TEXT: LUKE 12: 49-53/Hebrews 11:1-16
JESUS IS THE GREAT DIVIDER!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets.  But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…through whom also He made the world (See Heb. 1:1, 2).  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

Heavy words spoken into our ears by Jesus!  Do you think I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.  Our age admires compromise and external accord.  Our culture despises truth claims as divisive and detrimental.  Our sinful nature would like everyone to agree with our own superior, personal view of reality.  As a child of this age and culture, dealing with your own Old Adam, how do you receive these heavy words of the Son of God?  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother. As Jesus continues, even the in-laws become outlaws over Him.

TEXT: LUKE 12: 49-53/Hebrews 11:1-16
JESUS IS THE GREAT DIVIDER!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets.  But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…through whom also He made the world (See Heb. 1:1, 2).  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

Heavy words spoken into our ears by Jesus!  Do you think I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.  Our age admires compromise and external accord.  Our culture despises truth claims as divisive and detrimental.  Our sinful nature would like everyone to agree with our own superior, personal view of reality.  As a child of this age and culture, dealing with your own Old Adam, how do you receive these heavy words of the Son of God?  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother. As Jesus continues, even the in-laws become outlaws over Him.

Is Jesus the Great Divider?  At the heart of how we ask and answer that question is our basic view of God and of the world.  Is Jesus the Great Divider?  The worldview at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center is that the world desperately needs dividing.  That view is grounded in the scene in the first stained glass window on the north side of the nave.  That picture captures the amazing moment of creation.  At its center stands the tree of the knowledge of good and evil conveying a sense of the tremendous catastrophe in human history when man chose to divide against God – to rebel against his Creator.  The world view captured in the beauty of that stained glass window is anything but beautiful.  It takes seriously Scripture’s witness concerning original sin – the second of 28 articles in the Augsburg Confession – this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God those who are not born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit.  Our Confessions go on to say that the recognition of original sin is a necessity; that without it we cannot know the magnitude of the grace of Christ nor the necessity of His death (Apology Art. II).

Now the question pulsates differently.  Is Jesus the Great Divider of the family of man?  With joyful gratitude we can answer “yes!” He came as true man to divide the family of man from sin and its punishment.  If Jesus had not come, the family of man would have gone on undisturbed – en masse - in sin and guilt until its doom.

But one day the cells of a small body began to multiply and divide in the womb of a young virgin – Mary.  Knit together there in human flesh and blood was the One through whom the world was made.  Today (August 15th) is the day that the church remembers Mary, the Mother of our Lord.  The seed of the woman who would crush Satan’s accusing head was conceived by the Holy Spirit in her.  The Messiah, promised through the ages, the Savior who would divide us from sin, death and the devil was born of her.  The issue of her womb is the issue!  Is Jesus the Great Divider?

Cain was divided against Abel – over Him.  All the families of the earth (including other siblings and in-laws) were divided against Noah and his wife and his sons and their wives over Him – for Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and God’s righteousness is found in Christ.  Moses was divided from the care of Pharaoh’s daughter (his adoptive mother) over Christ. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt (Heb 11:26).  

Think of the division over Christ today!  In Hebrews 11 we read, some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking, and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword (35-37).  Yet, in the 20th century – far more Christians (millions more) have died for their faith than at any time in human history.  A few places of momentous modern martyrdom include the former Soviet Union and China and Southern Sudan and Armenia.  In recent days we have heard of the Christian medical team in Afghanistan that was murdered.  Some of them had lived and provided medical help in that region for forty years.  The Muslims who murdered them said they were fearful their words and actions might lead some to convert to Christianity.

Division, division, division – over Jesus Christ and His Word!  By explicit confession Jesus is the Great Divider!  But it is a loving division for the whole human race from the wrath of God.  Prophets who prophesy lies in God’s name, who say “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” who prophesy the deceit of their own heart – may say otherwise, but what has straw in common with wheat?  Forgetting God’s name for Baal or Buddha or Allah or human relationships or human dreams however spiritual or nature worship or human dreams means death!  The Creator of life came into our flesh to divide us from the same.

Other division occurs despite the loving desire of Jesus expressed over Jerusalem, “How often I would have gathered you like a hen gathers her chicks – and you would not.”  Sometimes those divisions include parents and children, brothers and sisters, in-laws, cousins, nephews and nieces.  Luther once described such division as one of the afflictions of Christians – a heartache that exceeds all other aches.

