Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15,c) August 14, 2022
[Jesus said,] 49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They 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.”
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
In the Name of Jesus.
Jesus came to bring peace on Earth. That we were given to hear at his birth.
“Glory to God in the highest,”
declared the angels to the shepherds,
“And on Earth peace among those of God’s good pleasure.”
Peace. When the old man Simeon took the little child Jesus up into his arms, Simeon said,
29 “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation that
you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.
Peace. The word of health and vitality, of happiness and safety. The word of life and the building-up up of life. Peace, the word of peoples and cities and nations in oneness with each another, of families bound together in oneness, of husband and wife united in oneness.
Peace, the word of no break between people or in families, the word of no division.
Jesus is the Lord bringing peace to the Earth, peace to you and me.
And yet. Luke 12:51:
[Jesus said,] “Do you think that I have come to give peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Division? What is this division Jesus brings to you and me?
In the book of Genesis, after the Lord had given the promise of a Savior to Adam and Eve, and then again, the promise to Noah and his family, in the generations following: The Tower of Babel.
All the families and clans on Earth, following the flood, got together to build a tower to the heavens. Genesis 11:4:
And [all the people] said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then [all the people] said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole Earth.”
The people were unified. That were at peace together. Their project would to bind them together. They would build themselves up to God. They would make themselves a worthy name. They were unified.
The Lord came down from Heaven.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who in the beginning, in that divine, life-giving conversation among the persons of the godhead, had said, “Let us make man in our image,” in then in the image of God he created the man in the woman, [Genesis 1:27]—this Lord came down, saw the abomination of the creature trying to overtake the Creator, of man and woman trying to be like God, and the Lord said that mankind was not ever going to slow down in their arrogance, all the peoples were not going to ever be dissuaded from working to make themselves worthy of God; so the Lord broke their unity.
God, who created mankind out of love, who loves all people, every person—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, saw the ridiculous Tower and in the divine, life-giving conversation with each other, said,
“Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the Earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the Earth.
When does the Lord—of life, of health and unity, the Lord of peace—when does this Lord bring division?
This Lord brings division to save our lives! To save us from ourselves.
To work yourself toward God, to work to unify with others to make yourself and them more sanctified, to justify yourself before God by your own desire, your own decisions, your own passion, your own works of your sinful heart—to justify yourself before God by any of your own work, no matter what form that work may take, to justify yourself is death.
So seeing the sinner in death, the sinner whom he loves, the Lord comes down. He comes down in his Word. And the Word of God is alive and active, a sharpened two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, discerning every thought and intention of the heart—with no creature hidden from God’s sight, but every person naked to the eyes of God to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:12]
God comes down in his Word to bring division to you and me, dividing each of us at the very depth of who we are, in order to bring us into life.
For what God is dividing us from, is everything bringing us death.
With his word of Law, his word of accusation piercing to the depth of our soul and spirit, the Lord is daily dividing us from our own Towers of Babel. Our works of self-righteousness, of efforts to change our lives and sanctify ourselves, our systems to make ourselves worthy of God—these are our own Towers of Babel.
So the Lord speaks the accusation against us, and with his Law, he divides us, daily putting to death our sinful flesh, our Old Adam.
Wherever the God of life is having his Word of Law and Gospel spoken, wherever he is having the Word of Christ Crucified preached, the Lord is bringing division to the sinner.
But it is the best division of all, the blessed division. It is dividing off the Old Adam that the New Adam, the life of faith, may daily stand in the righteousness not of self, but of Christ. The righteousness which comes never by works, but always by gift, by grace.
By this preaching of Christ crucified for the sinner, the Lord is bringing division also into our families—even father against son, son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother. [Luke 12:49]
For sinners never want to hear the crucified Christ. For if the Crucified Christ is the justification of the sinner, then the sinful flesh is robbed of its deadly desire to justify self. And that brings division, because all who insist on justifying self cannot bear to hear the Word of the cross.
So, yes, Christ brings division. Division of the sinful flesh which wants to self-justify, over against the life of faith, which rejoices in the free gift of justification by Christ the crucified. And division of those who want to sanctify themselves, over against those who rejoice in being sanctified only by the blood of Christ.
In the preaching of the cross the Lord does bring division. But it is only so that in his Gospel, he can do what he most wants to do toward the sinner. And what he most wants to do is justify the sinner, cleanse the stained conscience, destroy all our Towers of Babel, and bring us into unity with him, Christ the crucified, who forgives every sin.
In the Name of Jesus.