I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
Jesus continues His long discourse to the crowd, this time talking about the future; He teaches His disciples what it means to be watchful for His return, while also actively stewarding the responsibilities given to them. Then, Jesus says something fascinating, and rather provocative: He didn’t come to bring “world peace”, but division and fire (judgment). Uh, what? He goes on to chide the people for being great at figuring out seasonal times, but awful at discerning the privileged spiritual time they were living in, and urged them to reconcile with God while they still had the chance.
Now hang on, go back to that last thing about division and judgment. The Jesus we’re used to would never say something like this, so what the heck is going on here?! This, my friends, is a classic example of how believers and unbelievers alike try to “tame” and water down the Son of God. If verses like this make you uncomfortable, as they do for me at times, it’s because many of us have been introduced to a Jesus that is far too politically correct, “loving”, and modern to ever say such offensive or divisive things.
But this is what Jesus called out in me today: you can’t tame the Lion of Judah, or water down the “consuming fire” that is our God! (Hebrews 12:29) In an attempt to sound more appealing to our fallen world, we violate the Gospel by making it easier to swallow; we dilute the things we read that seem too crazy or countercultural to be true. And it goes the other way too; we make the Gospel sound scary and forceful to prod people to Jesus. Big no-no’s.
So, what is Jesus actually saying here? Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace, the One who is Himself our Peace? Jesus even says in Luke 9:56 that He didn’t come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them. Jesus is saying that the Good News of salvation and grace He’s come to proclaim is offensive and divisive by nature; the Gospel is the great Divider of humanity. When Jesus was still a baby, Simeon prophesied to Mary and Joseph in the Temple about His future, how He’s destined to cause many Israel both to rise, and to fall. How people respond to the message of the crucified, risen Jesus is what designates them as either an enemy, or a child, of God! And that will cause hostility and splits between friends, family, and neighbors. Just look at the stories of Christians in the Middle East to see the truth of Jesus’ words.
- We live in a culture that’s pressuring us more and more every day to yield to its expectations and demands (and perhaps we place burdens like that on the world, too). In response, we have distorted and tampered with Jesus and His Gospel to make Him more acceptable, and easier to get along with. But guys, Jesus and His message are sufficient as they are to bring people to salvation and transform their lives. Let’s worship and share Christ as He truly is in His Word, and embrace the reality that to most, He will be ridiculous, offensive, and divisive. But, the proof is in the empty tomb.