daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the 20th Sunday of the Year, August 18, 2019
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10, Psalm 39, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three” (Luke 12:49-52).



Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who came to bring peace on earth, as Isaiah prophesied of him, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (Isaiah 9:7).



In his days, “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them … They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6, 9).



When the Messiah finally came, “there was … a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14 KJV).



And when Jesus grew up, he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).



Yet the fact is that Christianity, which came with a message of peace to the world and proclaimed God’s mighty act of salvation for all who believe, became the cause of division and conflict for the simple reason that not everyone accepted the salvation that Christ came to bring to the world. Those that accepted it experienced his deep peace, but those that rejected Christ persecuted those that believed in him.



Jesus “knew very well that his coming would not give peace on earth at that time. And so He warned the disciples that when men came to Him, their families would persecute them and drive them out. The introduction of Christianity into an average home of five would split the family” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1421-1422).



Those that believe in Christ are reconciled with God, but “reconciliation to God can mean separation from people” (Darrell L Bock, Luke (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Baker Academic, 2007), page 1192). Because of Jesus’ coming, “one must take sides” (Ibid., page 1195). Christians are committed to the truth of Christ’s teaching and so “peace will not be obtained at any cost, especially at the cost of compromising God’s word” (Robert J Karras, “The Gospel according to Luke,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Geoffrey Chapman, 1990), page 705).



“Peace is undoubtedly the result of the Gospel wherever it is believed and received. But wherever there are hearers of the Gospel who are hardened, impenitent, and determined to have their sins – the very message of peace, becomes the cause of division! Those who live after the flesh – will hate those who live after the Spirit. Those who are resolved to live for the world – will always act wickedly toward those who are resolved to serve Christ” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).



We must never be so intent on peace that we seek to attain it in a worldly way by denying the truth of Christ’s teaching in order to get along better with those that reject his teaching. Yet “thousands of well-meaning people now-a-days are continually crying out for more ‘unity’ among Christians. To attain this, they are ready to sacrifice almost anything, and to throw overboard even sound doctrine – if, by doing so, they can secure peace” (Ibid.). But “that peace is useless – if it is purchased at the expense of truth” (Ibid.).



“Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon earth. Such men only show their ignorance, when they talk in this way. It is not the Gospel which is to blame – but the corrupt heart of man! It is not God’s glorious remedy which is at fault – but the diseased nature of Adam’s race, which, like a self-willed child, refuses the medicine provided for its cure!” (Ibid.).



Before Jesus starts talking about bringing division rather than peace, he first says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50). In this context, baptism does not mean the sacrament of baptism or John the Baptist’s baptism, but rather being overwhelmed by torrents and floods of tribulation and suffering, as we often see in the Old Testament: “The cords of death encompassed me, the torrents of perdition assailed me” (Psalm 17:4) (Bock, Luke, page 1194).



So Jesus is predicting his passion and death by crucifixion. But the amazing thing is that he says that he longs for it to take place, “And how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). Fire also can have many meanings, but in this context it seems to mean the fire of the Holy Spirit, for on the day of Pentecost “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4). And Jesus longs that this fire that he came to cast upon the earth were already ablaze, “And would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49)



Jesus knows that the fire that he came to bring to the earth would be accomplished by his death on the cross, which he longs to see accomplished, for this will save the world. Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of men was a violent blow against sin – against all human sin – an act that would punish all the sins of the world in Jesus’ flesh (Romans 8:3-4), for he bore our sins. For this, he was sent into the world so that we would not have to be punished in our flesh for our sins if we put our faith in him, sincerely repent, and confess our sins. Indeed “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). And so “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).



Jesus really did come to bring peace on earth after all, but he knew that it would not come about right away for everyone, but only for those that accepted him and his saving act on the cross with faith. Yet even they would experience division, persecution, and the sword in the world, for they would be persecuted precisely because of their faith in Christ by those who reject him.



But this is how the human race will slowly be renewed and transformed, although not everyone will be transformed, for many will reject God’s offer of salvation and remain unreconciled with God. So in this world there will always be division, even though Christ did not come to cause division but to bring peace. Division and dissension will come about because of the evil of human hearts that reject him, since they love their sins too much.



There are many examples today of this conflict. In this country (USA) today we are locked in a battle between two political parties, one of which ferociously supports the killing of innocent human beings in the womb, while the other party vigorously rejects the killing of innocent human beings in the womb. It is a battle between those that accept the basic moral teachings of the Bible and those that reject these teachings for the sake of free sex with anyone at any time and in any place, without consequences, for abortion is the failsafe solution that enables them to have “sexual freedom,” which they call women’s reproductive rights. Abortion, of course, is no right at all, neither a woman’s right, nor a human right, nor a civil right. It is a moral evil, and a moral evil can never become a human right. It remains what it is: a moral evil.



Another major cause of conflict for Christians today is the LGBT movement which proclaims that homosexual acts are good and valid expressions of human love in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture that these acts are an abomination before God (Romans 1:22-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So today we have the shameful disgrace of so-called gay pride parades proclaiming the “goodness” of sodomy and homosexual acts. Just yesterday, for example, there was a news item about a 15-year-old boy in Poland who stood up against a gay pride parade coming down the street toward him by holding up a crucifix against them, until he was physically picked up and carried away by the police.



Here Jesus words are true, that he came to bring division and conflict between those that accept God’s normative biblically revealed moral law and those that angrily reject it in favor of sodomy.



We also see the Catholic Church split today over whether Catholics who are divorced from a valid marriage and “remarried” in a civil ceremony may or may not in some cases receive the Eucharist without an annulment and without living in continence. Such people are living in open, publicly proclaimed adultery, for Jesus teaches that divorce from a valid marriage and "remarriage" is adultery (Mark 10:11-12). They are unworthy to receive the Eucharist, because they are living in a state of objective mortal sin (adultery), and St. Paul proclaims, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).



Since people living in open, publicly proclaimed adultery are living in a constant state of objective mortal sin, they are not able to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner. So they should not present themselves to receive it. Again Christ brings division between those that accept this basic biblically revealed Christian moral teaching and those that reject it.



Let us not be weak Christians that want peace at any price, even at the price of the truth. Such peace is worthless and is not pleasing to God. It is not the peace that Christ came to bring to the world. Christ’s peace is based on truth. It is not “purchased at the expense of truth” (JC Ryle).


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