By Martin Morrison.
It is quite true that Jesus is called The Prince of Peace by Isaiah. The primary peace he brought, is peace between God and man. Any other peace is minor in comparison. But of course, those who have been reconciled to their Creator, will inevitably seek peace with all other creatures. Just as those who hate God, inevitably start hating their neighbour. Hence, our present world!
But Jesus is not a one-dimensional Saviour. In Luke 12: 49 – 53, he presents himself not as the Peacemaker, but as the Divider. However, before we get to that, Jesus informs his listeners in Luke 12:49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled”. The obvious question is, what on earth does Jesus mean? The answer is found in Old Testament imagery. We read in Malachi 3:1 – 3, “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. But who can endure the day of his coming. For he is like a refiner’s fire. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver”.
As we all know fire has refining qualities. Remember at Gold Reef City, how they placed that container with unrefined gold into the furnace. It goes in as alloyed, impure gold and comes out unalloyed, with all the impurities burnt up. So, Malachi tells us that when the Messiah comes, he comes to purify his people, to knock off the edges, to burn up the rubbish. God will use the circumstances of life to refine us, to purify us, to make us more godly. God can even use the sin and evil of this world for his own divine purposes.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Jesus of the Bible is not a genie-in-the-bottle; a gentle Jesus meek and mild. He did not come to make us healthy, wealthy or successful. No, he comes to cleanse us, to refine us, to change us, to make us holy. And that is not always comfortable or pleasant. We read in John 6: 56, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him”. When people hear the authentic Jesus, they leave. It’s not quite what they bargained for. It’s too drastic; too uncompromising!
Malachi 4:1 also tells us that the second purpose for the coming of the Messiah is to bring judgement. “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch”. It’s a frightening picture of the judgement of God and Jesus tells us that that is a key reason he came! He came to see that judgement is done. In fact, he says in Luke 12:49, “….and would that it were already kindled”. Jesus knew as we do, that for the most part there is no justice in this world. The wicked literally get away with murder. Surely, Jesus is merely voicing the desire in the heart of every believer, that justice be done, that all the wrongs should be righted, that evil and sin finally be punished and judged.
We are stopped in our tracks by the words of Jesus in Luke 12:50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished”. Jesus confesses that he in fact will be taking upon himself all the just judgement that sinful people like you and me deserve. It is God in the dock. It is God taking his own medicine, to rescue the likes of you and me! There in one breath we see both the wrath of God and the love of God. The cross is precisely where the love of God and the wrath of God meet. You will never understand the extent and depth of God’s love, if you don’t understand the extent and depth of God’s wrath. Both seen in blazing technicolour on the cross.
We come now to our original question. What did Jesus bring? Jesus asks the question in Luke 12:51 when he says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth?” Both then and now people would overwhelmingly say, “Yes!”. Surely, that’s why he came. What a shock when Jesus says, Well, my dear friends, nothing could be further from the truth. I haven’t come to bring peace, but division!!
Just as Christ was persecuted by this world, we should not be surprised that we too, his disciples should suffer the same treatment. Don’t be surprised if your unbelieving friends and colleagues cannot understand your values, your morals, your beliefs.
“Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth?” But Jesus to everyone’s surprise says, “No, I tell you, but rather division”. But surely, the Messiah would at least bring peace to homes and marriages and families! Sometimes yes, and sometimes no!
You see what Jesus is talking about is a radical new loyalty in your life. A new priority in your life. Where your first allegiance is no longer your blood family but your blood Saviour. And sometimes, don’t be surprised that having put Christ first, your closest family sadly become your most bitter opponents.
In some families and cultures, the power of the family is so strong, that following Christ will mean that your family cuts you off entirely. They may even treat you as if you were dead.
Such is the nature of being a Christ follower. Question: Are you willing to make that kind of commitment? Are you willing to put Christ first, before everything else, even your own blood family? In the end it comes down to either your blood family or your blood Saviour. Only one can come first. Your call.