Look at v. 51. Well, what do you think? Do you think that Jesus came to bring peace on earth? Or at least, did you think that before you read the rest of v.51?!
Yes…actually I did! Why? Because the Bible tells us so. Every Christmas we read Isaiah 9.6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night, what happened?
The angels appeared, Luke 2.14, and they sang
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.
Did Jesus come to bring peace on earth? Yes. The only problem is, Jesus says 'No.' "No, I tell you [Not peace] but division."
What is going on?
Back in Luke chapter 9, Jesus went to stay in a village, and we're told that the people of that village refused to welcome him. And, in a slightly over enthusiastic moment (!), James and John, 2 of Jesus' disciples said: "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them?"
Fire destroys. Fire is a picture of God's judgment. And Jesus says in v.49 that he came to bring fire.
When Jesus came, 2000 years ago, he did wonderful things. He healed the deaf; he made blind people see; he calmed a storm; he fed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus did wonderful things. But that's not primarily why he came. He came to preach. And what Jesus said was wonderful as well. But it was also hard. Because what Jesus said and what he did showed the people back then, and it still shows us today, that we're not good people. We don't love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and we don't love our neighbour as ourselves. Jesus shows us that we love ourselves, and we live for ourselves.
We're not good. And because we're not good, Jesus taught that we're not God's friends. We're God's enemies. We're not good, we reject God. And one day Jesus said that he would come again and he will judge us. He will judge the way that we have lived our lives and we will be found guilty of having rejected God and we will be punished. That was the message that Jesus brought. That was the message that we heard from Jesus in v.35-48 if you were here last week.
Jesus came to bring fire on the earth, to bring the message that all of us, by our very nature, are wicked people who reject God and face the judgment and the punishment that we deserve.
God is a good God. And he is a good judge.
So he must punish the wicked.
Which is good news…but not for you and me.
Because we are the ones who are wicked.
Jesus came to bring us the truth about the fire of God's judgment. But that's not all. Jesus came not only to bring fire on the earth and to show us the punishment that we deserve. But as v.50 tells us, he also came to face God's fire and to take the punishment that we deserve.
Baptism is about one life dying and a new life starting. The baptisms we're used to, when people are dunked under water, or when water is sprinkled on their heads, they are a picture of that change. They are pictures of the old life dying and the new life beginning, or the old life being washed away and a new life starting. And just a little while after he said these words Jesus chose to be baptized, on the cross. Do you remember in Mark 10 when James and John ask Jesus if they can share in his glory, Jesus says to them…
Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?
Jesus was talking about his death. Jesus was about to die. Now why did he do that? Well, Jesus chose to die to experience the fire of God's judgment. It tells us in v.50, he was eager to face the fire of God's judgment.
Why? Because he loves us. Jesus came, as we've already seen, to bring fire on the earth. To show us how wicked we are and that we deserve God's punishment and judgment. But that's not all he came to do. He also came to save us from that fire.
God loves us, and so he sent Jesus. To sacrifice himself. To take the punishment that we deserve. To take the bullet, if you like, that was intended for us. To stand in God's firing line, to take the punishment that you and I deserve, so that we can go free. That's what Jesus came to do. He came to warn us and he came to save us. He came to tell us about the fire of God's judgment, v49 and he came to take the fire of God's judgment, v.50.
And if you believe and trust in Jesus… If you're willing to admit that you've lived in a way that deserves his punishment and say sorry to God… And if you're willing to turn back to him and ask him to count Jesus' suffering in place of your own… Well then… you can go free. Jesus has taken the fire that you deserve. There is no more punishment to face. You're free to be in a right relationship with God. You're free to follow him.
In these 2 little verses Jesus reminds us that he DID come to bring peace.Peace between us and God. But the peace that he brings…also brings division. And the division comes between those who believe and those who don't.
1) The Question of Jesus Divides (v.49-53)
What do you make of Jesus? That's the question. What do you make of all that I have just said about Jesus?
Do you believe him? Do you believe him when he says that you are wicked and are facing God's punishment? Do you believe that he chose to die to take that fire upon himself to save you? Do you believe that…or don't you? Do you believe what Jesus said and accept what Jesus did…or not? Do you believe that Jesus is Lord? God become man. Or do you believe that Jesus is a liar?
That is the question of Jesus.
And it's a question that divides. You either believe Jesus or you don't. There is no middle ground. There is no third way. When you and I stand before God, when we die or when Jesus comes again. God will examine everything we've ever done. Every word we've ever said, every decision we've made, everything we've done and everything we've thought about doing. And the verdict for every one of us will be the same.
He will find us guilty. We're guilty of not having loved God the way we should. We're guilty of not having loved our neighbour as ourselves. You know what you're like in your heart, and I certainly know what I am like in mine. We're guilty.
But then God will ask us one question. Just one. And the question is this…"What did you do with Jesus?" And some people will have to say on that day, "I ignored Jesus." Or, "I was too busy for Jesus." Or even, "I hated the very idea of him." Some people will have to say, "Yes, I heard about Jesus, but I never really listened." Others may be able to say, "I sang songs about Jesus." Or, "I read the stories about Jesus."
