Bible Passage: Luke 12: 49 - 59
Intro: Well Good Morning friends, visitors and those online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue to look at Luke’s gospel. Last week Jesus told us that he is going away for a while and then coming back and we need to be ready at his return. But why? WHY does Jesus need to go away and then come back again? And what should we EXPECT in this period of time – that theologians call the OVERLAP OF THE AGES OR THE NOW & NOT YET.
Well do you remember a kid’s game called; “Whats the time Mr Wolf?” It’s often played by PreSchool children and I think it started out as a HOPSCOTCH GAME (Slide 2). Mr Wolf stands up just beyond the number 12 with his back to the court. He’s not meant to look. Then a group of kids down near the number 1 – cry out – “Whats the time Mr Wolf?” And Mr Wolf can say any time he likes between 1 o’clock and 12 o’clock. So Mr Wolf perhaps says “it 2 o’clock” and all the kids take 2 steps up the hopscotch court. Then they cry out again, “whats the time Mr Wolf?” and he says its 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock and they have to take another 4 or 5 steps closer.
Now the aim of the game is for the kids to get as close as they can to Mr Wolf without getting caught. But the closer they get to Mr Wolf – the MORE AND MORE careful they have to be – because at some point Mr Wolf is going to try to catch them. Sometime before they get to the 12 they’re going to cry out; “What’s the time Mr Wolf” and hes going to say “its dinner time”. And as Mr Wolf says “its’ dinner time” he turns around and tries to catch one of the kidsbefore they get back to the beginning of the court. If the kids make it back to the beginning without getting caught they’re safe. But any kid who gets caught – that kid becomes the next Mr Wolf and the game starts again.
But the question I want us to coinsider is “WHAT IS THE TIME” in which we now live? If you do not know the time (or the purpose of this time) you are likely to make foolish decisions. If you look down – to the end of verse 46 – you’ll see that Jesus says; (SLIDE 3 – Lk.12:56).
Now the reason the Jewish crowds were struggling to understand Jesus and the time in which they lived – was because some of their EXPECTATIONS were not quite lining up. The Old Testament Jewish prophecies about the Messiah tend to have a very flat view of history. That is – the Old Testament prophecies don’t really distinguish what Jesus does at his first coming and what Jesus does at his second coming. They simply tell us what Messiah does overall. In fact, I can’t think of any prophecy in the Old Testament that clearly talks about a first and second coming of the Messiah. The Old Testament simply says 1) the Mesiah comes, 2) a series of events take place and 3) voila we have a new heaven and new earth. So this idea that there may be a gap between the Messiah starting the kingdom and then later completing the Kingdom is really a new concept for the Jews. There are aspects of the Messiahs kingdom they can enjoy NOW and other parts of the Messiah’s kingdom that are NOT YET. So HOW should they view this period of time and WHAT should they expect?
Point 1: Jesus says the NOW is Trouble & the NOT YET is World Peace
Show: Lk.12:49-51 (READ)
Explain: Well Jesus clearly says he is going to bring division among families, rather than usher in world peace. This is a “NEW THOUGHT”. The Old Testament prophecies led the Jews to believe that when the Messiah came – it would more or less mean immediate WORLD PEACE. The Messiah would somehow defeat evil, everyone would become friends (even Gentiles) and the wolf would lie down with the lamb. But Jesus hits the pause button. Jesus says the King is present NOW, but world peace is NOT YET. Now were the Jews wrong in their thinking?
Well not really. Its just their TIMING that is wrong. Jesus begins to explain that much of what the Jews wanted to see NOW A) in the first coming of Jesus – would not actually happen until B) his second coming. Yes. One day there will be WORLD PEACE, but not yet. LIKE THE JEWS (many Christians today) get confused about what we can expect after Jesus’ first coming. Some denominations (of the more clappy variety) often talk like we can have all the things of heaven now – if only we have enough faith. That is wrong. Christians need to understand both the now of Jesus’ kingdom and the not yet of Jesus’ kingdom.
