consequences are eternal. Hell is forever and there is no “do over.” That is the challenge Jesus is giving to this crowd. You defer to the religious “experts” – the Chief Priests, scribes and Pharisees, but most of them were very, very far from God.
This still happens in our own time as people yield themselves to the opinion of whatever religious teacher tickles their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). It is even dangerous if the particular teacher is good, because every teacher, including me, has their blind spots. If we knew what they were, we would change them, and by God’s grace as the year’s go by we do change a lot of them. But it is the word of God that is the authority, not the preacher no matter how intelligent, pious and godly they may be. You are responsible to be like the Bereans in Acts 17 who were more noble-minded because they listened to Paul and then examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true.
The warning here is stern. It is an analogy that is similar to what Jesus has used before (Matthew 5:23-26), but here the context makes it a direct reference to eternal judgment. What they should do in matters of this life in resolving conflict is even more crucial in matters of eternal life. You are guilty and need to be reconciled with God. He has already provided the means for that to happen by paying it Himself in Jesus Christ. Your part is to repent – change your mind about yourself, sin and righteousness – and in humility confess your sin asking for forgiveness based on faith in what Jesus has done for you, and then follow Him. If you do not, you cannot expect any mercy at the judgment. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 makes it clear that the Lord will deal out “retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
In Jesus’ analogy the fellow cast into prison will not get out until he pays what is owed to the smallest amount, and since he has no means to pay it or earn money to repay it, he will never get out. Once a person is judged by the Lord, there is no escape from eternal Hell. There is no purgatory. There is no means to pay for your sin yourself. You either believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to apply His payment of sin on your behalf, or you owe the price yourself and your condemnation will be forever. As much as you may want to believe in some kind of universal salvation or annihilation of the wicked, neither are true, so the warning must be taken to heart and heeded.
If you are already a believer, thank God for Jesus Christ and what He has done for you. If you are not, take the initiative and pursue truth yourself. Talk with any of our church leaders, we would like to help. Do not leave here today without getting right with God.
Sermon Notes – 6/25/2017
Divisions & The Times – Luke 12:49-59
It is common for people to think of Jesus as only being meek and mild and coming to bring ________& love
Jesus is also portrayed as a _________ bringing judgment and not just a lamb bringing reconciliation
It is a command to _______for the coming of the Son of Man – rewards for the ready, punishment for others
Division – Luke 12:49–53
These verses seem surprising because most people ____________read the Bible or set verses in their context
Jesus brings peace to men, but only those that ____________with God and with one another
Jesus will bring peace when He brings “___________” – comes as conquering king and will judge
Joel 2:30-31 ____________________________________________________________________________
Ezekiel 22:18–22 ________________________________________________________________________
Malachi 3:2–3 __________________________________________________________________________
Zechariah 13:8–9 ________________________________________________________________________
Jesus will bring peace through His “_____________” – death as the atoning sacrifice (cf. Mark 10:38)
The gospel brings peace with God because it is the good news of ____________
The gospel brings peace between believers because it is the good news of the _________of faith
The gospel brings ____________between believers made righteous and unbelievers who remain unrighteous
Believing and following Christ ___________division – possibly even within your own family – Mt. 10:37-39
Signs of the Times – Luke 12:54-57
Those who ______________weather patterns in their area long enough usually get good at near forecasting
They observe and predict obvious weather patterns, but cannot recognize ___________signs of the Messiah
Jesus had rebuked them before for being ___________by customs, traditions, standards and personal desires
Jesus was fulfilling the _______________ concerning Messiah, but they were rejecting even the obvious
The _________: the blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, gospel is preached
They could discern the weather, but not that the _______________was standing in front of them
Judge Rightly to Be Prepared – Luke 12:58-59
Jesus rebuked them for not taking individual ___________to pursue & discern what is right – God approved
While it wise to consult “experts,” the responsibility is ____________________to discern the truth
Experts who contradict _________are irritating in science, dangerous in medicine, and terrifying in religion
Beware! Don’t seek to have your “ears tickled.” Be a __________________!
The warning is stern because the context points to the analogy referring to _____________condemnation
God has done the work of __________________in Christ, your part is to repent, confess, believe and follow
Hell is _______________and there is no escape or means by which to be released – there is no purgatory
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times a reference is made “peace.” 2) Discuss with your parents how to have peace with God
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Explain the context of Luke 12:49-59. How do verse 35-48 determine its interpretation? What does “imminent return of Christ” mean? Why is it an important doctrine? Why do verses 49-53 seem out of character for Jesus to most people? Why are they actually consistent with Jesus’ teaching in other passages? To what does “fire” refer to in verse 49? What are some Old Testament passages that speak of the Messiah coming with “fire.” What is the relationship between peace and Jesus coming in judgment? To what does “baptism” refer to in verse 50? What had Jesus already told the disciples about this when they were in Caesarea-Philippi? How will Jesus’ “baptism” bring about peace between God and people? How does the gospel cause division among people, even families? What is the cost of being a true Christian? Are you willing to pay it? Why? Why does Jesus call them hypocrites in verse 56? What contrast does he draw between their understanding the signs of the weather but not recognizing the prophetic signs that were happening in front of them? What were some of the ways that cultural customs, family traditions, societal standards as well as their own personal desires blinded them to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah? What are some of the Messianic prophecies that had already been fulfilled by Jesus? What did Jesus point to when John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was the “Expected One” (See Luke 7:18-23)? Why does Jesus rebuke them for not taking personal responsibility to judge what is right? Why is it wise to consult “experts” when making an important decision? Why is it dangerous to defer to “experts” the actual decision? Give examples from life? Why is this especially dangerous in matters of religion? What does it mean to be a “Berean” (see Acts 17)? What is Jesus referring to by His analogy in verses 58-59? How do you know this? What does the Scripture say about the nature of Hell? Why are the ideas of universal salvation and annihilation of the wicked contrary to the Scriptures (Give Biblical support)? Why are people condemned to Hell? How can you escape that condemnation? Are you sure that you will spend eternity in Heaven? If so, why? If not, why not and what do you plan to do in order to be certain?
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