I hope you see the importance of reading the whole of Luke’s gospel. Some of Jesus’ teachings were hard to hear, both for ancient Israel and for us today. However, if we are to truly understand the message and mission of Jesus, we need to hear everything He said, including the more confronting words, like those in today’s passage.
Fire purifies by separating the good from the bad. Jesus’ ministry always has that effect. Inevitably, loyalty to Christ will impact even our closest relationships (12:51–53); we have to choose to follow Christ because of who He is. Yet people, especially the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, had no excuse for not following Jesus. The signs that He is the long-awaited Messiah were even clearer than the weather reports (12:54–56).
When it comes to Judgment Day, people can make two mistakes. One is to fail to act now. Today is the day to be reconciled to God. It will be too late when you stand before the Magistrate (12:57–59). The other mistake is to think it won’t happen to me, because I’m not as bad as some other people. No, says Jesus, we all need to repent (13:1–5).
Jesus was firstly addressing Israel (13:6–9). In the parable of the fruitless fig tree, He reveals that God has been incredibly patient with His faithless people over many centuries, but now, His patience is running out. The widespread rejection of Jesus only further demonstrates the depth of their sin and the seriousness of their predicament. While God will not completely abandon His chosen people (Romans 9–11), Jesus will soon send His disciples to others who are more responsive to His gospel.
We are halfway through Luke’s gospel and this is a good opportunity for us to pause for self-reflection, to avoid repeating the mistake of Israel. Have we understood who Jesus is? Have we confessed our sins and turned away from them? Have we been reconciled to God? Are we sure we will be declared righteous when we stand before the heavenly Magistrate?
God longs to forgive us and bring us into His eternal kingdom. Now would be a very good moment to ensure that we are in a right relationship with God and have a certain hope of eternal life. If we have done what Jesus says, then thank God for saving us!
What experience have you had of the division that Jesus brings to relationships (12:49–53)? How should we respond when people turn against us because of Jesus?
What advice and comfort would you bring to someone who is not sure of where they will stand with God on Judgment Day?