O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Not peace, but division
Not peace, but division
Based on Luke 12:49-53
Preached on August 18, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, did you hear that Gospel reading this morning? Quite the text to have the day after you come back from a summer vacation with your family! Quite the words of Jesus to hear at all, but words that we need so desperately in this present age. For which person in this room hasn't experienced the division Jesus speaks of? Which one of us has not experienced this lack of human to human peace specifically because our Lord Jesus is in our lives? And this division is not with random strangers, but with our own family! With our children and grandchildren, our brothers and sisters, our mother and father. Two days ago I attended a wedding in which my sister married a non-believer. Do you think this caused division in my family? And look around you, where are all your children? Or your other family members? Are they united with you, longing to sit here at the Lord's feet and hear His Word of grace? Or is there something about the preaching of this Jesus that pushes some away? We all have that person or persons we pray for, worry about, even ache in sadness towards - those we suffer for in the faith.
And so we see, that these words of our Lord, though not what we expect, are radically true. True, yet ironic. Because we know the very thing our Lord came to bring is peace, peace with God, peace between evil mankind and our holy Father in heaven, but how do others feel when you speak of having peace with God only because of what Jesus Christ has done? Do they feel different from you? Divided?
Yes, Jesus says, they do feel different from you, because you are different. I have made you different by my Word. I have spoken you holy and set you apart. Not because of anything found in you, but because my Word declares it to be so.
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth, Jesus asked? No, I tell you, but rather division. And this division is not physical - like a fist fight. Jesus is talking about a spiritual division, one of heart and mind and spirit. A division between those who want to justify themselves and those who would be justified by the blood of Christ alone. Between those who want to follow their flesh and those who would walk by the Spirit alone. Between those who want God to be their therapist, and those who want God to be their Redeemer from sin, death and the devil.
From the moment Christ began preaching, people - families - have been divided. They have been divided into two kingdoms. The kingdom of the devil and the kingdom of God. Where at one time all hearts and minds used to be under the power or kingdom of the devil, now at the word of Christ, the kingdom of God has broken through, has divided, that evil power and begun to reign over hearts and minds. Christ came to bring this very division. He came to speak a kingdom that was different from that of the devil. And by it, to set you free.
But this brings us great strain, doesn't it? For not all people hear the same. We find ourselves caught between our family and our Lord. Our family demands that we set our loyalty to Christ aside, and make them the top priority. Listen to our word, not His, they say. Spend time with us, not Him, they say. Our faith is under constant attack from those who take His Word lightly.
We might even be tempted to downplay these seemingly strong words of Jesus, as though they are not the heart of His message, but the truth is that this is one of the most passionate things Jesus ever said. All of the language is emphatic, like you would use an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence. And even His words are passionate - fire, baptism, peace, division.
If we would downplay these words of Jesus, we would miss the whole point of what He is trying to say. He said, "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!" This isn't really about us. It is about Him. About His judgment on the cross.
Christ longs to reveal His kingdom to us, to show us His grace. How great is my distress, he says. How totally governed by this am I. From the moment of His baptism until He finally hung on the cross, Jesus bears the wrath of the Father in Himself - Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. With every sickness Jesus heals, every sin He forgives, every dead person He raises, Jesus is both releasing creation from its bondage and absorbing into His body all sickness, sin and death. This is how He puts Himself in the position to receive God's wrath against sin. He does not exempt Himself from this judgment and fire He came to bring. It is for Him. He has put Himself into it. Placed His neck underneath it that He might save you.
And division!?! They will be divided," Jesus said, "father against son, and son against father. In the body of Christ as He hung on the cross, the heavenly Father was divided with His Son, because His Son became sin in order to reconcile the world to God. To take away the division we have with God.
You know that person you worry about and pray for, even ache for in sadness - for Christ that person is you. You are the one He thought of as He carried the sins of the world. You are the one He suffered for as He crawled onto the wood of the cross. Jesus was divided for you, so that you could be one with Him forever in His family. Jesus was drowned in your sin. Baptized to death in the filth of all mankind. Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. Division first experienced by our Lord in His body, and now experienced by believers - those who make up His body, as they face those who continue to attack our Lord.
Yes, Christ came to bring division upon the earth. Repent. For the division He brought He cast upon Himself, and He yearns for you to know that He has taken it away from you. You are part of His family, and while that will cause some strain for you right now, your Lord's death and resurrection promise that the life that awaits you is worth the wait. In Jesus' holy name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr