Time out. Isn't Jesus the Prince of Peace?

It's complicated.

Luke 12:49-53 (ESV)

“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.”

This passage can be confusing. It seems to contradict the whole idea of Jesus as the prince of peace. But, this is referring to different things than what the prince of peace is referring to. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, is our peace, not peace between believers and nonbelievers.

The first two sentences sound a bit cryptic but they are clearly anticipating His death on the cross. Something is coming that he describes as casting fire on the earth. This something will come after His crucifixion and it will divide nations and families.

This fits what happens next to a T. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived in tongues of fire, just as John the Baptist said.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. – Luke 3:16 (ESV)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

The book of Acts follows with many vivid descriptions of division. Here’s one.

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. – Acts 9:23-25 (ESV)

Christians have always suffered rejection and persecution. We were promised that.


Christ still divides families. Is yours divided? Do you know someone who is heartbroken by their divided family? What can you do to help?

Since the Lord’s clear instruction was that families would be divided, there’s no promise that these divisions will go away. While we should always ask for God’s blessing and healing, it’s more important to seek His will and direction. Painful situations are often a prelude to bold tasks.

Remember, the goal is His glory.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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