It is a heartache that Jesus also knew.  He consistently viewed his biological family as his second family and you – His Church – as His first family.  Remember the time he was teaching a crowd and was told that His mother and brothers were standing outside waiting to speak with Him (Matt 12:48-50).  Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  

Is Jesus the Great Divider?  Yes He is - even when it came to His own biological family!  He would brook no earthly blood ties as meaning a stitch before God – not through Abraham, nor through Mary, Mother of our Lord.  In Acts chapter one, after Jesus’ ascension – we read that those waiting in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit included Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts 1:14).  That means that Mary and Jesus’ brothers were there in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and following.  Now they had a different blood relationship with Jesus, a relationship of receiving His body and blood with their fellow believers for the remission of sins.  Is Jesus the Great Divider?  Yes He is, even for His own biological family.  He divided the whole world from its sin at Calvary - this Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  The other divisions over Him occur as hearts reject the gift of His redemption.  

Dear Christians, the only power on earth that can heal these earthly divisions is another division that took place in the family of Jesus.  It took place in heaven and on earth!  They will be divided, father against son…Jesus said, and that was already occurring between God the Father and God the Son as Jesus spoke.  He had already set His face toward Jerusalem.  The fire of God’s wrath was first laid on Him when He received the baptism of sinners by John in solidarity with us fallen, rebellious ones.  With every sickness Jesus healed, every sin He forgave, every dead person He raised, Jesus was both releasing creation from its bondage and absorbing into His body all sickness, sin and death.  That’s why He came – to be made sin for us - to bear the full fire of God’s wrath against sin.  I came to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!  He began His ministry with a water baptism in the Jordan placing Himself under God’s wrath on behalf of all humanity.    

He completed His visible ministry in the flesh with a “bloody” baptism on the cross.  In our text He expressed His atonement on the cross for us to come soon.  Would that it were already kindled!  How great is my distress until it is accomplished.  There the Great Divider divided our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  There the Prince of Peace purchased the peace of sin forgiven for every member of every biological family on earth. He desires none to be divided against Him.  By His Word the Holy Spirit is working constantly to bring hearts to repentance and faith.  And it’s not too late!  No matter how sick a person may be in His soul, the Gospel can heal them! 

When you sent me to Siberia, I was able to tour the Hermitage Art Museum in St. Petersburg with a guide.  She was a senior citizen, and retired from teaching.  Her husband was retired from the Russian Army.  Near the end of our tour we rested on a bench facing a beautiful painting of the Prodigal Son.  Having answered many of my questions in the past hours, she quietly asked me one of her own.  “Is God really like this father”, she asked?  “Can He be so forgiving and so ready to forgive us sinners?”  She was asking for herself.

She went on to describe how she had renounced Christ to keep her teaching position under communism – and how she had been an active, persecuting member of the communist state.  Her husband had done the same to keep advancing in the military.  They knew that tens of millions (many Christian) had been slaughtered under Stalin.  The Bibles also had been destroyed.  She hadn’t known what this painting was or other Biblical paintings until after the iron curtain fell.  Baptized as a child in the Orthodox Christian Church, her family had willfully and energetically divided against Christ and His Word and His Church for almost her entire life.  The promise of socialism had collapsed and she and her husband were now doing odd jobs to try to keep their apartment and to put bread on the table. 

Her question however had to do with the Bread of Life.  “Can God be so forgiving?”  Yes, He can!  Yes, He is – I said!  I spoke with her about Christ – the most prodigal of sons in our place under God’s wrath!  And we remember, there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  The forgiveness by which we live is not one iota less than that by which any sinner lives.  That’s our world view!  The whole family of man is separated from God by sin.

But our world view includes what God spoke to us in these last days by His Son, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”   He came to bring fire on earth!  Like the whole burnt offering or holocaust in the Old Testament, Jesus was sacrificed under the fire of God’s wrath for us.  Risen from the grave He brings you the fire of His love in the waters of your baptism. In your midst He feeds you heavenly food and the peace He purchased with His bloody baptism – peace in heaven – true peace with God for you –right now.  He has divided you from the future you deserve and given you His future.  One day soon He will divide death for you like he divided the Red Sea for Israel and take you through that shadow land. His steadfast love for all whom you know is the same and He is patient – not wanting any to perish but all to reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

In the name of Jesus, Amen.


 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a