Today’s Gospel passage (Lk 12:49-53) has Jesus telling His disciples that He has come to set the world ablaze and to bring division, not peace, on earth, using breaks in the family to demonstrate the forcefulness and impact of this separation.
It should immediately strike the Christian that Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), is using very “incendiary” language in reference to His mission. Not tranquility but extraordinary disturbance — even breaking the closest family ties. Not a fireman but a fire starter. How can this be?
It is instructive that the comparable passage in Matthew’s Gospel says this: “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (10:34) The significance of “sword” is brought out in several New Testament passages that make it clear precisely what is going on here in Luke and Matthew. Among them, to wit:
“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12)
“From [Jesus’] mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword” (Rev 1:12)
And most striking for our discussion:
“Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Rev 2:16)
We know Jesus is the Word of God from the Prologue of the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-14; see esp. v. 1). We also know that Jesus is the Truth (Jn 14:6). This sword that comes from His mouth is Divine Revelation. This revelation contains all truth — there is no error. It divides those who accept it from those who reject it. We know how it can tear even families apart (maybe you have personal experience with this). It is not that the Lord wants disunity, but the only authentic unity must be unity in the truth. Those who don’t repent (per Rev 2 above) and accept the fullness of Divine Truth (i.e., Jesus) separate themselves.
Jesus mission was to bring the fullness of truth to the world. He wound up dying for it. Even Pilate could not understand this (remember “What is truth?” [Jn 18:38]?). Jesus was willing to give up everything and everyone for the truth (see the result of the Bread of Life discourse at Jn 6:67) — no compromises.
What about us?