Now Jewish Christians well and truly experienced the not yet of world peace. Many Jewswho believed in Jesus discovered they were excommunicated from the synagogue. Jesus divided Jewish familes. Some Jews believed Jesus was the Messiah. Others did not. So many Jewish families (and synagogues) started to argue and fight over the identity of Jesus. This still happens in many families today. If you are a Muslim and you decide to follow Jesus, your own family will most probably ridicule you, mock you and perhaps even hold a funeral for you. The same is becoming true in Aboriginal communities. If an Aboriginal person starts putting Jesus before “CULTURE” or “CEREMONY” – they are often labelled white fellas and rejected by the community. I know a Christian Aboriginal man to whom this is happening, right now in Sydney.
Jesus says world peace is not yet, division is what we should expect.”
Now with that said – lets go back and look at Jesus words about fire and baptism. He says in verse 49 (READ; Lk.12:49-50). Now whether THE FIRE Jesus is speaking of is A) the refining fire of the Holy Spirit or B) the fires of final judgment is hard to tell. The Bible tells us that just as God destroyed the world with water in the days of Noah, so one day God will destroy the world with fire (2Pet.3:5-7). Perhaps, Jesus is speaking of this fire. But the Bible also speaksof the Holy Spirits work in terms of fire. John the Baptist said “I baptise you with water. But after me will come one who baptizes you with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Lk.3:16). John was talking about Jesus baptising people with the Holy Spirit and fire. So which fire is Jesus speaking of?
Some Christians (including myself) believe Jesus is speaking about both fires because they are kind of ONE and the SAME fire. If you look at Jesus’ words again – you’ll see that he wishes the fire were already kindled, but it’s not. Jesus then goes on and explains the fire will only be lit after he has gone through a baptism of sorts. So we now have a further difficulty – what baptism?
Well this can’t be talking about A) water baptism or B) Holy Spirit baptism. Jesus has already been baptised with water and with the Holy Spirit. WHAT’S MORE, the baptism Jesus is talking about is full of DREAD. Jesus says “what CONSTRAINT I am under until it is completed.” The word CONTRAINT means heaviness or even distress. So it’s an unpleasant sort of baptism. Now when the word baptism is used in a FIGURATIVE OR SYMBOLIC sense (as Jesus seems to do here) it means to be overwhelmed by something. If the thing you are overwhelmed with is WATER – then you drown and die. If the thing you are overwhelmed with was FIRE – you are not just burnt, your IMMOLATED and again die. So ultimately, what was Jesus symbolically baptised with OR overwhelmed with, unto death (PAUSE). You could perhaps say “sin” or “the wrath of God”. Jesus’ baptism here is talking about his death on the cross.
(GOSPEL) The fact is Jesus had to accept upon himself all the sins of the world to be our Saviour. That was a lot of sin placed upon Jesus’s shoulders. Now of course, Jesus is God’s Son. He is eternal and immortal and that’s why He ultimately rose from the grave. He didn’t stay dead. But nonetheless Jesus was OVERWHELMED with the weight of the world’s sin and he died to save us. Jesus accepted the penalty for all your sin and all my sin when he died on the cross to save us. And its this baptism that lights the fire.
Apply: Now remember I said the FIRE may be both A) the Holy Spirits refining fire AND B) the final fires of judgment. In both cases the fire is burning up sin and worldliness. As Christians we love Jesus for dying for us. And the Holy Spirit uses this love of Jesus to burn up the sin in our life. We stop doing what is sinful and we try to do what Jesus says is good because we love him (and we trust him). So the fire of love kindled by Jesus’ death for us begins to burn up the sin and selfishness and worldliness in our life. That’s why Jesus WISHES the fire was kindled already because he wants sin to be eradicated.
