Luke 12:49–53 (ESV) 49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
These are startling words aren’t they? We ordinarily think of Jesus’ mission on earth in terms of peace. Remember what the angels sang the night He was born?: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14 (ESV) He is the “Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6 says, that is His very name. What then is this purpose statement all about? In John 3 – Jesus told Nicodemus “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ” Is there a contradiction? “I came to cast fire on the earth” is a bold and troubling statement. And when followed by His desire that “it were already kindled” – one can’t help but wonder what this is all about.
What we must consider then is that this fire that He has come to ignite, is not the final fire of judgment that such passages as Acts 17:31 refer to. Jesus, like His Father takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11). His first visitation among us as we’ve already seen was to call sinners to Himself. The fire He is so anxious to see kindled here, can be nothing other than that kind which shakes the world out of complacency and indolence and indifference. It is igniting a passion in the hearts and minds of men for God and His glory – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. Fire to make a real difference – to engage people’s souls with eternal matters.
Jesus’ is saying “I’ve come to wake people up and set them ablaze with the truth of the Gospel and the implications of believing it and rejecting it.” He came to bring division but not for division’s sake – but so that people everywhere would know there are genuine dividing lines in life. Jesus was not a pluralist or a relativist. He would never agree to the present day forms of thought so popular in our culture. The truth is, every religion can’t be right. They believe and teach contradictory things. Every viewpoint can’t be equally valid. Some things are right, and some are wrong. Every opinion isn’t the truth – no matter how loudly articulated or broadly spread. ONE thing above all divides eternally – Who Jesus Christ is!
Dear reader – this is the absolute bottom line – Jesus Christ is either your Lord and Savior – OR He is your Judge and will carry out His judgment on the final day. There is no other option. To Jesus, one is either on fire for God, or dead in trespasses and sins. Religious and spiritual apathy or indifference is DEATH! He came to send the kind of fire that makes one choose – you are either His or not, but you cannot straddle the fence. And how He wished even then that it was already ablaze – as it soon would be after His resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit. He came to bring FIRE! and He wants the whole world to be set afire in this regard.
The worst possible thing in the world is that you have encountered the Gospel as it is in Jesus Christ with a fence-sitting apathy toward the Lordship of Jesus Christ and your need of the salvation which available only through His substitutionary atonement – and walked away without being born again.
This is not a pleasant fire in the hearth – it is the fire of Heaven come down to bring the light of the glory of God which can only be seen in the face of Jesus Christ. This is Christmas fire. This is why He came.