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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is not the passage we want to hear. Jesus says, “Do you think I’ve come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but division.” That’s not what we want to hear, particularly not right now. Now, it’s clear from the rest of the Gospel of Luke that Jesus does indeed come to be and bring peace. I know Jesus comes to bring peace because when He’s born, the angels sing “Peace on earth!” I know Jesus comes to bring peace because when He sends out His disciples ahead of Him, He says, “When you come to any house, say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If there is a son of peace there, your peace will remain. If not, your peace will return to you.” I know that Jesus comes to give peace because the first word He speaks to His disciples after His resurrection is “Peace.”
So Jesus comes to bring peace. But that’s not all that comes when He appears. Do you think that I only bring peace on the earth? No, but also division. From the very beginning He is opposed and there is division over Him. In fact, not too long after the song of the angels faded into the heavens, Simeon spoke to Mary and said, “This child is appointed for the rising and fall of many in Israel, and for a sign to be spoken against.” And he says to Mary also: “A sword shall pierce your own soul also.” When Jesus appears in the world, there is not only a proclamation of peace, but also division.
The world claims to want peace, but what does that mean? A lack of conflict, certainly. But the world achieves peace by ignoring divisive things. Don’t worry, we’re all good. Whatever you want to think, whatever you do, whatever you believe, it’s all the same. Everything is fine. All religions are the same. Let’s pretend that nothing divides us. We love to say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. And should we have peace at any cost? Peace at the cost of Jesus’ Word? Peace at the cost of Jesus’ forgiveness? Peace at the cost of eternal life? Peace at the cost of truth?
But it cannot be helped: Jesus is divisive, and the world will never understand that. The only way to make Jesus not divisive is to ignore these words of His, or those actions. People certainly didn’t reject Him because they thought He was their peace. They rejected Him because He’s a threat to the ways we want to live and what we want to do. He’s a threat to our own desires, and idolatries, and false peace. So even families are divided over Him. Even the closest natural ties are broken by the ties that bind us to Jesus. There is division, and opposition, and fighting and Jesus brings that simply because of who He is and what this world is. This is what happens when the Word of God comes into the world. The god of this age certainly is not going to accept Him. And the true God will not keep silent about the false gods. So we should not be surprised when there is also division wherever Jesus and His Word are. The devil will always work hardest to stir up division where the true Word of God is preached.
We should not be surprised, but we should also not think that peace will come in any other way except in Him. Here He says how great is His distress until His baptism is accomplished. His baptism is a baptism into death. And that baptism and that death are because the god of this world, along with sin and death, will not willingly give up. So He takes all the division and the opposition and the sin and the death as His own. It is at the cross where division is overcome in His own body. He joins together man with God again. He tears down the barriers that we have set up by our rebellion against our creator. And He breaks down the dividing wall of hostility between people. Only in Him does division become peace.
He is baptized into death, and so our baptism becomes a new life. He dies and is raised, so that our death, too, will lead to resurrection. He suffers so that our sufferings will not end in nothingness. Only then can we have peace. Only in Him. He gives us His peace, but He does not give as the world gives. His peace is not the world’s peace at any cost. We will not have peace at any cost, but we will have Christ at any cost, and He will be our peace. Peace I leave you; My peace I give to you. Grant us Your peace. The peace of the Lord be with you always. Lettest now Thy servant depart in peace. Depart in peace. Here is the peace that is beyond understanding because it is a peace that only He can make. Here, in Christ and in Him alone, you have peace with God. And here, then, you have peace with all the rest who belong to God in Christ. Eat and drink and depart in peace.
The division in this world will not cease as long as there is sin and death and the devil. The division between those who belong to Christ and those who don’t will not cease, even within our own homes. Those divisions only end for those who are in Christ, and division in the world will only end when Jesus comes to restore all things and purify all things by fire. But it is precisely to those who remain in the midst of all those divisions that Jesus says, “Peace.” Peace to you, now and always.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/16/19