Sunday, June 26, 2016

Luke 12:49-53

Luke 12:49-53
“I came to cast fire upon the earth, and what I desire was already being kindled.  And I have a baptism to be baptized, but how I am being constrained until when it should be finished.  Do you think that I became present to give peace in the earth?  No, I say to you, but rather division.  For from now on five in one house will be in dissension. They will be divided three upon two and two upon three, father upon son and son upon father, mother upon daughter and daughter upon mother, and mother-in-law upon daughter-and-law and daughter-in-law upon mother-in-law.”

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

In the New Testament, fire isn’t always a bad thing.  Often we think of fire as judgment.  This is largely because we are trained to associate fire with the concept of Hell.  But if that is our application here in this passage, then what we really are reading is that Jesus is saying that He came so that people could be judged.  That just isn’t true, you can read passages like John 3:17.  The Father will be the judge of His creation, not the Son.  So how do we read this instance of fire?  The other use of fire is as a symbol of purification.  You can read Mark 9:49-50 or 1 Corinthians 3:11-13.  In other words, what Jesus is saying here is that He came in order to help purify the earth.  He came to help us see ourselves and discern what is of God and what needs to go because it is our human sinfulness.  He came to redeem us and open our lives up to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, judgment is the natural end of this process for anyone who doesn’t heed Jesus’ purification.  But we should understand that this passage is not meant to cause us to fear the fires of Hell.  This passage is about causing us to recognize the refining process and to appreciate what it does within us.

Where is your life being refined?  Are you appreciative of this process or resentful?  Why can this process be enjoyable?  What makes this process difficult?

Second Thought:

Jesus talks about being constrained until the time is right.  What is Jesus talking about here?  There are many possibilities, probably more than I can lay out here.  If we understand the fire in light of my first point, we know that Jesus was only doing this work in person with His disciples and anyone else who was willing to listen.  Compared to the population, of the world, He had a limited audience.  I can understand how Jesus would feel constrained knowing that the whole world was out there but He was to focus on a very narrow population.  This leads us into another layer of understanding.  We know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come until after Jesus is died and resurrected.  At that point, this refinement becomes truly open to the whole world, not just those people that Jesus has met face to face.  Jesus was constrained.  But now, Jesus can work everywhere at once as He tries to refine people.

Why do you think the Father constrained the Son and asked Him to work in the way that He did?  What does this teach us about God and His relationship with us?

Third Thought:

The rest of this passage talks about division.  The reality is that refinement always brings about division.  When I change my life and begin to follow a truth that is God’s agenda and not a human agenda, it can challenge the people around us.  Some people receive that challenge and imitate.  Other people reject that challenge and become antagonistic to our change.  Other people simply disassociate.  But the point is that when we change our life, we cause other people to react to the change.  That reaction can be favorable, but it isn’t necessarily that way.

When have you encountered dissension when you have been refined by Christ?  When have you found a friend who is sympathetic to your change?  When has your change been imitated by another?

Passage for Tomorrow: Luke 12:54-56
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