4/8/16 Luke 12:49-56 Trinity 12

Luke 12:49 [ Jesus said ] "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. 54 He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, `It's going to rain,' and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, `It's going to be hot,' and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?

Hebrews 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Many of us have experienced the problems of being a Christian in a household/family where others are not. It makes us sad that those we love do not share our trust in Jesus. In some cultures this opposition leads to murder.

This was predicted by Jesus, v.51-53. It is about different reasons for living. Living for Jesus or living for ourselves.

For those of us who are in that situation we should remember.

1] That following Jesus will involve us in sacrifice. Taking up our cross daily. There is no crown without a cross. But we have a relationship with Jesus that is perfect and will last forever. Also, God gives us His Spirit with power to help us to live and witness for Him.

2] God loves our families, friends etc. more than we do. He wants the best for them and us. We can help by praying for them and by living distinctive Christian lives. Whilst this will bring us into conflict with the ways of the world it will also be a loving witness to those who do not yet know Jesus. You could say that we are to be signs of God’s grace.

3] Jesus speaks of the crowd ignoring obvious signs that he is the Messiah. They had the signs of his fulfilment of the Old Testament, his miracles, his teaching and his way of life.

They knew that wind coming from the West brought moisture from the Mediterranean Sea and, therefore, clouds and rain. A wind from the south was from the desert bringing hot weather. If they could know how to understand the weather, how could they not understand that Jesus is the Messiah?

Perhaps we feel that kind of frustration when other people do not become Christians. It seems obvious to us! The Bible teaches that faith is a gift from God. Jesus taught that it is like seeds planted in different kinds of soils. Some will grow to produce a wonderful crop, others’ faith will be taken away before it can grow, or be shallow, or be choked by the worldly things (Luke 8:8ff).

So, if people do not come to faith we should not take it personally. God is in control. He loves everyone and wants the best for us all.

Some may even feel frustrated with ourselves because the coin hasn’t fully dropped. Perhaps we feel we are wrestling with the Christian faith. Faith is not something we can generate, but it is something we can facilitate.

We can pray, asking God for the gift of faith. Perhaps we can pray the prayer of the father whose son was possessed and came to Jesus and said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”. Mark 9:24

Faith may take some time to germinate. Trusting in God is about a relationship and relationships need time and space to grow.

Today, if we have faith, pray for those who you know who do not share your faith, and for your witness to them. Be prepared to face opposition, and rely on God’s strength when you do.

If you do not have faith spend time looking at the signs, and ask God to help you to find out more about Jesus.

The Hebrews reading looks back to the people of faith in the Old Testament. It tells of the blessings of trusting in God. But it also refers to the persecution and death suffered by believers. This is still going on today. In places like Syria Christians have been crucified, beheaded, drowned in cages, shot.

We can respond by praying. By supporting organisations such as Open Doors who help people where there is persecution. We can also have confidence that there is something better beyond the grave for those who trust in Jesus.

Hebrews looks beyond that. It refers to a promise that the difficulties of this life point to. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

There are three points to note. Believers have a promise from God that we will not receive in this life. The promise believers will receive is better than anything in this life can give us. It involves us being made perfect, complete. Heaven will involve all believers, throughout history, being together.

Therefore, believers are called to have a different outlook on life. To realise that our present life is temporary, incomplete, difficult at times. Instead we are to look forward. To look to the eternal, perfect, wonderful life that awaits all who trust in Jesus.  2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,


Luke 12:49-59 Year C Trinity 10/Proper 15


Helen is a fifteen year old Christian with a thirteen year old brother, Stephen. When Helen goes to church or the Christian Union at school Stephen will poke fun at her, claim that Jesus didn't rise from the dead, or make comments about Christianity being boring. She used to get really bothered by Stephen and confused because he couldn't see the truth of Christianity. Then she read today's passage, and it all started to make sense...

We will look at this passage using three headings : Fire; Division; and Signs.


49"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

Fire is used in the Bible as a picture for judgement or purification. Before today's reading Jesus had been telling his disciples to be ready for his return, something that we looked at last week ( Luke 12:32-40 ). So, from the surrounding verses we can tell that Jesus is talking about the time after his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension when he will return and judge the living and the dead, as we say in The Creed.

The reason that Jesus wishes that this fire was already starting is found in the next verse... 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!

The baptism that Jesus referred to is his suffering and death on the cross.

