I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
—Luke 12:49, NIV
What is the ‘fire’ that Jesus has come to cast upon the earth? He says He wishes it were already kindled. I believe He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who was to come at Pentecost after the crucifixion. When the Holy Spirit did come, He appeared as fire. (Acts 2:3)
But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!
—Luke 12:50, NIV
Strengthens this impression. Jesus says He must undergo a ‘baptism’ and that He is distressed about it until it is over. This is a clear reference to the crucifixion, which is not the sort of experience we should expect Him to anticipate with glee.
In these two verses we hear Jesus saying: “I wish Pentecost were here already, because I am dreading Good Friday.” These verses show us Jesus’ human nature, but they also show us that He had a clear idea of the point and purpose of the drama that was to occur that Passover. Before the crucifixion, these words must have puzzled the disciples, but after the crucifixion, during the resurrection appearances, they would serve as comfort and confirmation; which is probably why Jesus said this.
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 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.
—Luke 12:51-53, NIV
Jesus prophesies that families would be split because of the Christian affirmation of some of their members, and this must of been to great comfort to Christian martyrs of later ages. One example of how this was fulfilled is Perpetua, a pagan girl who was converted to Christianity. Her family tried desperately to dissuade her from Christianity but she persisted. In desperation, her own father brought legal charges against her in the hope that the trial would shock her back into her senses, even pleading with her eloquently during the trial, but she continued to profess Christianity and was convicted. The authorities were as gentle to her as they could be, even allowing her to nurse her infant while she was imprisoned, but she interpreted it as a sign of God’s grace from Jesus Christ. Finally, she was executed—by being devoured by wild animals. Her family grieved her refusal to relent. Incidentally, Perpetua did not die in vain. Through her trial, the Roman public came to see that Christianity was not some horrible form of barbarism, and Perpetua’s death did much to end the practice of throwing Christians to the lions.
Have you ever experienced this sort of problem in your family? Of course, any family that is divided by an issue will suffer the same sort of agony, and the agony is destructive unless it is caused by someone choosing a better way. The virtue of suffering is determined by the merits of the cause of the suffering.
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
—Luke 12:54-59, NIV
Although Jesus speaks of signs, He is speaking of the signs of the first coming and not the second. The reason I say that is that Jesus was speaking before the crucifixion (which is certainly not the sort of event one passes over when speaking of momentous events) and because Jesus accused the people of being good at interpreting weather signs and bad at interpreting the present age. Jesus says they will eventually appear before the judge (the second coming) so now while there is still time (the first coming), why don’t they try to settle their accounts with God out of court? This is good advice to people who have a bad case, because when they do come before the judge, they face certain conviction and imprisonment.
Have you settled with God out of court, or are you planning for a last-minute plea-bargain? One famous man was asked on his deathbed if he had made peace with God. He answered, “I wasn’t aware that we had quarreled,” and breathed his last. Isn’t it better to be aware of a solution than to be unaware of a problem?