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Jesus: A cause of division

LUKE 12:49-53


Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”



I have come to set the earth on fire. The whole unit of the text is 12:49-59, and it consists of three subunits: the cause of division (vv 49-53)—our present text; the call to consider the signs of the times (vv 54-56); and the call to settle one’s accounts (vv 57-59). The sequence is important. The ministry of Jesus forces choices and divides families. In considering such choices, one should examine the evidence that indicates that God has indeed sent Jesus, just as one reads the skies for the weather. And one should remember that if anyone becomes indebted to God, then he or she will have to settle accounts, so the choice is an important one. Jesus is beginning his final appeal to the nation of Israel to repent. In 13:31-35 he warns what will happen if the people fail to respond. As with all of Luke 12, the issue is responding to God and to the One he sent, the Son of Man.

Jesus begins noting that he has come “to set the earth on fire” and wishes that it were already kindled. Jesus’ “I have come” statements are designed to summarize his ministry. The image of fire can refer to judgment (cf 3:9) or to the Spirit (cf 3:16). The Old Testament image of fire describes the purifying message of the prophets (cf Jer 5:14, 23-29). Jesus’ message reveals the judging and purging work that his ministry represents: to provide the way for people to make decisions.


Where do we stand before God?


SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail:; Website: