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Luke 12:49–56


14 August 2022

Exploring the Scripture

Jesus was controversial in his day and remains so today. His message, those with whom he interacted, and the challenge he presented to norms of empire and success brought him into direct conflict with other voices and influences in his day. Today, looking at who Jesus is, what he stood for, and what he means for our lives and societies continues to stir deep passions. When Jesus comes into our world and our lives, he brings a call to decision and commitment. Will we embrace his kingdom message, or not?

The author of Luke has been setting up a series of contrasts between the Jesus’ kingdom priorities and those of the world. Do we accept Jesus as Lord, or place another in that role? Do we trust in God’s providence, or treasure that which fades and decays? Will we be ready to respond in mission or miss the opportunity because of apathy and weariness? This passage lays out the full force of such a critical decision. Are we willing to enter the baptism of Christ, even if it means opposition from those we hold closest? In Luke 3:16, John declares that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This immersion into God’s judgment and purification (as experienced at Pentecost according to Acts 2) is a sign of the coming reign of God which Jesus ushers in. Thus, baptism implies choice. Are we willing to enter the fullness of God’s kingdom-living? An alternate interpretation of the end of verse 50 by I. Howard Marshall, theologian, reads, “…how I am totally governed by this,” his mission and impending death. Are we totally governed by the same concerns and priorities as Jesus? If so, we join with Christ in declaring God’s Word, even to the point of splitting away from our families and communities. Jesus himself experienced this as he brought his message of peace—members of his own family rejected him and his message.

The work of redemption inevitably brings division. Though the kingdom of God is one of reconciliation and peace, it is not always easily received and often rejected. Proclaiming Christ’s new community is always divisive because it requires us to choose who and what will guide our lives. When we commit to follow Christ, we must prepare for the opposition we will face. The commitments we make affect our relationships, for joining Christ in his mission through baptism will change us. Those around us will be confronted with their own choices for the kingdom. “Peace on Earth” is not always greeted as “good news for all,” at least not immediately.

This is reflected in the next portion of our text. To what do we give our attention? A good farmer notices even the slightest change in the weather because of the effect it could have on the crops. Does our decision for the kingdom of God change how we respond to the world? Are we as fully invested in reflection and conversation about God’s love and purposes as we are about the weather? If we are willing to choose the baptism of Christ and enter his mission, we are called to place it as our highest priority and worthy of our greatest attention. It is not difficult to see how such a message would be controversial to the first who heard it from Jesus, and for us today.

Central Ideas

  1. Following Jesus can be controversial and di Even as we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of peace, we are aware that pursuing such a worthy cause is often met with opposition.
  2. We are daily asked to consider “what matters most” and how our answer affects our lives.
  3. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ includes making a choice for Christ’s mission as our highest standard and governance. Disciples are asked to risk it all for the sake of the gospel, even when such choices are difficult and heartbreaking. 

Questions to Consider

  1. When has your journey with Jesus been difficult?
  2. What does it mean to be willing to risk for the sake of the gospel’s joy, hope, love, and peace?
  3. When has the pursuit of peace caused upheaval in your congregation?
  4. What are ways you find helpful to focus on that which matters most? How have you nurtured these disciplines amid struggle?
  5. How has your baptism—your immersion into the mission of Christ—changed your life and your relationships?

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