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Consequences of Christ's Coming (Luke 12:49-59)

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 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.”

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 12:49-59).

Introduction

The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs at this moment, it would probably produce fear, and a great commotion. One the other hand, in the middle of the winter, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. There is that phrase in one of the secular Christmas songs which speaks of “chestnuts roasting in an open fire.” Now that produces a warm, sentimental feeling.

When John the Baptist began to introduce Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, he spoke of a “baptism of fire” which Jesus would perform. There are strongly differing views as to what was being referred to as this “baptism.” Now, in our text, Jesus is speaking about fire. He said that He had come to “cast fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49, NASB). The kindling of this fire was something which Jesus said He was eager to do. In order to understand His message, we must first learn the meaning of “fire” as He speaks of it in our text.

We will attempt to define the term “fire” which is found in our text by surveying the ways in which “fire” was used in the Old Testament and by John the Baptist. We will then seek to show why our Lord was eager to light this “fire.” Finally, we will try to show how this fire affects all men.

The Structure of the Passage

In verses 49-53, Jesus explains the way in which His coming will “cast fire on the earth.” He also expresses an eagerness to get on with the process of bringing fire to the earth. This “fire” has implications for the family, but not those which we would prefer. The coming of Christ will cause great division within families, driving wedges between those family members between whom we normally find a strong bond.

In verses 54-57, Jesus speaks specifically to the multitudes, pointing out a very serious hypocrisy. He reminds them that while they can forecast tomorrow’s weather by looking at present indicators, they cannot see the coming kingdom of God as being foreshadowed by Christ’s first coming.

Verses 58 and 59 conclude the chapter by making a very personal and practical application. Reconciliation with their opponent needs to take place prior to standing before the judge.

The structure of our passage can thus be summarized:

(1) Consequences of Christ’s Coming—vv. 49-53

(2) Conclusions Called For by Christ’s Coming—vv. 54-57

(3) Crucial Application of Christ’s Coming—vv. 58-59

Christ’s Coming and Its Consequences
(12:49-53)

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 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.”

Jesus said that He came to bring fire to the earth, that He was eager for it to be kindled, but it has not yet been kindled. It would seem that He must first undergo a baptism before it would be kindled. But what is that fire which He came to kindle? The answer to this question comes from the Scriptures. Let us first search the Scriptures to see if they speak of fire in any way which relates to the coming of Messiah. The following texts are those which I find to be crucial to our understanding of “fire” as it relates to the coming of Christ, Israel’s Messiah.

Fire in the Scriptures

GENESIS 19:24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens.

1 KINGS 18:24, 38 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by FIRE—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” … Then the FIRE of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

2 KINGS 1:12 “If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may FIRE come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the FIRE of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.

1 CHRONICLES 21:26 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with FIRE from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.

PSALM 21:9 At the time of your appearing you will make them like a fiery furnace. In his wrath the Lord will swallow them up, and his FIRE will consume them.

PSALM 78:21-22 When the Lord heard them, he was very angry; his FIRE broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, 22 for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.

ISAIAH 10:16-19 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors; under his pomp [glory, NASB] a FIRE will be kindled like a blazing flame. 17 The Light of Israel will become a FIRE, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers. 18 The splendor of his forests and fertile fields it will completely destroy, as when a sick man wastes away. 19 And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few that a child could write them down.

ISAIAH 30:27-33 See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming FIRE. 28 His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; he places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray. 29 And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. 30 The Lord will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming FIRE, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail. 31 The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with his scepter he will strike them down. 32 Every stroke the Lord lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm. 33 Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its FIRE pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of FIRE and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze.

ISAIAH 31:9 Their stronghold will fall because of terror; at sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic,” declares the Lord, whose FIRE is in Zion, whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

ISAIAH 66:16-19 For with FIRE and with his sword the Lord will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the Lord. 17 “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together,” declares the Lord. 18 “And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory. 19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations.

JEREMIAH 15:14 I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for my anger will kindle a FIRE that will burn against you.”

