There is a song some congregations sing entitled, “Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?” The second line of that song says, “Why did He drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain and woe? Why on the cross be lifted up?” The answer is the end of the stanza: “Because He loved me so!” In Luke 12.49-53, Jesus explains exactly why he came to earth. In fact, verse 49 says it clearly: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (ESV) Jesus came to set this world on fire. Now some say the fire is division which is talked about in this passage. Other point toward holiness and refinement. Still others say it is faith. But the picture of fire in Scripture is usually coupled with divine judgment. So then, Jesus came to bring judgment upon the earth and the kindling of that divine judgment would be in the cross.
Divine Judgment in His Suffering
As stated, it would be the cross that would kindle into flame this divine judgment. We know this because of verse 50 where Jesus speaks of his “baptism” he is to be baptized with. Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus refered to his sufferings as a baptism (Mark 10.38-40); it was the cup of God’s wrath poured out upon him, thereby diverting it from its proper course upon all other men. But as one commentator says, Jesus lived in the shadow of the cross everyday. It was a great pressure upon him daily and that weight would not be lifted “until it is accomplished.” So by his death, Jesus brings judgment upon himself, taking it upon himself thereby saving us from the wrath to come.
Divine Judgment in His Separation
Most of us, when asked if Jesus came to bring peace, would probably answer “yes.” But our Lord’s answer in to this question is an emphatic “No!” Jesus says he came to bring division. Now here is where the critics start in: Well, did he bring peace or not? He clearly says “no” but Christians say “yes;” who is right? The answer: both. Jesus did bring peace with God which leads us to peace with other men. But the gospel message is challenging to many people. In fact, Paul would say it was a thing of offense to the Gentile and a stumbling block to the Jew. It is offensive and because of this it does breed division, even in a household. Indeed, this very thing which Jesus talks about (a house in division) has occurred and played out so many times before. The choice to be made by the one who would obey Jesus is whether or not they will break their families heart or break the heart of God. It is in obedience to the gospel that a person brings in divine judgment. Like Noah, they begin to build their ark by faith and in that act they condemn the whole world (Heb 11.7). However, we are never more in line with the will of God than when we identify with our Lord in his suffering for the gospel. Though it cost us the whole world, even our very life, it is no less than the sacrifice our Savior made on our behalf.