Luke 12:51

Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 12:51 

“Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.” – Luke 12:51   

Jesus here in this section is telling the disciples what His purpose was for coming here.  We read the following from Luke. “I have come to cast fire upon the earth.” Luke 12:49a. This verse can be more clearly understood when we look at what Peter wrote. “But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7.  There is a time coming when judgement will come; when the current heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire, along with those who are ungodly and refuse to accept the salvation made available by Christ.  However, the godly people have a different fate. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  And then in the next verse He says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” John 3:17.  In these three verses, we see that Jesus came into this world to call out those who accept Christ as savior, and to bring judgement to those who will not.

Then at the end of verse 49 we read, “and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49b. The idea here is that Jesus longed for the completion of his mission, which was as yet incomplete. And in the next verse, we see what this act of completion will be. “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” Luke 12:50. So, what is this baptism He needs to undergo?  It is not the baptism as we understand it, which was accomplished in chapter 3. “Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.” Luke 3:21-22. The baptism alluded to here refers to an answer given to James and John, the sons of Zebedee. “And they said to Him, Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left. But Jesus said to them, You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Mark 10:37-38. The baptism here forms a parallelism with the ‘cup’ Jesus was to drink and refers to Jesus’ passion and death. According to theologian Robert Stein, this image being found in these two different Gospels indicate it was well-known and that the early church would have understood both Jesus’ baptism and drinking the cup as references to his death.

Then Jesus says why He came. “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53. Now, this can easily be taken out of context.  What Jesus is saying is not that His purpose was to bring division, but that His calling here of preaching the gospel will ultimately bring division because not everyone will accept it.  And I believe because He went to the Jews to declare the truth, this would bring incredible division between those who believe Jesus and those who do not and choose to stay with the Jewish belief system of their day.

And we see a lot of division in our culture today.  This is not what Jesus came to do, but as stated above, it is the result of people who choose not to believe.  Many people will not accept the Christian beliefs of another which will cause a chasm to grow between them. It is important that we do not give up on those who do not believe but continue to be that light which shines out in the world declaring the love of Christ for all. Who knows if our life lived out in their midst will make a difference in their lives.     

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.