There will be conflict
Can you think of a time when you knew that you were about to experience something painful? Maybe it was a root canal or a shot for a vaccine, or maybe it was getting a dislocated joint put back in place. When it comes to painful experiences, whether they are physical or emotional, most people can’t wait for the moment to be over so they can move on with their lives.
No matter what painful experiences we have had to anticipate in life, the pain Jesus endured on the cross far surpasses them all. Jesus knew exactly what he was going to endure as our Savior. It was much more than just the physical torture of crucifixion, but also the divine wrath of his Father as he suffered the pains of hell.
In the opening verse of Sunday’s text, Jesus indicates that this was a moment he was not eager to experience. "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” We are reminded of Jesus’ prayer to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” But just like he prayed in the Garden, Jesus declared his willingness to make this sacrifice in our place.
The Lord also reiterates that the Word divides mankind into two groups: the saved and the unsaved. This divide will also penetrate our deepest relationships. Families will be torn apart over the saving message of Jesus’ suffering and death. To be in conflict with family because of Jesus isn’t something that we or anyone wants to endure, but we know that this division is very real in many Christian homes.
“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
Parents try to reach their children who have moved away from home and have separated themselves from God. Faithful husbands and wives live their faith in hopes that they will lead their unbelieving spouse to a closer unity with them, not just as husband and wife, but as brother and sister in Christ. Siblings point out a dangerous sin to a brother or sister at the risk of being rejected. In this sinful world we can’t expect to have peace on earth. True peace will only be found in heaven. Until then we will be engaged in spiritual warfare, and the battle lines are often drawn in our own homes.
Jesus didn’t back down from conflict because he knew what was at stake. Jesus was willing to be unpopular, to endure pain, to suffer persecution because he loves us, because he came to earth to save us. It won’t be easy for us to fight the inevitable battles that result when we follow Jesus, but his example inspires us and his Word empowers us to fight the good fight of faith and share our faith with others.