Scripture: Luke 12:49-53
49 "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained 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 henceforth 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 her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
Meditation: Do you want to be on fire for God? Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. What kind of fire did Jesus have in mind here? The image of fire in biblical times was often associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2). The image of fire was also used to symbolize God's glory (Ezekiel 1:4, 13), his protective presence (2 Kings 6:17), his holiness (Deuteronomy 4:24), righteous judgment (Zechariah 13:9), and his wrath against sin (Isaiah 66:15-16). It is also used of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3). God's fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a reverent fear of God and of his word in us.
Jesus' sharp statement that he would cause division rather than peace within families must have shocked his disciples.Was he exaggerating? Jesus used a typical Hebrew hyperbole [a figure of speech which uses exaggeration for emphasis] to drive home an important lesson. We often do the same when we want to emphasize something very strongly. Jesus' hyperbole, however, did contain a real warning that the gospel message does have consequences for our lives. It has the power to heal, restore, and unite those who believe its message. But the consequence of ignoring or rejecting the gospel can lead to many hurtful desires and seduction by the world.
When Jesus spoke about division he likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: a man's enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The essence of Christianity is loyalty to Jesus Christ - the Son of God and Savior of the world - a loyalty that takes precedence over every other relationship. The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship (or anything else) above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies, if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)?
"Lord Jesus, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Make me strong in love and fidelity that nothing may hinder me from doing your will."
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The fire of the Gospel and being baptized in the Holy Spirit, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"We affirm that the fire that Christ sent out is for humanity's
salvation and profit. May God grant that all our hearts be full of
this. The fire is the saving message of the Gospel and the power
of its commandments. We were cold and dead because of sin and in
ignorance of him who by nature is truly God. The gospel ignites
all of us on earth to a life of piety and makes us fervent in
spirit, according to the expression of blessed Paul (Romans
12:11). Besides this, we are also made partakers of the Holy
Spirit, who is like fire within us. We have been baptized with
fire and the Holy Spirit. We have learned the way from what Christ
says to us. Listen to his words: 'Truly I say to you, that except
a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of
God' (John 3:5). It is the divinely inspired Scripture's custom to
give the name of fire sometimes to the divine and sacred words and
to the efficacy and power which is by the Holy Spirit by which we
are made fervent in spirit." (excerpt from COMMENTARY
ON LUKE, HOMILY 94)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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