Crucifixion was one of the most cruel and barbarous forms of death known to man. It was practiced, especially in times of war, by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Egyptians, and later by the Romans. So dreaded was it that even in the pre-Christian era, the cares and troubles of life were often compared to a cross.

Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, and non-Romans citizens. It was considered a humiliating death, not least because those condemned were hung by a main road as a deterrent. Before crucifixion the condemned person was scourged with a whip, then made to carry the cross-bar to the scene of the execution where the hands were nailed to it and the legs twisted so that both heels were secured by a single nail to the upright post. The agony of the crucified victim was brought about by the painful but relatively superficial character of the wounds inflicted, the abnormal position of the body with the slightest movement causing additional torture, and the traumatic fever induced by hanging for such a long period of time.

Recent medical studies have shown that when a person is suspended by his two hands, the blood sinks rapidly into the lower extremities of the body. Within six to twelve minutes the blood pressure has dropped to half, while the rate of the pulse has doubled. The heart is deprived of blood, and fainting follows. Death during crucifixion was probably due to heart failure, although some have suggested it was caused by suffocation, or even hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. Victims of crucifixion did not generally die for two or three days. Death was hastened by the "crucifragium" or the breaking of the legs. "But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs" (John 19:33). Among the Jews, a numbing potion was prepared by the merciful women of Jerusalem, a drink that Christ refused (Mark 15:23). This was this kind of death that God, in Christ, faced for sinful humankind.

Most people have endured the ending of a relationship with someone we have loved. Perhaps by the other person's death, or possibly something has happened to spoil the relationship. Maybe the other person blamed us for something we did not do.

On the cross Jesus not only suffered an excruciating death, but his relationship with God the Father was severed as he voluntarily took upon himself the punishment for the sins of the world. That punishment was separation from God. That is why , on the cross, Jesus cried out, 'My God, my God why have you forsaken me ? ' ( Matthew 27:46 ). Jesus received the blame for our sin.

Jesus knew this was going to happen. This is why he was distressed, verse 50. This reminds us of the humanity of Jesus. As a human being he went through everything that we have, except one. He never sinned. Therefore, he was able to offer himself as a perfect sacrifice on the cross for the sin of the world, which is something that we remember and proclaim in our service tonight. He is also able to sympathise with us in our sufferings because he has been through them, too. Jesus suffered physically, spiritually and emotionally. He was betrayed by a close friend, abandoned by many of his disciples, misunderstood by his family and those who claimed to be God's people.

Whilst Jesus brings his followers peace with God he brings...


This week I watched a fifty one year old movie called 'Harvey'. It featured James Stewart as a polite, charming, often inebriated 42 year-old man who had an imaginary friend, a 6 ft 3.5 inch rabbit called Harvey. Stewart's sister tried to have him committed to a sanatorium. As the film went on the sister and the psychiatrist met the rabbit, and there was a division between those who had come under the influence of 'Harvey' and those who had not. In the end it was decided not to treat Stewart as he was a better person with the rabbit than without it.

I am sure that some people see Christians like this, that we have seen or experienced something weird, but that as long as it is harmless and we think it does us good then we should be humoured.

Whilst Christians have had their eyes opened supernaturally to the truth about Jesus, this leads to a real division with the world. Verses 51-53 refer to this.

Verses 49f are about the person and earthly ministry of Christ. The rest of the passage refers to people's reaction, concentrating on those who reject Christ.

The Bible says that individuals are either slaves to God, or slaves of the devil. People follow the way of darkness or light. Each way is opposed to the other and will lead to division. This even occurs between members of the same family. In some circumstances this can be anything from an apathetic indifference to hostile, even murderous opposition. Whatever reaction we might have encountered at some time or another, this will sadden the believer.

Jesus said that he had come that those who follow him may have life in abundance, John 10:10. Christians have had this revealed to them so, when we see someone who we know and love failing to have this quality of life and the hope of a fuller life in glory, this brings sadness. We can be comforted in the knowledge that God loves everyone more than we ever can. We can be reassured when we face opposition that Jesus told his disciples to expect this.

Sometimes when discussing spiritual things people say that they would believe in God if he did a certain thing for them or if he revealed himself to them in a way that they expect. Our last section shows that people cannot expect this, because there are already Signs to direct them, verses 54-59.


A sign outside a Crematorium in Palo Alto, California... "Drive carefully. We can wait"

A notice board outside a church read, ' Tonight's Bible Study Subject: "HELL" A warm welcome awaits you.'

An Anglican church in Bradford, Yorkshire had this sign outside it... "If you are looking for a sign from God... this is it! Come to church on Sunday!"

