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“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And He said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite” —Luke 12:49-59.
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In the previous verses we noticed that our Saviour is coming again, thus indicating that He was leaving the world for the time being. He left by the way of the Mount of Olives, the cross, and the tomb. He was going away because of the attitude toward Him of His own people, Israel, and of the world in general: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” In Hosea 5:15 we read, “I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: i: their affliction they will seek Me early.” When He came in humiliation the angels announced His birth, proclaiming, “Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” But men refused to acknowledge Him. He was rejected and crucified. In addressing the people of Israel Peter said, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” The people of Israel did not recognize in the lowly Saviour, the promised King of the prophetic Scriptures.
In His absence His gospel is to be proclaimed everywhere. When men receive that gospel and come out definitely for the Lord, they, like Him, will be rejected by the world. Christ said in His great High Priestly prayer, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” It means something to be a Christian; it means something to be identified with the One whom the world has rejected. And so as the world hated and rejected Him we need not be surprised if it hates and rejects us—these are the consequences of the cross. Sometime ago when a vote was taken on the best-loved song sung over the radio, “The Old Rugged Cross” was found to be the most popular in the thousands of answers which poured into the offices of one of our leading newspapers. But I am sure there are a vast number of people who sing of “The Old Rugged Cross,” who do not sense the meaning of the cross. Singing of the cross moves their hearts; but they have never yet trusted the One who died upon that cross, nor taken their places in identification with Him in His rejection.
In the opening verses of the present section our Lord refers to this rejection and to that which was to be accomplished on the cross. He said, “I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?” The symbol of fire speaks of God acting in judgment against sin. Jesus came not to condemn men but to save them; yet the world put itself in the place of condemnation by rejecting Him. God’s test is, “What is your attitude toward My Son?” or, “What think ye of Christ?” If men receive Him, if they trust Him, if they take their places with Him, then they enter into peace and blessedness; but if they spurn Him, then they expose themselves to the wrath and judgment of God. Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” He was referring to that baptism of divine judgment which He was to undergo on the cross. We noticed in connection with John’s baptism that it was unto repentance. When people confessed their sins he led them into the waters of baptism. Baptism did not cleanse them from sin but signified repentance. The people went down into the waters of baptism, confessing that they were sinners and that they deserved to die. Jesus took His place with these sinners in this baptism, as pledging Himself to settle for their sins, though He was the sinless One. It was as though He were endorsing the notes which all these debtors were giving to God. When one endorses a note the day eventually comes when it falls due. If the debtor cannot pay, then the endorser must do it. Jesus had endorsed the notes for all these people. Now three-and-one-half years had passed and the fulness of time had come when the notes must be paid, when everything must be settled; and He saw the cross before Him where He was to meet every claim God had against sinners. He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” His own soul was moved deeply as He looked forward to that cross and to the judgment against sin which He was to endure there.
That cross was to divide the world. The Lord Jesus said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” Did He not come to give peace? Peace was offered through Him. If men had received Him they would have had peace, but they spurned Him. For nearly two thousand years war and confusion have prevailed instead of the peace promised by the prophets of old through Messiah’s advent. Peace will not come until He returns. In the meantime there will be strife and distress: “For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Thus it has been ever since He left this scene. Families and nations have been broken up and divided, all because of their attitude toward the Lord Jesus. Many of us know something of that. Those of you who were born into families where the gospel was not known and loved, and yet through the grace of God you were reached and saved, know something of the bitter opposition of those intimately related to you. It has cost many of you a great deal of suffering for the Lord’s sake. Other members of your family called you a fanatic and a fool because you trusted the Saviour. But it is for you to go on trusting Him and to be faithful to Him because of the grace that has saved you. He has pardoned you, and by that very fact you may be sure that He is interested in all your family. Ask Him to bring the others to Himself. But until that takes place do not become discouraged. Before you were saved you did not understand why Christians could give up gladly everything for Christ’s sake, and so you need not expect to be understood now by those who are still in their sins.
Let me warn you who are already Christians: Do not play fast and loose with the world which crucified your Lord. I always feel sad when earnest young people inquire if there is any harm in this or in that. It is better to ask, “Will it honor my Lord?” “Will it make me more Christ-like?” “Will it make me more spiritual?” You may do freely that which will have a tendency to create in your soul a greater appreciation of Christ.
He is coming back again one of these days! He went away as the rejected One; He is coming back as the glorified One. When He came the first time the people could not discern the signs of the times, and there is danger lest we should be just as ignorant in regard to His second coming. He said: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straight-way ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.” They had the Scriptures of the prophets in their hands, and yet they could not see the signs which were being fulfilled all about them. We have the Bible today, and there are many things being fulfilled which tell us of the near return of our Lord; but how few there are who realize this! “Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” The standard is the Word of God. Study the Scriptures and you will learn from them the path you should take as you pass through this world. “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.” In other words, try to settle this matter out of court. Do not wait until the day of manifestation, whether you think of the judgment of the Christ-less at the Great White Throne, or whether you think of the day when the Lord shall descend from heaven and His own shall appear before Him. Do not leave matters to be straightened out till that day. It is better to face everything in this life and so obtain the certainty of divine forgiveness now. It will be too late to put things right in eternity. No man by any effort of his own, by any merit that he might accumulate, can ever meet the demands of Divine justice. But Christ has paid for all who will trust in Him! Justified by faith before God we are responsible to so behave toward our brethren here on earth that we shall keep a conscience void of offence toward God and man.