But there is only one answer that will save you from Hell and welcome you into Heaven on that day, and it's this…"I worshipped Jesus." "I heard what Jesus said and I believed him." "I trusted what he did for me, and I lived my life for him."
Do you see? You did a dangerous thing when you walked into church this morning. And you did a dangerous thing when you sat down and opened your Bibles. You read the words of Jesus. You have heard the message of Jesus, and now you must decide.
Everyone of us must decide. And did you notice in v. 52-53 there's no getting in on someone else's decision. You're not a Christian because you're parents believe. You won't be saved because your children believe, or because your wife or your husband follow him. No, you must answer the question of Jesus for yourself. And it's a question that divides.
But that's not all, because in v.54-56 Jesus tells us that whether you accept or reject him is also a question that demands a response.
2) The Question of Jesus Demands a Response (v.54-56)
Red sky at night… Red sky in the morning…
If you play golf, you know how to read a green. You know if the ball will break to the left or to the right, speed up, or slow down. You know how to tell just when a cake is ready. Not still uncooked in the middle, and not too dry. Or perhaps you know how to read the markets? You know which stocks are going up, and which are about to crash. Perhaps you can read a rockface? And you know which route will be hard, and which will be easier. You can look at a page of numbers and figures and you know whether you're going to finish the year in the red or in the black. You can read a patient's chart, and you know what medicines to prescribe and what will happen if they are left untreated. You can look at the plans for a bridge, and you can see where the loads are too great. You can listen to a car and you know what's wrong with the engine. You can read someone's face, and you can tell if they like what you're saying or if they're angry with you. If you're a child then you can read your parents, you know just how far you can push your parents before they crack. And if you're a parent then you can read your children, you know when you're child is about to have a meltdown!
You know how to interpret all those situations. You can read all those signs, And you know what will happen next. So "How is it," Jesus says, "that you don't know how to interpret this present time?"
The question of Jesus demands a response. Just hearing it is not enough. You have to do something. You have to decide. When you see it's going to rain you rush back home to bring the washing in. When you know it's going to be sunny, you make sure you take suncream with you (and if you're in the Lake District you also take your waterproofs because you know the sunshine won't last long!). You play the ball to the left because you know it's going to break right. You prescribe this medicine, because if you don't, you know that will happen. We know what will happen so we get ready ahead of time.
So why not with Jesus? The question of Jesus demands a response…and time is running out. We know, because Jesus just told us. Jesus could return at any moment. And we must be ready, Jesus says, because when he comes back it will be too late. And the final thing that we see in this passage is that…
3) The Question of Jesus Decides Eternity (v.57-59)
Just imagine if you're on your way to the Crown Court on Quayside. On your way to face charges for a crime that you know you're guilty of. You park your car at the Sage, and as you walk down the steps to the riverside, you know in your heart that the opposition lawyers have all the evidence they need to prove you're guilty. And you have nothing to say in your defense. Your head hangs, your steps are slow. All you can think about is what you've done, and what the judge will say. In fact you're so lost in your thoughts, that as you get to the bridge you're not looking where you are going and you bump into someone and knock the bag out of their hand. You stoop down to pick it up, and it's only as you hand it back to them that you look up and you see… It's the very person who's taking you to court. Wouldn't you say something? As you walk across Millennium Bridge together wouldn't you try to say something to avoid what's coming next?
This morning Jesus says that you and I are like people walking to court. And we're guilty. Jesus came to show us our situation. He came to bring fire on the earth, to show us what we face. But that's not all, because we're not there yet. There is still time to say something. There is still a way to be saved. Because Jesus also came to be baptized. To die and face the fire of God's judgment, so that if we turn and trust in him, we won't have to. The question is, will you accept Jesus' offer, or reject it?
That is the question of Jesus.
It's a question that divides , it's a question that demands a response, and it's also a question that decides eternity. How you answer the question of Jesus is more than a matter of life and death, it's a question of Heaven or Hell.
Because Jesus says, if you go on rejecting him and ignoring him. Well then, when the day comes, God "the judge will turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison [and] you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."
You have a choice. You can believe Jesus, admit your guilt, Accept that he took the fire of God's judgment that you deserve, and follow Him. Or you can face that fire alone for eternity.
So let me ask you, as we finish this morning. Have you answered the question of Jesus yet? He is either your Lord, or he is a liar. There is no middle ground. He can only be one or the other.
Perhaps you know what Jesus said is true. You know in your heart what you deserve, and as you're walking to the courtroom this morning you want to turn to him and say sorry. Ask for his forgiveness and ask God to accept Jesus' death in place of your own. If that's you, then in just a moment I'm going to pray a prayer that you can repeat after me to God.
Perhaps you're still not sure. Why don't you come along to the Identity course? Come and read John's account of Jesus' life and judge for yourself what is right.
Whatever you do, don't ignore the question of Jesus. It's a question that divides. It's a question that demands a response. And it's a question that decides eternity.