Luke 12:49 (NIV) 49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
On verse 49: What fire did Jesus come to bring? Some scholars think the “fire” here refers to Jesus judging the world one day. Others think that this fire refers to the Holy Spirit whom God the Father would send upon the church later in Acts 2. Perhaps it’s both. In any event, in order for that “fire” to happen, Jesus would first have to go through a “baptism”, described in the next verse.
Luke 12:50 (NIV) 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!
On verse 50: Jesus was baptized in Luke 3, so what other “baptism” would Jesus still need to undergo? The baptism Jesus is referring to here is his coming suffering and death on the cross. Here we see the humanity of Jesus and “how distressed” he is as he awaits the time of his betrayal, crucifixion and death. I appreciate how real and transparent Jesus is as a leader about his feelings and his struggles.
Luke 12:51-53 (NIV) 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.”
On verses 51-53: It is true that knowing Jesus brings us “a peace that transcends understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and a peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27). But it is also true that people, even family members, can be divided because of faith in Jesus. When that happens, it is a test of faith for the Christian. If that ever happens to you and family members oppose you because of your faith, keep hanging onto Jesus. Don’t give up. Trust God that He will make all things beautiful in His time and will save not just you but your family members one day too.
Luke 12:54-56 (NIV) 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?
On verses 54-56: Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry so many signs were pointing to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah whom the Hebrew Scriptures had been prophesying about and whom the Jews had been waiting for. Reaching this conclusion should have been like simple meteorology. Yet many still did not clue in to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, so Jesus rebukes the crowd of thousands for it.
Luke 12:57-59 (NIV) 57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
On verses 57-59: Here I believe Jesus is referring to his conversation with the man in the crowd in verses 13-15 who asked Jesus to help him resolve his legal dispute with his brother. Jesus gives the crowd some practical advice: when you are dealing with legal issues, and especially matters where you risk being severely punished, do your best (“try hard” – v58) to settle the matter as peaceably and quickly as you can.
In addition to giving practical advice on resolving legal disputes with others, I believe Jesus’ words here may also be pointing subtly to the fact that Jesus would act as a mediator between God and people. To enable our reconciliation to God, Jesus would be dragged off to stand before a judge (v58), be handed over to officers to be punished (v58) and would not be set free until he paid with everything that he had (v59). Jesus did this all for us.
Lord Jesus, I recognize today that Your mission to bring salvation, peace and hope to humanity came at such a high price. We will never know the depths of the rejection, frustration, and pain You endured to make our reconciliation to God possible. Thank You for all that You have done for us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!