Know Jesus; No Peace
A sermon based on Luke 12:49-53
Sunday, August 22, 2010 – Pentecost 13C
Perhaps you've seen the bumper sticker, printed in your bulletin, that says, "No Jesus, No Peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace." You're all familiar with the passage that calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. You know the angels' song, "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace toward men on whom his favor rests." You know how the resurrected Jesus told his disciples, "Peace be with you."
How odd it seems then that today Jesus tells us that he didn't come to bring peace. What did he mean? Did he advocate violent attacks on others? Was he advocating war?
Jesus wasn't suggesting that physical violence is okay for us. But he was pointing out that because we have peace with God through Jesus, we won't always have peace in this life. Connected to Jesus we will face persecution just like he did.
We know how Jesus took a stand for us on the cross to bring us peace with God. Now, he calls for us to take a stand with him—even if that stand is against the members of our own family. Today we're reminded that if we know Jesus, we will have no peace. Listen again to Jesus' words recorded for us in Luke 12v49-53…
49 "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."
I. Know Christ Took a Stand for Us
Last week we heard Jesus warn in our gospel lesson that we should "be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Luke 12:40) We were reminded to wait patiently for heaven just as Abraham waited patiently for God to fulfill his promises to him.
This week, he again reminds us that Judgment Day is coming soon. He told his disciples, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" In other words, Jesus was excited for Judgment Day—that day when all evil is completely destroyed and all believers join him in heaven. How he longed for that day!
But are we excited for the Day of Judgment—that day when he pours out fire on the earth? Let's face it: on our own we have no reason to be excited, but rather terrified. Jesus warns us, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33)
So, have you always acknowledged that you're Christians before your co-workers? Have we always stood up for what's right in front of your friends? Have you always boldly shared the truth of God's law or comforted others with the gospel? Or, in order to avoid a conflict with a co-workers or friends, in order to just get along, have you pretended that you weren't a Christian and just kept quiet? If you have, you've disowned Jesus—refusing to take a stand for him—and you deserve to be disowned by him before God… just like I do.
The thought of Judgment Day isn't very exciting in that light, is it? If left in our sin, who among us here would wish that Jesus' fire of judgment was already kindled? And yet, we don't need to be terrified of Judgment Day. We can be just as excited about it as Jesus is! How? Because we're confident that we will be acknowledged before God in heaven, that we will avoid the fire of Judgment Day.
And how can we be so certain, even with all the times we've disowned Jesus by our silence, by refusing to act, by not taking a stand for him? We can be certain, not because of anything we have or haven't done, but because he took a stand for us…
Jesus was excited for Judgment Day to come, but it wasn't time just yet. He still had work to do. He told his disciples, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed…"
What did Jesus mean he had a baptism to undergo? Wasn't he already baptized? Well, perhaps a quick look at a few verses in Matthew 10 will help us understand what he means here. Remember when James and John came to Jesus and asked him, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."? Jesus told them in Mark 10:37-39, "You don't know what you are asking… Can you… be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? …You will… be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with." It sounds like a tongue-twister, but what Jesus was saying is that in order to win his kingdom he would have to suffer and die and that they too would suffer for being a part of it.
When Jesus told his disciples, "I have a baptism to undergo," he was reminding them that he would suffer and be killed on a cross to take away their sins.
For our sake, Jesus had no peace. Instead he was distressed over the thought of what he would endure. The night before his death he said he was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38) And yet, as daunting as his mission was, as intimidating as it might be—horrible beyond our imagination, Jesus never once entertained the thought of running away. He never considered turning aside. He took a stand for us and endured the hell that was rightfully ours.
And now, through his Baptism on that cross, by the faith given us in our Baptisms, we are washed of our every sin—of every time we've loved a son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a co-worker or buddy, more than Jesus. Our every wretched sin is gone and God sees nothing but perfect loyalty and perfect courage in us. He sees holy and sinless saints who will withstand the fires of Judgment Day!
And with our salvation secure, finished, a done deal, we now have peace with God. That's the peace he brought. That's why he's called the Prince of Peace. And now, for this peace of God, we love Jesus more than anything else! We love Jesus more than anyone else! Now, our strongest desire is to thank him for that peace, and so we eagerly endure the persecution that we face. We eagerly take our stand with him…
I. Now We Take a Stand with Him
Jesus did bring peace with God, but that wasn't the peace many wanted. They wanted him to destroy the Romans. They still want him to put an end to terrorists, to end every war here on earth. But that's not why he came. He didn't come to bring world peace or even to help families all get along. Instead he says in these somewhat shocking verses…
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."