Of course, the eradication of sin often also leads to problems with family members who don’t want to eradicate sin. THE CHANGES in our life often cast light on other family members poor choices. Hence the warning from Jesus that families may be divided 3 against 2 and 2 against 3. BUT ULTIMATELY the fire Jesus lights at his first coming to burn up sin will finish burning at his second coming. The Bible is clear – God is a consuming fire (Deut.4:24; 9:3; Heb.12:29). SIN cannot come into the presence of a holy God. So by the Holy Spirit either A) the sin is burnt up in the sinner or B) the sinner is utimately burnt up in their sin.
BILLY JOEL is right when he sings – we didn’t start the fire. But he is wrong when he sings it’s been always burning since the world’s been turning. That’s wrong.
Apply: At his first coming Jesus starts a fire to burn up sin in people’s lives. The now is sin is being removed. But the complete removal of sin (and sinners) is not yet. That’s why there is still hostility in our world. That is why there is not yet world peace. This is the era in which we now live. THE NOW is the fire has been lit. THE NOT YET is that the fire has to finish burning up sin. Only when the fire finishes burning and all sin is expunged – will world peace be possible.
Point 2: Jesus says NOW he is King, Soon that will be Manifest
Show: Lk.12:54-56 (READ)
Explain: Well everyone in Israel knew that A CLOUD forming in the west, meant rain soon. (When warm clouds over the Mediterranean came in and hit the cooler mountain airs of Israel – rain would inevitably follow). Similarly, when THE WIND blew from the south – that meant hot days were coming soon. (To the south of Israel was Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Countries right on the equator). So a southerly breeze in Israel NOW meant hot days soon. The rain didn’t immediately fall the moment you saw the cloud. Nor was it hot the minute you felt the south wind blowing. But the LATTER followed the FORMER as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow.
Jesus points out that the Jews are failing to grasp the SIGNIFICANCE of his presence. Many are believing Jesus is the Messianic King, at least philsophically. But they have no grasp of the significance of Jesus being King. He is King now and therefore He must rule as King soon. That latter must follow the former, as rain follows the cloud. AND JESUS AS KING – CHANGES EVERYTHING. (Just say that – Jesus as King, changes everything). The Jews will soon discover they no longer need high priests, or sacrifices or even a temple. Jesus as King is changing everything – even the fabric of time.
Later in Luke 21:24 Jesus will explain “this time”, “this present time” that he is ushering in will begin the time of the Gentiles. Yes, up to this point (the coming of Jesus) it was kind of the time of the Jews.
Most of God’s purposes in the world were achieved through the Jews. But the presence of King Jesus means the rule of King Jesus must soon follow as surely as sun coming up tomorrow. So what is the application?
Illustrate: Well sometime late in the 1760’s the STEAM ENGINE was developed in Europe. It was the start of the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION that changed the world. Man was suddenly mechanized and everything changed. A similar thing happened in the early 2000’s with IT and the development of smart-phones. The way we lived suddenly changed forever. And who now can go to the toilet without their phone?
Apply: It is this level of radical change and revolution that Jesus’ first coming introduces. We no longer approach God through the old methods of Judaism. Even in the NOW – Jesus is King over Jew and Gentile alike, even though that rule is NOT YET fully manifest in every Jew or every Gentiles life. SO BETWEEN A) the now of Jesus coming and B) the not yet of his return – we must not go back to the Old Covenant. Even NOW Jesus has introduced A BETTER COVENANT where he expects all his followers (whether Jew or Gentile) to obey Him.Are you interpreting the times aright? We no longer live in the time of Moses. We NOW, right NOW live in the time of King Jesus – even though his Kingdom has not yet beenfully revealed…
Sadly, the Jews lost much of what they held dear (the temple, the land and even their lives in 70AD) largely because they refused to bring Judaism under the Lordship of Jesus. Today many people do the same thing. They refuse to bring their secular worldview or their sexual ethic under the Lordship of Jesus because they think the time is modern, or post-modern or feminist or even woke. But now, right now is Jesus’ time. Jesus is King of this time, this era in which we NOW exist, even though the full manifestation of that Kingship is NOT YET. But do not be mistaken. YOU EITHER A) willingly accept him as king now or B) you will be forced to accept him as King soon.