In this country the weather is so unpredictable that even the weather forecasters with their satellites and computers make mistakes. It is a little more obvious in Israel ! A wind from the west was from the Mediterranean Sea and would bear moisture bringing clouds and rain. A wind from the south was from the desert bringing hot weather.

Jesus is now talking to the crowd, verse 54. He calls them hypocrites, literally play actors, pretending to be something they are not. They pretended to know God's ways but were missing the Messiahship of Jesus. Would they be able to see him as the Messiah as he was arrested, condemned and crucified ? Would they realise that he rose from the dead and gives new life and power to those who follow him ? Would they heed his words about the judgment coming of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and get out before the Romans killed it's inhabitants and reduced it to rubble ?

Jesus tells them to judge for yourselves. Whatever the influence of the Pharisees, the Romans, or a person's family each individual bears their own responsibility for their response to Jesus. The signs of the times called for an immediate decision before judgment came on the Jewish nation.

A university professor tells of being invited to speak at a military base one December and there meeting an unforgettable soldier named Ralph. Ralph had been sent to meet him at the airport, and after they had introduced themselves, they headed toward the baggage claim.

As they walked down the concourse, Ralph kept disappearing. Once to help an older woman whose suitcase had fallen open. Once to lift two toddlers up to where they could see Santa Claus. And again to give directions to someone who was lost. Each time he came back with a big smile on his face.

"Where did you learn to do that?" the professor asked. "Do what?" Ralph said "Where did you learn to live like that?" "Oh," Ralph said, "during the war, I guess." Then he told the professor about his tour of duty in Vietnam, about how it was his job to clear mine fields, and how he watched his friends blow up before his eyes, one after another.

"I learned to live between steps," he said. "I never knew whether the next one would be my last, so I learned to get everything I could out of the moment between when I picked up my foot and when I put it down again. Every step I took was a whole new world, and I guess I've just been that way ever since."

The abundance of our lives is not determined by how long we live, but how well we live it. Christ makes abundant life possible if we choose to live it now.

As we saw last week, we don't know when Jesus will return. Therefore, there is an urgency about ensuring that we have made the choice to make him Lord of our life. There is also an urgency for us to share Jesus' love with others. One way we can do this is to invite people along to an 'Alpha Course', a 10 week course covering the basics of the Christian faith. I am looking to start one next month and have already invited a number of people to consider joining. If you would be interested yourself, or would like to invite someone to come, perhaps even with you, then please feel free to ask them and/or contact me. God has given clear signs in nature and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus so people can repent and turn to him.

There is an urgency, illustrated by Jesus. The picture is of a debtor being taken to court by the creditor and being urged to settle up before the judge hears the case and throws him in prison. Once in prison a debtor had no means of earning any money to pay off his debt. The only options were to sell his possessions, his family, even himself.

Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's perfect will for us, which is to love Him with our whole being and to love others people as ourselves, all of the time. This imperfection means everyone is in debit, in the red, before God. We cannot earn enough to bring ourselves into the black. We are all spiritually and morally bankrupt. But the good news is that there is one who can and has paid the price. Who can pay into our account so we are in credit, Jesus.

When Jesus does return everyone throughout history will be judged. No-one will have been good enough by themselves to be admitted into God's presence for eternity. But those who have united their lives with Jesus will be seen by God as perfect. His righteousness will be seen by God in them because their sin has been taken away, nailed to the cross.

This passage features Jesus and two groups, the disciples and the crowd. Where are we today ? With the disciples, united with Jesus ? Or in the crowd, still waiting to judge for yourselves ? And what about your family members ? Where are they ? Can you help them to judge for themselves what is right ?

My mother-in-law Judy was the first member of their family to become a Christian, many years before I met Melanie. Melanie became a Christian a few years later. Judy had been witnessing to and praying for her husband, Roy, for over 10 years. They were on holiday in Hunstanton and met some people there who were conducting a 'Beach Mission' and Roy saw a film about the return of Jesus. They were staying in a caravan at the time and, that night there was the most horrendous storm. Roy thought that the end of the world might be coming and considered that, if it was, he would be separated from his wife and daughter, and left with his mother-in-law ! So he gave his life to Jesus.

Melanie's brother Paul was the last one to repent. He, and his wife Anita gave their lives to Jesus when they came back to England for our wedding in 1984.

God has his own different ways of dealing with people but he is constant in that Jesus is going to return and those who have not repented with face eternity without Him.