18 Dec 2020

“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! 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 her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

We often associate Christmas with peace on earth, goodwill towards man and we are not wrong, for this was the message declared by the angels during the birth of Jesus. In the above message, it seems rather surprising that Jesus declared that He came not to give peace on earth but rather division. How do we reconcile these two aspects of truth?

What the Lord Jesus was saying in the above statements was that He came to declare divine judgement – He was not only bringing God’s judgement but He Himself would also be its victim. He was referring to His impending suffering and death on the cross for the sake of sinful men and women. One consequence of His sacrifice and the bringing in of the kingdom of God would be division. It is true that He would bring about reconciliation and peace with God for those who turned to Him in faith, but His mission and message would also bring about division. The cross is a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the non-Jew (1 Corinthians 1:23).

The cross appears to be defeat and tragedy; but in fact it is victory and triumph. On the cross, Christ dethroned and disarmed the principalities and powers of evil. triumphing over them in the cross. Although they are still alive and active and have not yet conceded defeat, they have been conquered and are under Christ’s feet. (Eph. 1:22)

The sufferings of Christ were the prototype of the sufferings of the people of God. Because He suffered, HIs people are called to suffer. Because He went to the cross, He calls us to take up our cross and follow HIm. Part of this is to encounter opposition, misunderstandings (even from loved ones and family members) and even intense persecutions. The sufferings are hard to understand and bear but believers are to see them in the light of the sufferings of Christ. Jesus HImself warned us that if the world hated Him, the world would also hate His followers.

What is clear is that commitment to Christ would certainly bring reconciliation with God and peace with God. Yet, at the same time, this commitment would entail sufferings, persecution and pain; the promise of God of the consummation in the new heaven and new earth speaks of “no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death” In the meantime, God’s people are pilgrims on earth; although evil may seem to be ‘prospering’, let us not lose sight of the fact that God is still sitting on His throne, reigning, and the Lord Jesus is at His right hand, praying for us, interceding for us and the Holy Spirit lives in us, comforting us, guiding us, teaching us and enabling us to press on until we reach the finishing line.

Indeed, Christmas speaks of peace on earth and good will towards man – but it is only for those who would respond to God and Christ in faith. Christmas must also speak to us that the Creator assumed the human frailty of creatures. The eternal one entered time. The all powerful made Himself vulnerable. The all holy exposed Himself to temptation. And in the end the immortal died. And He did it all for us; He did it because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).