Point 3: Jesus explains the Now is Reconciliation, the not yet is Judgment
Show: Lk.12:57-59 (READ)
Explain: Well whether this illustration is intentionally Trinitarian or not, most Christians agree this is talking about reconcilation with God, not man. The number 1 reason (I’d say) for the delay between Jesus’ first and second comings is so that people have time to be reconciled to God.
This passage talks about 1) an adversary, 2) a judge and 3) an officer. It says that as your going with your adversary towards court, be reconciled on your way. You may not realise this– but all of us have upset God our Father by the choices we’ve made. He is our ADVERSARY. God has a long list of allegations against us – of inappropriate conduct in his world – and we are now inevitably, heading towards the final judgfment. Now if you think you’ve never done anything wrong – perhaps you don’t need to worry. But maybe, you also need the psych ward because your completely delusional. However, if you know you’ve done some wrong things, you believe in God and you believe in a final judgment – the wise thing to do is sort things out with God before you get to court. You tell God your sorry. You put your trust in Jesus as Saviour and you try to repent of your sin.
Now the MAGISTRATE OR JUDGE who will hear God’s complaint against us – is Jesus. God the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son. So if Jesus has died for you (and you’ve accepted him as Saviour and Lord) no worries. The judge will find you not guilty – because he has paid for your sin. What’s more, God the Father promises to drop all charges against those who believe in Jesus. So sincere Christians are all good. But those who are not reconciled with God the Father (between Jesus’ first and second comings) will face Jesus’ judgment. He will look at our record, see all the opportunities we’ve had to to repent of our sins – and we will have NO EXCUSES (because God has given us time). He has given us this present time(where Jesus is the most famous name in history) to believe and repent.
So if you fail to make the most of this time – you will be found guilty and then the judge (Jesus) will hand you over to the prison officer to be locked up. Now given that the Holy Spirit is the one who puts into effect all Jesus actions – perhaps this is talking about the Holy Spirit. But either way – the person who is not reconciled to God the Father through Jesus in this present time – is ultimately cast into hell (and will not get out until the last penny is paid).
Apply: But don’t think that means you will one day get out of hell. Other parts of the Bible make it clear prison is forever – for those who reject Jesus. You can never pay the debt yourself. So do you understand this present time – between Jesus’ first and second coming and are you living wisely? This is the time to be reconciled with God. It’s the time for our family and friends to be reconciled with God. There will be no opportunity later.
As Peter writes in his second letter (Slide 8 – 2 Peter.3:9-10). In this time between Jesus’ first and second coming – God is giving the world the opportunity to believe and receive forgiveness. But I suspect the hour is now getting late. Jesus says that once the gospel has gone out into all the world – then the end comes. Jesus returns! Well, the gospel has gone out into all the world and I wonder – are you ready? The “NOT YET” is about to be revealed. An extraordinary PEACE is coming for those who know Jesus as King. A world without pain or sickness or death. A world where we will see God face to face and the wolf will lie with the lamb.
I don’t want to miss out on that. I don’t want my family, friends or children to miss out on that. So I live NOW, like the NOT YET is already reality. I live NOW trying to encourage people to be reconciled to God through Jesus while there is still time. THE QUESTION IS – are we still doing this evangelism in the aftermath of covid or are we concluding the world is now too messy. No one wants to listen. Its all too hard.
Well be assured the more messy the world becomes and the less people want to listen – the more likely Jesus return. If people have stopped accepting the gospel, why delay Jesus’ return any longer. There is going to come a point where the book of life is closed. And there will be no more opportunities for unbelievers to be reconciled to God. It will be too late. So are we interpreting this time aright and using this time aright? I guarantee you – there is a lot less time for people to be reconciled to God through Jesus than there was when Jesus first uttered these words. So are you ready? Are your loved ones ready? Nothing else really matters. Let me pray….