For those who have peace with God, there can be no peace with the world. There is no fence-straddling. Remember what Elijah said on Mt. Carmel before his water-soaked offering was miraculously burned up? He told the people, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." (1 Kings 18:21) We can't be friends with Jesus and with the world at the same time. And to whichever one we give preference, that is the one we really serve.
Consider the great general, Julius Caesar. When he was attacking Great Britain, he and his legions approached the land in their ships. The British were watching the Romans from the cliffs as they sailed in to the harbor, but they were shocked to see what Caesar did first thing upon landing. He took his ships and burned them all to the ground—every last one of them. You see, he was so committed to the cause of conquering Britain, that he would rather be killed on that island than to have him or any of his soldiers retreat. That's dedication to a cause!
And that's the same dedication Jesus wants from us. And that's the same dedication we gladly give for the dedication he showed to us when he was on the cross. And because he was so committed to saving us, we are committed to him—and therefore, to his mission to save others—even more than we're committed to our jobs, to our kids, to our parents or our spouses.
And when we're that committed, we won't have peace at work, with our friends, or even in our homes. Let's face it: religion is a controversial topic. It pushes buttons. No one likes to be told that they're a sinner and not good enough for God. No one likes to hear that their very best efforts in life are filthy rags to God. No one likes to hear that they deserve hell. But committed to the truth, that's what we say.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that you be loud, abrasive, and argumentative, always looking for the next fight. But being a Christian is not just being nice and polite and minding your own business. It's minding Jesus' business and speaking the truth in love. And when you take your stand with him and speak up with the truth, refusing to make any compromise on God's Word, the fights will come to you. Your confession of faith (as kind and gentle as it may be) will often be taken as a declaration of war to your unbelieving family and friends and family because truth causes divisions.
And so, your life as a dedicated Christian will not always be easy or comfortable. You will face persecution and pain. But Jesus warned you of that. He didn't say you'd take up your pillow and relax, but that you'd take up your cross and follow him. (Matthew 10:38) He told you he was "sending you out like sheep among wolves." (Matthew 10:16)
And is it any surprise when we consider how Jesus was received—even by his own family! And so Jesus redefined what family was. When someone told [Jesus], "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." He replied, (in Luke 8:20-21) "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."
You've heard it said that blood is thicker than water. But, the water of Baptism which connects us to the Baptism that Jesus underwent when he took his stand for us, this water connects us to one another far more closely than any blood relations. We're a part of his family now as God's adopted sons and daughters.
And being a part of Jesus' family means you will be misunderstood, hated, and separated from those outside of it. Your co-workers won't care for you as much when you don't join them in their sin, but instead work faithfully as if working for Jesus. Your friends won't like you as much when you choose not to stay out late with them Saturday night, but instead go to bed early to prepare for worship the next day. Your family might not like the fact that you leave them at home Sunday mornings to go to worship your Savior.
But all of these divisions, all of this persecution, and all of the pain that accompany them, we gladly take for Jesus' sake. Because of the stand he took for us on Calvary, we gladly take our stand with him. He is our top priority. We're dedicated to him. We're committed to him above everything and everyone else.
Jesus disciples would learn what it meant to have that kind of dedication and commitment to Jesus. For following him they were persecuted, executed, tortured and crucified. They knew Jesus and so they knew no peace in this life. But they gladly accepted those difficulties because they had a greater peace—peace with God through the forgiveness that was theirs in Jesus. The following poem sums up their experience…
They cast their nets in Galilee just off the hills of brown;
Such happy, simple fisherfolk, before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen, before they ever knew
The peace of God that filled their hearts brimful, and broke them too.
Young John who trimmed the flapping sail, homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net, head down was crucified.
The peace of God, it is not peace, but strife closed in the sod.
Yet, friends, pray for but one thing—the marvelous peace of God.
Dear friends in Christ, dear brothers and sisters, value the peace you have with God above all else and rejoice that you know Jesus, even if that means you have no peace on earth. In his name, dear friends, amen.