Sunday, November 25, 2012



Before moving on to chapter 13 of Luke I want to pause this morning and further clarify how division is triggered by the Prince of Peace. This is a hard statement Jesus has just made, "I came to bring division." I want to share with you the way I see it and maybe it will be helpful to you in your faith journey.
"Peace at any price" is not the purpose of His coming. Jesus came to clarify to everyone who will listen the "way, the truth and the life" where the highest character will be developed, the greatest meaning and fulfillment can be experienced and where one can know God personally. Let's dig in a bit and put this in a wider context.

FIRST-He continues to say "to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see." This indicates that there are those who will refuse to hear and see, therefore they will oppose the teachings and principles of Jesus. That human response will bring division.

SECOND-Jesus teaches His disciples to pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This is because the kingdom is not practiced fully on earth right now and someday it will be. Until that complete fulfillment of the kingdom on earth, the ugly conflict between good and evil will continue. That will bring division.

THIRD-The peace that Jesus promises is not the peace of this world. There is a parallel passage in John's Gospel. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. Jesus gives total liberation to man through spiritual and inner peace. Luke presents Jesus in this manner as a king of peace at His birth and before His suffering and crucifixion. The Jews expected a wordly happiness and satisfaction with the coming of Jesus-sort of a political bliss that would come over people as if they had been exposed to some chemical that would put everyone on a high. But Jesus makes it clear that it is not so. The reality is that His coming will not bring about some political nirvana, but will make people think and choose. This very fact will bring division through a variety of responses.
FOURTH-When you choose to follow "the suffering Jesus", you separate yourself from following some pompous and powerful leader created by Madison Avenue marketing departments. Jesus was the ultimate "self-giving" example for us. Those who have difficulty being self-giving, but are self-centered will choose to walk another way. Jesus will get in the way of their self-centered quest. This, too, will bring division.

FIFTH-There is also the reality of people taking the words of Jesus and using them to build their own "human-centered" organization for human gain. This new organization is like a monster in that it wants to get as many members as possible and control them and their pocketbooks. Those who are in leadership are not bad people, but misguided because this is the only way they know to follow God and do ministry. Those who follow it are not bad, but misinformed thinking that this is the "right" way to do things. Therefore, the organization gets into "brand-loyalty" and competes with all other brands, thinking they and they only have the "right" way of thinking or believing or behaving while everyone else outside this brand-loyalty is "wrong". This is the way of much of Christianity and other forms of religious brand-loyalty. There is this need to be right. Jesus is the way, truth and the life...and He is the unifying factor, however man's self-centered need to be right and to die for their brand-loyalty divides and is so hurtful. When a person in that ugly, divisive position of faith in their particular brand sees that it is all about Jesus Plus Nothing and not their brand of it-that Jesus is supreme over all of the brands, then peace is brought to a person's heart and to his family and friends.

SIXTH-This same kind of brand-loyalty then can be extended to the variety of religious systems in the world and how they view Jesus. The fundamentalist whatever who believes he is right and all others are wrong and must be conquered or destroyed will continue to advance the conflict of good and evil and will bring unending division. However, as we witnessed at the Prayer Breakfast, once a person from whatever background discovers the Jesus Plus Nothing truth, then peace is experienced-first inner peace and then that peace overflows into family and friends and enemies.

SEVENTH-So, as Jesus enters any life-situation, the various responses to the Way, the Truth and the Life" will be different and those responses are at the source of divisiveness-not Jesus. Jesus is not the cause of divisiveness, but by His very presence there is a very real reality that some will reject Him or twist Him or use Him and stir up the spirit of divisiveness.

"I came to bring division" is saying that His very coming will trigger a variety of responses to Him and will bring division among friends and family. He will not force anyone to follow Him or love Him, therefore there will be division. He is warning the disciples of this reality. In our faith journey we are to introduce people who are interested to the irresistible Jesus and His kingdom. In a sense, we are always looking for ways to "advance the conversation" about Jesus. We must not be afraid of the truth that comes out of that conversation, because Jesus is the truth. I like to say, ALL TRUTH IS GOD'S TRUTH. All truth culminates in the person of Jesus. This brings us back to what I've been saying over and over lately. We are not talking about a set of beliefs to believe, but rather a person to follow. Jesus is the great I AM. HE IS THE WAY-without Him there is no place worth going. HE IS THE TRUTH-without Him there is nothing worth knowing. HE IS THE LIFE-without Him there is nothing worth living for.



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.