Wednesday, February 07, 2007



Jesus was not the prophet of the status quo. He offended the religious establishment. He turned upside down the normal religious symbols of His day. Jesus spoke words of hope and glory, but demanded change. Either change or judgment. And it grieved Him that for many of His people their end would be judgment—by their own choice.

"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 what constraint I am under 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."

Jesus’ mission not only includes an offer of love, grace and forgiveness, but it is also a mission of judgment. John the Baptist referred to this dimension of the Messiah’s mission when he said, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

One of Jesus’ roles was to be the Prophet to the people of Israel. He warned them and called them into an accountability to their God-given mission. In so doing Jesus was continually calling them into repentance—to change their mind and ways and turn back to God and His mission for them.

I just read about this passage: “Curiously enough, the "fire" of judgment has much to do with Jesus' "baptism" on the cross. Sin is judged and punished upon Jesus as He hangs on the cross, "He bears our sins and carries our iniquity." But those who will not put their faith in Jesus the Crucified One, will face a severe sentence at the hands of Jesus the Judge. The Judge would willingly take the place of the judged, but many will not, can not believe Him.”

This mission of judgment-fire will necessarily divide some households. You are blessed when your whole household become followers of Jesus. This is a hard statement from Jesus. But I have come to the understanding that all who want to be with God in heaven may do so. And, conversely, those who don’t want God won’t have to go there and be with Him.

Jesus turns to a parable of the weather: He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?
The weather in Israel is pretty predictable and we’ve noticed that all of the guides and residents of the Middle East have a clear sense and sensitivity to the weather. What Jesus is saying is that they are so smart about the changes in the weather, but are really dumb when it comes to understanding the changes in spiritual things.

Then Jesus shares the parable of the defendant who is responsible for a great debt: "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

It is far better to judge what is right yourselves rather than be dragged off to the judge. Because if you are taken to a judge, you will surely be put in debtor’s prison and you will not come out until your family and friends pay off the last penny. If you negotiate what you owe with your adversary, then you are much better off. In other words, the smart thing to do is to appeal to your adversary for mercy.

Jesus’ point seems to be: “If you know the judgment will surely go against you, you're a fool not to try to settle the case out of court. In other words, if you know that you are subject to God's judgment, then you need to plead for mercy now while there is still time to receive mercy. Jesus is God's offer of mercy. We're fools if we don't reach out to Him (Jesus) and receive mercy and forgiveness through Him.

So far in this section there seem to be four principal lessons emerging:
FIRST—Judgment is delayed, but is most certainly coming.
SECOND—Prior to the coming judgment disciples of Jesus will face division within their own homes.
THIRD—We must stay alert to the signs of the times and be ready for the coming judgment.
FOURTH—All of us must have a sense and sensitivity of the coming judgment and therefore must plead for mercy before it is too late. And before our personal case is dragged into court.

Now, don’t get all twitter-pated about this judgment. There is no way you can handle it or prepare for it. The only way through it is to negotiate a settlement with Jesus, pleading mercy from Him. Here’s how it works. Jesus pays everything. You pay nothing. He gets you in the deal. You get Him. There is no better deal on earth.