A sermon based on Luke 12:49-53
Sunday, August 14, 2016 – Pentecost 13C
Okay, so since you're listening to this sermon instead of reading it, you're going to have pay special attention today because of the homonyms I'm going to use. For those of you who haven't had a grammar class in some years, a homonym is a word that sounds exactly like another even though it's spelled differently and has a different meaning—like "right" (R-I-G-H-T) (the opposite of left) and "write" (W-R-I-T-E) (like what you do with a pencil and paper). Today, we're going to use the words "no" (N-O) and "know" (K-N-O-W). So pay attention to the spelling I give and hang with me if you can.
So… perhaps you've seen the bumper sticker that reads, "No Jesus (N-O); No Peace (N-O)." That is to say, if you don't have Jesus in your life, then you will have no peace either. But right below that line, it reads, "Know Jesus (K-N-O-W); Know Peace (K-N-O-W). It's a clever play on words using a homonym to share with the driver behind the peace that you and I have knowing Jesus.
But this morning, we hear Jesus say something that at first sounds somewhat surprising. He says, "Know Jesus (K-N-O-W); No Peace (N-O Peace). That is, if you know Jesus, if you're friends with him, it will bring problems, division, persecution, and pain. You will not know peace in this life, you will have no peace, if you know Jesus, if you have him. But Jesus warns us of that truth to prepare us for it and he gives us a peace that enables us to go to war for him.
Our text for consideration for this morning is taken from Luke 12:49-53…
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. No Jesus; Know Peace
Winston Churchill once said, "You have enemies? Good! That means that you actually stood up for something!" His point was that if you take a stand for a cause worth fighting for, some people will fight against you. You will make enemies. But if you choose to be a coward and always agree to what everyone else around you says, well, you might possibly get along without making any enemies. If you don't rock the boat, if you don't make waves, if you go along with the crowd, then the crowd has no reason to dislike you.
So, while the bumper sticker says, No Jesus (N-O Jesus), then No Peace (N-O Peace), the truth is that all too often N-O Jesus means that you do know (K-N-O-W) peace. No one will persecute you if you agree with them and encourage them to fulfill the desires of their sinful nature. Everyone will like you if you always tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. You will have friend, not enemies, and life will be comfortable for you.
II. No Jesus; No Peace
But you know what? Sitting on the couch and growing bigger doing nothing but binge watch Netflix is also comfortable. With no exercise I can know peace. But of course, you know that with no exercise, with no pain, there's also no gain. I will grow bigger and unhealthier until my poor health takes my life. It might be more comfortable to get no exercise in the short run, but in the long run I will pay the price.
Likewise, even though No Jesus (N-O Jesus) might mean no pain or persecution in this life, even though being friends with the world might be more fun here and now, even though serving myself instead of Jesus might be more comfortable, we'd be waaaay worse off in the end. In the short run we might have fun, but in the long run, we'd end up in hell.
And that's exactly what we deserve for trying to avoid the fire of persecution that Jesus said he would bring to earth. That's we deserve for trying to get along just fine with the world around us as we pretend that we don't know Jesus. N-O Jesus, and you'll K-N-O-W peace—in the short run. But in the long run—the bumper sticker is true: N-O Jesus; N-O Peace.
III. Know Jesus; Know Peace
So thank God that you do know Jesus. And you know what he's done for you. You understand what he meant in that cryptic phrase, "I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!" Literally the word baptism means washing or cleansing. And you know how Jesus was cleansed of sin: the same way all of us would have been if not for him; by enduring hell to burn it off. What a horrible baptism Jesus had to undergo! No wonder he was distressed until it was completed! I think "distressed" would be a huge understatement if it weren't spoken by God himself.
But, of course, you know that it wasn't Jesus' own sin that he had to be cleansed of. For he had no sin of his own. It was our sin that Jesus took on himself—all the times we've pretended not to know him in order to avoid the fire of persecution, for all the times we chose to serve ourselves instead of him because it made life more comfortable for us, for all the times we've pursued our own goals instead of his. Every one of our sins (of past, of the future, and yes, even of the present, if you're sinning right now, struggling to listen to his Word)… every sin has been laid on Jesus. And by the baptism of the cross, he's removed it all!
What a baptism it was that he underwent! It cleansed every person who believes in him. It washed away every sin they ever have committed or ever will commit. He was made clean through the hell he underwent. But so were you and I made clean—spotless! Sinless! Perfect! Holy!—through his perfect life, his innocent suffering, his righteous death—all made certain by his miraculous resurrection back to life again!
So you and I know, "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, [which] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) We know Jesus (K-N-O-W) and so we know peace (K-N-O-W). We know the peace of being right with God, of his certain, constant, never-ending, always-there-for-us love!
IV. Know Jesus; No Peace
But finally, that peace we have with God won't always equate to peace with our fellow man. In fact, Jesus warns that peace with God will often mean war with those who know no peace (those who K-N-O-W… N-O peace). If we know Jesus (K-N-O-W) we will have No Peace (N-O Peace) this side of heaven. (I told you you'd have to pay close attention to the homonyms to hang with me this morning, didn't I?) J
But to know Jesus and his love for us, to believe in him and know the peace that he gives us will invite—almost guarantee!—persecution and problems and pain from those who oppose him. And that might even come from within your own family.
Did you know that you can start a fire with water? Really! You can! I've seen it! (Well, on YouTube, anyway.) Okay, so you also need a bottle or bag and a lot of sunshine. But if you put water in a bottle or a Ziploc® bag, you can use that water to act as a prism and focus the rays of the sun to a point that is so intense that it will start a fire just like you did with a magnifying glass on the sidewalk when you were a kid.
In a sense, Jesus did the same thing. He started a fire with water. By his baptism—that is by his suffering and death to pay for the sins of mankind—he started a fire—a fire of persecution against him and his Church. People have never stopped hating him (or his followers) ever since.
Just consider how that fire burned in the time of the apostles. All but one of the 12 were tortured to death. James was put to death by a sword. Thomas and Matthew were speared to death. Philip was tortured before he was crucified upside down. Bartholomew was skinned alive before he was crucified upside down. Peter, Andrew, James, Thaddeus, and Simon were all crucified too—about the worst possible way die—all because they knew Jesus and the peace that he brought. They knew Jesus and therefore had no peace.
And still today, the persecution continues—and even from within one's own family. My college roommate (a fellow pastor) has a brother who is an avowed atheist and regularly ridicules his brother for what he believes. A friend and mentor (a fellow pastor) has a son who swears that God is a figment of the imagination and thinks that his dad has wasted his life. A high school teacher of mine has a son-in-law who ridicules the Gospel and is doing all that he can to lead his wife and his daughter away from the faith. A friend of mine in North Carolina (a fellow pastor) has a brother who is a practicing homosexual and thinks his brother is a bigot for preaching the Word of God.
And I'm sure you have plenty of examples of your own even within your own immediate family which testify to the fact that Jesus wasn't kidding when he said, 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."
Yes, to know Jesus (K-N-O-W) means No Peace (N-O Peace), not even in your own family. But you know what? That should be an encouragement to us. You see, it means that Jesus told the truth, all the time, even when the truth wasn't fun to hear. It means that Jesus told the truth when he spoke about the peace that we have with God; that peace that surpasses all understanding.