Gospel, Luke 12:49-53
Fire, a baptism of suffering — this is the commission, His commission. Now we can understand what Jesus is telling us about peace and division, for Jesus surely does bring peace to those who are brought into His kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism. In this Sacrament we are made to participate in His death as our sins are washed away by the blood of the cross, and we are raised again to a new life in Him. This is peace with God, won on the cross, kindled with the fire of the Holy Spirit. But this does not lead to peace in earthly life. That is not part of the promise. In fact quite the opposite. The teaching of the cross which brings peace with God also brings the enmity of the world. The salvation on offer through Christ will serve to separate you from those who reject this Gospel. We see this in Jesus’ entire ministry, the contrast between the religious authorities of the day who reject and persecute Him, and the sinners and tax collectors who receive Him in faith. You see, there are only two paths, two ways, one of life, and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways. Apart from Christ there is no peace between these two ways, no way to accommodate the gulf that separates them. That is division. For those who are grown accustom to life apart from the Word and and the Sacraments the conscience develops a false sense of security. Only Christ can bring that reconciliation, only the Holy Spirit can move hearts to turn back toward God in repentance and faith.
The opposition to Jesus only increased as He made his way to Jerusalem, and the divisions against the disciples would only increase after Pentecost as the Word was kindled in the ancient church. Jesus says opposition to Him would even split families. The same is true of our our age, in the time of the church, as the Body of Christ waits for the consummation of all things when Christ returns in glory. On that day the final division will take place: Jesus will divide the goats from the sheep, those who have been sealed in the waters of Holy Baptism and have confessed their faith in Christ will be confessed by Christ to the Father. On that day the peace Christ announced when He greeted the disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, “Peace be with you” will once and for all be established in the midst of God’s people, because Christ will be present with them forever.