Jesus Did Not Come to Bring Peace on Earth

fire

It’s too late for this year. But if you’re looking for a Bible verse for next year’s Christmas card, I have a suggestion.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Your card is sure to be a hit, though it may get you disinvited from some parties.

What About the Angels?

In seriousness, this passage in Luke 12 raises some difficult questions. We’re used to reading and singing about “peace on earth” at Christmas. And for good reason!

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13–14)

As we read closely, we see that the angels were praising God and praying as well. They both sought and heralded peace on earth among those with whom God is pleased. So, the angels weren’t declaring an immediate, universal peace with the arrival of Jesus, but they were calling for a peace among his people.

Because the birth of Jesus was a definitive, declarative step in the victory of God, and because this victory brings believers peace with God, peace among God’s people is possible. We can rest in our acceptance by God, our common adopted status as his sons and daughters. We can stop tearing each other down and start building each other up. We can love each other as brothers and sisters.

Not Now But Later

I read that portion of Luke 12 and I think, Why not, Jesus?

Why didn’t Jesus come to bring peace on earth? There’s a deep part of me—maybe it’s within everyone—that cries out for true peace on earth. Now.

But Jesus came to bring division.

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49–53)

Jesus’s “baptism”—likely his crucifixion—will kindle a fire. That fire will bring division based on allegiance and worship, and these fault lines will shoot through households and families.

Sons and daughters of the king will necessarily divide from those outside the kingdom. We love and work and sing and pray and plead for our neighbors, but eventually everyone’s heart follows their treasure.

But among God’s children, there should not be such division: “Peace among those with whom God is pleased.” Though peace will come imperfectly, it should come.

In this aspect as in many others, the church points ahead. We have God’s presence with us now, but we will have it fully in the age to come. We understand dimly now as we look forward to crystal clarity. And we aim now for the peace that will one day extend in all directions, forever.

No Peace for Jesus

We long for that future day without death or pain or any sign of the curse (Rev 22:3). It is coming as surely as the sun rises. But it comes at a cost. We will have peace because Jesus had none.

During his earthly ministry, life for Jesus was chaotic. He had nowhere to stay, no one who understood him, and a growing crowd of accusers. His life ended with betrayal, loneliness, pain, and disgrace.

But most peace comes through conflict. The peace that Jesus secured for us came through the anguish of the cross. God the Father focused his wrath against Jesus, who stood in our place. We can have peace now in part, and we can look forward to perfect peace, because Jesus knew no peace on earth.

Christmas Cheer

The reason for Jesus’s birth doesn’t lend itself to foil-stamped greeting cards. The Incarnation wasn’t about warmly-lit, soft-focused images to make people feel cozy.

But it was about love. It was about peace.

Remember Jesus’s purpose this season. He came to bring peace within the church, division with the world, and a sure hope that sustains us until he returns.


Photo Credit: raquel raclette (2017), public domain

 

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4 thoughts on “Jesus Did Not Come to Bring Peace on Earth

  1. Ryan,
    Your closing thought struck me as interesting coming from Luke’s Gospel. “Remember Jesus’s purpose this season. He came to bring peace within the church, division with the world, and a sure hope that sustains us until he returns.” I was reading through Matthew’s Gospel to see how Immanuel promises to be with us, and what I found seems to echo your final words here.

    1. In Matthew 1:21 & 23, Jesus came to “save his people from their sins,” which is part of the reason people will call this baby “God with us.”This separates them from their corruptness that by nature they share in common with the world.
    2. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promises to be in the midst of otherwise “intimidating” peace-making efforts within the church, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
    3.In Matthew 28:20 he promises to be with us in our disciple making and sustaining us always by his presence, “Go therefore, and make disciples…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    Thanks for your precision and focus!

    • Thanks, Phil. Good words here. You know I’ve been thinking a lot about Immanuel over the past 3 years, so I appreciate these pointers. I also wrote about the names “Jesus” and “Immanuel” in Matthew 1 here, if you’re interested.

  2. Hi Ryan

    I was interested to find you have written this post with some similarities to one I also posted in December.
    Just in case you (or any of your readers) may be interested, you can see my post at https://grainofwheatblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/26/jesus-brings-division-not-peace-on-earth-2/

    I wrote: “Have you ever wondered how to reconcile the fact that Jesus taught that He came to bring division, a sword and fire on earth with the tales of “Peace on earth” that are on so many Christmas cards at this time of year? Which is the true message of the Lord Jesus Christ and how do we reconcile Him being called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) with such divisive concepts?”

    I looked at the division in families that Jesus told us would occur, and the pain that causes in our hearts. I think that the “peace” that the Lord Jesus gives isn’t necessarily in “the church,” as such, but is in the wonderful oneness that we get with Him and the Father, as He prayed for us in John 17:20-21.

    God bless
    Helen

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