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Luke 12:49-56 – Jesus Promises Judgment and Division


Jesus describes his purpose to bring judgment to the earth. He calls for a commitment that is so deep and defining that it can create divisions even within families.


Conflict and division result from Jesus' ministry throughout Luke's Gospel. In these verses Jesus acknowledges that all this controversy is no accident. With images of fire and baptism he announces that his role is to bring judgment to the earth. The kind of commitment that Jesus calls for creates divisions among people, even turning family members against one another. This is dangerous language, for Jesus claims that he will fracture households, which were foundational pieces of the social world of the first century. At the same time, what he says also indicates that Jesus calls for a commitment to him that is so foundational that it makes identification with him more primary than identification with one's own family unit.

Luke 12:49-56

Jesus the Cause of Division

49 ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided:
father against son
   and son against father,
mother against daughter
   and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
   and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

Interpreting the Time

54 He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

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