JEREMIAH 21:12-14 O house of David, this is what the Lord says: “‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like FIRE because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. 13 I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord—you who say, “Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?” 14 I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the Lord. I will kindle a FIRE in your forests that will consume everything around you.’”

LAMENTATIONS 4:11-13 The Lord has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a FIRE in Zion that consumed her foundations. 12 The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the world’s people, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. 13 But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous.

EZEKIEL 20:47-49 Say to the southern forest: ‘Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to set FIRE to you, and it will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it. 48 Everyone will see that I the Lord have kindled it; it will not be quenched.’” 49 Then I said, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?’”

JOEL 2:1-3 (NASB) Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. A FIRE consumes before them, And behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, But a desolate wilderness behind them, And nothing escapes them.

AMOS 2:4-5 (NASB)233 Thus says the LORD, “For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they rejected the law of the LORD And have not kept His statutes; Their lies also have led them astray, Those after which their fathers walked. So I will send FIRE upon Judah, And I will consume the citadels of Jerusalem.”

MALACHI 4:1 (NASB) “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

LUKE 3:9, 15-17 “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the FIRE.…” 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with FIRE. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable FIRE.”

LUKE 9:54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call FIRE down from heaven to destroy them?”

REVELATION 13:13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing FIRE to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.

REVELATION 20:9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But FIRE came down from heaven and devoured them.

From all of these verses, I believe that we can make the following generalizations about “fire” as it is used in the Bible:

(1) Fire is closely linked with the presence and the power of God.

(2) Fire is often used, either symbolically or literally, as an instrument of divine wrath, exercised against sinners, both Israelites and Gentiles.

(3) Biblical prophecy speaks of “fire” as yet to come, brought by God against sinners, both Gentiles and Jews.

(4) The future fire of divine judgment is closely linked with the coming of Messiah.

(5) At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist spoke of the coming Messiah as bringing fire.

On the basis of these premises, one can only conclude that the “fire” of which Jesus spoke is the same fire about which the prophets, including John the Baptist, spoke—the fire of divine wrath. When Jesus said that He had come to “kindle a fire” He is therefore saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel.

How can this be? Elsewhere Jesus has clearly stated that He did not come to judge, but to save (cf. John 3:16-17; 8:11)? The answer is that Jesus did come the first time to save men, but for all who reject Him there is no other means of salvation. When He comes again, He will come to judge, especially those who have rejected His salvation.

How can our Lord be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled, as His words indicate? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.

There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is, on the one hand, that between “then” (heaven, the kingdom of God) and “now.” Another crucial difference is that between “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division is the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.

The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom (“fire”—the judgment of sinners) is not just painful to sinful men. It is exceedingly painful to God, not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He cast fire on the earth He had a baptism with which to be baptized.234 This baptism is clearly the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will eventuate in the pouring forth of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.

Jesus could look forward to His baptism and to the “fire” that was to be kindled in the same way that a pregnant woman can look forward to her “labor.” She is eager to get on with it, not because it is pleasant and enjoyable, but because of what will result. The “fire” of God’s wrath, first poured out on Christ on the cross, and yet to be poured out on those who reject Him, is that which will bring to pass the coming kingdom of God.

The Israelites had forgotten this. They had neglected or overlooked the sequence of events which was to bring in the kingdom of God. They looked forward to the “day of the Lord” as the day of salvation, rejoicing, and blessing, but they forgot that the day of the Lord began with judgment. This is what the prophet Amos reminded them:

“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; As when a man flees from a lion, And a bear meets him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall, And a snake bites him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18-20).”

If the Lord’s coming meant the “fire” of judgment for Him, and also for those who reject Him, it also had a cost for those who would believe in Him. While He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), He is also the source of division. He will cause great division among men, even within families, where the bond of union is the most intimate:

“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).235

The division which Jesus speaks of here has several interesting features. First, there is a division which occurs within the family, in which the closest human bonds are to be found (“blood is thicker than water”). History has borne testimony to the fact that the gospel divides men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children, for faith in Christ requires ultimate allegiance to Him. Second, there is a polarization which is described, so that it is not “one against one,” or to follow the imagery established by our Lord, “one against four,” but “two against three” and “three against two.” Those who have come to faith in Christ will join together, while those who have rejected Christ will also find a new bondage, a new basis of unity, in opposition to Christ. This is how the Pharisees (the right wing conservatives of that day) and the Sadducees (the liberals) could join together in rejecting Christ and in opposing Him, and ultimately in orchestrating (humanly speaking) His death.

