By Tyson Thorne

October 13, 2016

The Samarian Ministry at Various Cities (9.51-18.34), 12.49-53

Still speaking to his disciples, Jesus tells us some truths about his mission that appear contradictory to how most view Jesus and his work. At Christmas we sing “Peace on Earth, good will toward men” but Jesus isn’t so gentle. “Do you think I’ve come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division!” He talks about “fire” on the earth and vitriol in the home and how it is all purposeful. Difficult teachings to hear, particularly to those who hold that the Old Testament is the anger and vengeful part of the Bible and the New Testament is full of puppies and kittens.

Jesus is telling his disciples about what will happen when he finishes the first part of his mission. The fire Jesus brings is that of division. His ministry was certainly divisive, as evidenced by his recent row with the religious leaders and teachers of the law. Some would believe Jesus and follow him, others were angered by his teachings and sought his demise. Yet this was only the beginning, as how people respond to Jesus will cause division in more than religious circles, it will trickle down into the home where family members will reject each other because of their opposing faiths. This division is one of the steps of true revival.

Israel had lost her way. The religious authorities protected an institution rather than serve God, and the teachers of the law began inventing their own laws and attaching salvation to obedience. The people were burdened by the teachings, burdened by the law, and burdened by tithes and taxes. The nation was in desperate need of revival, and division is step two of the process. What are these steps? I’m glad you asked.

Notice that Jesus teaches the people about their identity. They belong to God, they are a part of his Kingdom and as such they ought to work and live as citizens of the Kingdom. Once established, they are to behave as ambassadors in this world, inviting others to join in. This will cause division. Division causes hatred, as is evidenced to the religious leader’s response to Jesus. The Messiah warned his disciples that they to would experience the worlds hatred. Hatred leads to brokenness before God and it is in this condition that the fire of revival bursts forth.


God has always divided mankind, since human unity only produces pride in human achievement (except in the church, which is unified under Christ). Furthermore, if unity in the world pulls people from God, what does that say about unity between God’s people and the world? Such a relationship kills our fervor, makes us complacent, worldly, useless – and only division can revive us.

Division is compared to a fire because, like fire, it spreads quickly, devours what stands in its way and purifies what it touches. We are marked by our identity in Jesus, by the division we bring, the hatred we endure and the brokenness that only a right relationship with God can heal. But the family divisions Jesus makes mention of can be difficult for us to understand. In Jewish culture, however, it is just as Jesus predicted. Messianic Jews, those who trust in Jesus as their long awaited Messiah, are often cut off from the rest of their family. They are separated, divided from the whole of Israel. They do not experience this fire in vain, however. The baptism Jesus refers to is his death, and because of it and his resurrection they – and we - have hope eternal. Sometimes the things we need most are painful at the start and later become our greatest blessing.

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