Turn to Luke 12:49-59. As you look through this passage, let me give you a few clues along the way to help you follow the train of argument. There are at least three parts to this passage. First, in verses 49 and 50, and especially in verse 50, Jesus makes a powerful declaration. He’ll follow it up in verses 51 to 53 with a penetrating question. Then, in verses 54 to 59, He turns to the multitudes and gives them an admonition, warning them because they lack spiritual discernment.

I should also clarify a couple of things. In the passage in verse 49, Jesus speaks of coming to cast fire on the earth. That's probably not a reference to the end times. It's a reference to the division that He brings between those that accept Him and those who reject Him. That's what He talks about in verses 51 to 53. In verse 50 He speaks of a baptism with which He must be baptized. He is not looking back to the baptism that He received from John at the Jordan River. He's looking forward to the baptism of the cross, His bearing of sin in our place that all those who rest and trust in Him might be saved.

In this great passage Jesus speaks about His devotion to our salvation. You see that in verse 50. There's Gospel all over that verse. But He also raises a question about Himself that directs our attention to Him as the dividing line in this world. He asks the simple question, “Do you think that I came so that everybody would get along? Do you think that My reign is most apparent in the world when nobody's fussing about Me? Or is it most apparent when there is one group of people that says that I am God and Savior while everybody else is saying that's intolerant, arrogant, and ignorant?” Yes, there are three parts to the passage, but it's all about one thing. It’s all about Jesus, who is Himself the dividing line.

I want you to see in verse 50 that Jesus makes it very clear that He is ready to endure suffering in His work on our behalf. What does He say? “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is My distress until it is accomplished!” Jesus is acknowledging that He willingly takes upon Himself the suffering and shame that is necessary for winning our salvation.

This is a hugely encouraging thing because we are so often distracted. There are burdens and cares in life, and you've got your mind on a hundred different things. I'm talking about believers, mature believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Mature believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can find themselves going day after day without anything but the most perfunctory prayers. They can go day after day without thinking about the cause of the Gospel in the world. They can even wander far from their fellowship with God and do things that are out of accord with walking worthy of the Gospel. Oftentimes we don't realize how far we are from the Lord. He is almost out of our minds.

But Jesus is saying in verse 50, “You may have almost forgotten Me, but I am always focused on loving you.” And even now, brothers and sisters in Christ, He ever lives to intercede at the right hand of God, no matter how far from Him you may be in your own thoughts. Jesus always is working and concerned for the everlasting salvation of His people, even when it costs Him personally.

The baptism He was going to endure was the baptism of the Cross, where received the words, “The Lord's curse be on You, and may He cast You off.” This is what He endured on our behalf. Jesus is telling us about His devotion and about what He's done for our salvation. Could there be a better picture than this that our salvation is something not that we accomplish but that He accomplishes?

That leads Him to press a question upon the disciples in verse 51: “Do you think that I've come to give peace on earth?” Why is Jesus saying this? Because He knows that when His disciples go out declaring that He is the one way of salvation they are going to be met by thousands of folks who tell them that they are out of their minds. Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Do not be surprised when that happens, because I didn't come so that everybody would agree about nothing. I came as the one and only way of salvation, and the world will be divided on Me.”

The world is fine with your being spiritual. The world is not fine with your declaring that Jesus is God, Lord, and Savior and the one way of salvation. But that is what every disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ believes and must believe because it's what Jesus taught. Jesus asks that question to the disciples because He wants them to be ready for rejection for the sake of the Gospel, because Jesus says, “I'm worth it, so believe Me.”

Then He turns to the multitudes and issues this very stern admonition to them because of their lack of spiritual discernment. This great conversation has been going on about the dividing line of the world and of history in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and He looks at the multitudes and says, “You can tell Me what the weather is going to be like today but you can't tell Me anything about the God who made the earth and sky. You know all sorts of stuff about this world, but you don't know about the things of God.”

We can stand up and look back condescendingly upon them, but this is timely for us. We know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, but do we have any spiritual discernment? These people have God in the flesh in their midst, and they don't get it. God in the flesh has given us His own Word, and we can read it, memorize it, and meditate on it and just totally miss it. Why is that?

If we don't see our sin and our need and His provision in the Gospel, it will make no sense to us. Have you ever wondered how it is that people who knew so much about the Bible and heard Jesus teaching it still didn't get it? They didn't see their sin and their need. When they opened their Bibles they had no idea how it was speaking to them. We also can know a lot about the Bible and still not get it if we don't see our own sin.

You see, this is all about the Gospel. It's all about Jesus. He's the dividing line. Jesus is saying to His disciples, “If you don't understand who I am and what you need, nothing else is going to make sense.”

May God grant you each an understanding of Jesus as Lord, Savior, God, and only hope of salvation. May He grant you an understanding of your own sin. And may He grant that you would take the choice to stand with Jesus and against everything else that rejects Him.