Third, there is, I believe, some allusion to the role of “authority” in this division. The division described out in these verses is all within the family, but it also crosses lines of authority. Fathers have authority over sons, as mothers have authority over daughters. Allegiance to Christ takes precedence over all other authority. Normally, we would expect that the Christian’s faith would enhance his or her obedience to those in authority, as we see the Scriptures teaching (cf. Ephesians 5:21–6:10), but there will be times when we must obey God rather than men, and in these instances, division will occur, as well as at other times. An unbelieving father will find it difficult to accept when his son now feels his ultimate responsibility is to obey God and to please Him, putting earthly allegiance and duty on a lower level.

Jesus refuses to paint a glorious picture of uninterrupted bliss and pleasure for those who would follow Him. While men can expect forgiveness of sins and the joy of obedience to Him in this life, faith in Him will produce persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). There will be inestimable joy and pleasure in heaven, but there will also be pain and persecution for Christians on earth. This is one of the central themes of Peter’s first epistle. The Christian’s perspective should be like that of the apostle Paul, who saw the pain and trials of this life as nothing when compared to the joys of heaven (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Jesus does not minimize the price of discipleship, because of the magnitude of the prize of discipleship.

There is no way that we can avoid pain and suffering. The one who follows Christ will suffer now, and will renounce certain of life’s present pleasures, but will experience the limitless joys of heaven later (cf. Hebrews 11:24-26). The one who rejects Christ and lives only for pleasure now will suffer eternal torment in hell.

One more thing needs to be said here about the “family.” Family has become the in word among Christians, and others. It is now popular to talk about a church as a family church. This week, I have heard a church “commercial” running on the radio, which gives the listener the impression that Christ has come to “put the family back together.” There is a sense in which this is true, but let us not minimize or neglect our Lord’s words, which in the clearest terms possible tell us that His coming will divide many families.

The Challenge of Christ’s Coming
(12:54-59)

If verses 49-53 spell out the negative consequences of Christ’s coming, verses 54-59 are a challenge to men to respond as they should to His coming. Verses 54-57 call upon men to think clearly and independently, and to act decisively. In verses 58 and 59 our Lord concludes by challenging His listeners to act quickly on what He is saying:

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 12:49-59).236

At the beginning of chapter 12, Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders (cf. v. 1). Now, Jesus focuses on the hypocrisy of the masses. These words are addressed specifically to the crowds (v. 54). Jesus calls them hypocrites. Why is this so? In what way are they hypocritical?

A hypocrite is one who acts inconsistently, who does not act as one believes. The people all knew how to judge the future in the light of the present. Jesus illustrated this by showing that they knew how to predict the weather. When a cloud appeared in the west, they quickly concluded that it was going to rain. It only took one cloud, not a whole sky full of them. And this one cloud was sufficient reason for them to immediately conclude that rain was coming. It did not take long deliberation. The conclusion was obvious. The evidence was clear, even though but one cloud.

So, too, with a south wind. A southerly wind was sufficient evidence for the Israelite to conclude that it was going to be a hot day. In both cases, the predictions proved true. The cloud from the west produced rain, just as the southerly wind produced heat.

The ability to judge evidence and to see its implications was not restricted to the experts. Everyone would come to the same conclusion from the evidence they received. Why, then, could these people, skilled at reaching conclusions about the weather, not come to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah, based upon the mountains of evidence which had piled up, all of which conformed perfectly to the predictions of the prophets?

Were Israel’s leaders guilt? They certainly were, but this did not let the masses off the hook. They should have seen the obvious and come to the right conclusion about Jesus, even if their leaders did not. Jesus’ rebuke to the masses seems to be that they did not think clearly, nor did they think independently of their leaders. They were guilty of letting their leaders think for them. Listen to our Lord’s words again:

“And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?” (verse 57, NASB, emphasis mine).

