LUKE 12: 49-56
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
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.