The good news of the Gospel is this: That Christ has come not to bring peace on earth, but division! In this word we find true peace, comfort and the certainty of the Gospel. For the journey to cross is a war unlike any other, where God does not seek to take any prisoners, acknowledge any pleas for surrender, or draw up any peace treaties. Jesus has come to completely and utterly destroy death, sin, and the devil. He does not come to make peace with the devil, or to sign a treaty with death, or to establish an understanding between ourselves and our sin…He comes to finish it.
Jesus is the promised enmity/division of the word spoken to the devil in Genesis 3 (see below), and as he now preaches about the fire that is to be cast on the earth (Lk. 12:49) and the baptism that will kindle that flame (Lk. 12:50), he shows us the destructive, purifying, and redemptive nature of his cross. For here at the cross Jesus will undergo the baptism into God’s wrath, destroying death, purifying us from our sins, and casting the presence and grace of God on the earth through His work and Word.
We have received the benefit of this fire and baptism, indeed through our own baptism into Christ, and his dividing us from sin, death and hell. Through Christ, and in His Church, we continue as His gathered people to hear and receive this divisive and saving Word, and move now to confess it fully to the world.
As Jesus moves on to discuss the division of households in the age to come in His cross, He reveals a temptation given to the Church saddled with great pain and suffering. As our children wander from the faith, as spouses reject the Word and Christ’s gifts, the constant temptation to those divided from death in Christ will be to blur and erode the very Word that gives life through the cross. We often fall to this temptation solely out of the desire to keep peace in our families, but even this is not true peace.
As we struggle in our faithfulness and faithlessness, we are brought back continuously to the unfailing and faithful work of Christ, who despite our burdens, continues to bear them for us, refresh us with his gifts and send us out behind his name, work and presence.
You are divided from death, for you are forgiven in Christ’s Name.
For Further Reflection
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.
Fire can either destroy or it can purify. The fire of God’s wrath laid on Jesus will lead to his death and will destroy the power of sin and hell. This fire is first laid on Jesus when he enters the waters of his baptism by John. From his baptism, Jesus stands under the Father’s wrath and continues to stand under the Father’s wrath until that wrath is satisfied in his crucifixion. With every sickness Jesus heals, every sin he forgives, every dead person he raises, Jesus is both releasing creation from its bondage and absorbing into his body all sickness, sin and death. This is how he puts himself in the position to receive God’s wrath against sin. From the moment he steps forward publicly in his baptism as the world’s Messiah, this process begins. For this he came.
Arthur A. Just Jr., Concordia Commentary: Luke 9:51-24:54, 522.