They should have thought for themselves, Jesus charged. Their leaders were guilty, but so were the followers for following them. Let the crowd look at the evidence and judge rightly.

Quite frankly, my friends, people are too easily swayed by the thinking of the “experts.” We want people to do our thinking for us. We want to let others be responsible for coming to the right answers. But Jesus is very clear here. The important truths, those which really matter, are self-evident to anyone who will look at the evidence. God has revealed His truth to babes, not scholars (Luke 10:21). We are all responsible to “search the Scriptures” and to see if what is taught is true, even when Paul is the teacher (Acts 17:11). Let us study the Word for ourselves and let us believe the self-evident truths which are there, and which are revealed to all men who seek it through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). It is in this light that I believe John wrote these words:

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for any one to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him (1 John 2:26-27).

We are not, by these words, told to be Lone Rangers, neglecting the gift of teaching which God has given to the church, but neither are we to be so dependent upon the teaching of others that we believe whatever we are told. God gives us the Spirit to teach us, and He therefore holds us accountable for our conclusions. The multitudes who heard Jesus thus had the weight of responsibility for the actions placed on themselves.

The last two verses of our text seem almost out of place. They have caused some commentators to wonder why they are found here, used in a way that appears to be quite different from their use in Matthew chapter 5:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:21-26).

Before we consider the difference in the way Jesus uses this illustration, let us take note of the similarity. In both texts the motivation is the “fire” of God’s judgment. In the light of the “fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22), one should quickly reconcile with his brother, knowing that anger toward one’s brother is deserving of eternal damnation. So, too, in our text, the “fire” which our Lord has come to bring is a strong incentive.

In Matthew’s text it may well be that our adversary, our opponent, with whom we should quickly be reconciled, may well be our brother. But who is the adversary in our text in the gospel of Luke? Verses 51-53 speak of division between family members, but this is the result of different responses to the gospel. Reconciliation, in this instance, is impossible, apart from all parties coming to faith in Christ.

A fellow elder first suggested it to me, and then a commentary suggested the same—that the adversary here is none other than our Lord Himself. If Jesus is coming to the earth to bring fire upon it, the fire of divine wrath (verse 49), and if men are responsible for their decisions concerning Him (verses 54-56), then men had better seek to be reconciled to Him before that final day of judgment arrives, when it will be too late.

All men must come to Christ. Some will come to Him now, as their Lord and Savior. They will accept His baptism as their own. They will accept His death in their behalf as their death. They will find Him as the One who brings forgiveness of sins and peace with God (and also as One who brings division). Others will reject Him now, and will face Him when He comes the second time, to bring fire upon the earth.

May none of you be a part of this second group. Jesus in His first coming has already endured the “fire” of God’s wrath. He has already died for the sins of men. Trust in Him and you will never need to fear His second coming. Be reconciled to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), and do it before you face Him as your judge, and before you must face the fire of His wrath. Do it decisively. Do it quickly. Do it now!


233 This indictment against Judah is the climax of a series of indictments in chapter 1 and 2, each of which threatened fire in divine judgment. Thus, there is a seven-fold threat of fire in 1:1—2:5 (1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5).

234 The text, as the marginal note in the NASB indicates, literally reads, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”

235 Note the tension between the promise of Malachi 4:5-6, the last promise of the Old Testament, a promise of unity and harmony in the family, and that of our text, along with Micah 7:6, from which it seems to be quoted. The solution, I believe, is that just as sin divided the family (as in the first case of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4:1-8), Christ alone can unite the family. When some members of the family reject Christ and others accept Him, great division is to be expected. Only where Christ alone rules is there true unity. To put the matter differently, Christ coming spells division now, but promises unity ultimately, when man is finally and fully freed from the presence and power of sin.

236 Notice that in the parallel passage, Jesus went even further: The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away (Matthew 16:1-4).

Jesus rebuked His audience, not only for their failure to believe what they had seen and what He had said, but for demanding some miraculous proof. They did not need a miracle. Why, then, do we sometimes demand them?

Related Topics: Christology, Eschatology (Things to Come)