What was Jesus talking about in Luke 12:49-50?


Dear Minister,

I am deeply interested in your thoughts on something Jesus said.

I came to cast fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished.

The first is generally described as Jesus's message or possibly literal fire set upon the earth to cleanse. Most see the second as Jesus's sacrifice on the cross as his baptism of pain and sacrifice. I have found these actually point to something much more complex.

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts.

Your answer on the book of Revelation is surprisingly is in line with what I have researched and found to be true.


The parable Jesus tells about the need for servants to do their master's will (Luke 12:42-48). We don't know when Jesus will return or when we will be called home to give an account for the things we have done. What we do know is that it will be unexpected. Those who have been dutiful will be rewarded, but those who have been negligent will be punished.

"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:49-53).

In the larger context, notice that Jesus is discussing one of the reasons He came to this world. He did not come to bring peace to the whole earth. Instead, he was here to cause people to make choices and different people will make different choices.

Jesus came to set hearts in the world on fire. It is a passion to obey God that will cause conflict and discord (Matthew 10:34-36) and like all fires, it will either destroy or it will purify, depending on what is being operated upon (I Corinthians 3:11-15). Jesus’ desire is that this fire was already started, but it cannot be lit until his crucifixion. To set the world aflame, Jesus had to be immersed in suffering and he doesn’t enjoy the thoughts of what is coming. "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour" (John 12:27).

Jesus used similar wording when James and John asked to be placed at Jesus' side in the kingdom. "But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized" " (Mark 10:38-39). Jesus points out that James and John did not understand what they were asking. He asked them if they would be able to share the cup he was about to drink. A person’s cup is what comes to a person in life. It is his lot or portion given to him by God (Psalms 11:6; 16:5; 23:5; 75:8; 116:13; Isaiah 51:17; Ezekiel 23:33). He also asked if they would be willing to be baptized with his baptism. This is a reference to being immersed, in this case, being overwhelmed with difficulties. In other words, Jesus is asking if James and John would be able to share in his sorrows and hardships (John 18:11), though they did not understand this at the time. They sought glory and an opportunity to share in Jesus’ glory. The brothers were certain that they would be able to share in the portion that God poured out for Jesus. Jesus told them that they would share it, implying that it would happen willingly or not. James was slain by Herod (Acts 12:2) and John spent time in exile and was well acquainted with tribulation (Revelation 1:9).

As he told the apostles about this division when he sent out the twelve in Matthew 10:34-36. Now he tells a wider audience the same message. It is not division for division’s sake. Rather the teaching of the gospel will divide people between those who believe and those who reject the message. We have already seen it happen among the Jews as Jesus taught (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19). Division results because a world caught up in sin will not accept the truth (John 1:5; 3:19-21). Families will be divided as a result of the gospel.

Some have lost sight of this fact. Peace and harmony are demanded at any cost. Conflict itself is seen as sinful. But as long as sin remains in the world, there will always be conflict (I Corinthians 11:17-19). Truth doesn’t leave room for falsehood.

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