July 28, 2017: Verse of the day

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The Reality of Present Strife

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.” (12:51–53)

The dividing that the gospel of Christ brings is for both time and eternity. In this discourse Jesus gave a parable involving just and unjust servants that illustrated eternal separation (see the exposition of 12:41–48 in the previous chapter of this volume). The faithful steward represents those who are ready for Christ’s return; who are obedient to the gospel, believe in Jesus, confess Him as Lord, and are saved (Rom. 10:9). They will be rewarded with blessedness forever in heaven. The unfaithful stewards (whether defiant, distracted, or ignorant) represent unbelievers, who do not believe in Jesus, accept the gospel, or repent. They will be sentenced to varying degrees of eternal, conscious punishment in hell.

But how they respond to Jesus will not only divide people in eternity, but also in time, as the Lord’s rhetorical question, Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division, reveals (cf. Matt. 10:34). It was reasonable for the Jewish people, based on the Old Testament teaching noted earlier in this chapter, to suppose that Messiah would bring peace. But Jesus told them that He came not to bring peace, but rather division. When there is no peace between sinners and God, there will be no peace between people, but rather strife and conflict.

To illustrate His point Jesus chose society’s most fundamental unit, the family (cf. a similar illustration in Micah 7:6). He often used the phrase from now on to describe something that was beginning, and would continue to be that way in the future (e.g., Matt. 23:39; 26:29; Luke 5:10; 22:69; John 8:11; 13:19; 14:7). Jesus, who came as the Prince of Peace to reconcile sinners to God (2 Cor. 5:18–20), was and would continue to be, at the same time, the great divider (cf. John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19).

In the Lord’s hypothetical illustration 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. (Six members of the household are named, but there are only five individuals, since the mother of the son and the mother-in-law of the daughter-in-law [her son’s wife] are the same person.) This illustration has played out innumerable times in real families since Jesus’ day. The offense of the gospel often causes those who reject and hate it to make outcasts of even family members who believe it. In Matthew 10:21 Jesus revealed how far family division over Him could go: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” But He made the following comforting promise to those who lose their earthly families because of the gospel: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).[1]


51 The phrase ἐν τῇ γῇ (en tē gē, “on earth”) may refer to the “land” of Israel. This meaning of γῇ, (GK 1178), is possible (TDNT 1:677–78). “Peace on earth” in 2:14 has ἐπί (epi, “on”; so 12:49), not ἐν, en, as here. If this was the case, Jesus’ words would refer even more clearly to the Jewish messianic expectations current in his day. “No, I tell you” (οὐχί λέγω ὑμῖν, ouchi legō hymin) is emphatic.[2]


12:51–53. Jesus again knew what the disciples were thinking. They saw him as a man of peace, perhaps the king who would win the war to end all wars and create the messianic kingdom of peace (see Isa. 9; 11). They still had much to learn about Messiah. Jesus came to divide families and friends. He was the dividing line. Dedication and faithfulness to him set a person apart from family and friends. The coming of Jesus the Messiah left no room for neutrality. You choose to be for him or against him. Your choice brings strong opposition[3]


51–53. 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 family there will be five divided against each other: 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.

We have here a mashal; that is, a paradoxical saying, one that sounds unbelievable! That it is contrary to prevailing opinion is indicated by the question, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?” and the answer, “No, I tell you, but rather division.” What Jesus says here causes the one who hears or reads it to startle in shocked disbelief. The natural reaction to the surprising statement would be: “How can this saying be true? Is not Christ ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isa. 9:6)? Is he not the One who pronounces a blessing on those who make peace (Matt. 5:9)? If he did not come in order to bring peace how can the following passages be true: Ps. 72:3, 7; Luke 1:79; 2:14; 7:50; 8:48; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21; Rom. 5:1; 10:15; 14:17; Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20; Heb. 6:20–7:2? Do not all of them in the strongest terms proclaim Jesus as the Bringer of peace?”

We should remember, however, that it is the characteristic of many a mashal to place emphasis on one aspect of the truth rather than on a proposition that is universally valid. See on Matt. 5:34, “Do not take any oath at all.” The merit of such aphorisms is that they stop a person short and make him think. So here also. A little reflection will soon convince the earnest student of Scripture that there is a sense in which the coming of Christ into this world not only brought division but was even intended to do so. If that had not been its immediate purpose would not all men have been lost (John 3:3, 5; Rom. 3:9–18)? Would they not all have rushed onward toward their doom? Besides, even in the lives of those who are ultimately saved is it not true that through many tribulations they must enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22)? Is not the life of the believer one of Sturm und Drang (storm and stress)? To be sure, in the end all is peace, but the same Paul who exclaims, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” also complains, “Wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 7:24, 25).

In addition, there will be bitter opponents. Here “on earth,” that is, during this present dispensation, the followers of Christ must expect division. It is thus that it will become evident who is on the Lord’s side and who is not. It is thus that “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Josh. 5:13, 14; Matt. 21:44; Luke 2:34, 35; 20:18). The entrance of Christ into this world divides in two, splits apart, cleaves asunder, and in so doing turns one person against another.

Faith not only creates division between one race and another, one people and another, one church and another; it even brings about division in the family, in fact often the sharpest division of all. In this connection Luke here mentions “five” family members all living under the same roof; father, mother, unmarried daughter, married son and his wife (the parents’ daughter-in-law). Because of the relation which these various members assume toward Christ there is intense friction between them: “three against two, and two against three.”

For Practical Lessons and Greek Words, etc., see pp. 686–690.

12:54–56 Knowing How to Interpret the Weather

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Knowing How to Interpret the Time

Cf. Matt. 16:2, 3

54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, at once you say, ‘It is going to rain.’ And so it does. 55 And when a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘Scorching heat is on the way.’ And it comes. 56 Hypocrites! The look of earth and sky you know how to interpret. Then how is it that you do not know how to interpret this present critical hour?”

For a possible connection between this section and the immediately preceding one see p. 537.

Again, as once before (verses 14–21), Jesus turns to the crowds.[4]


12:51–53 He knew very well that His coming would not give peace on earth at that time. And so He warned the disciples that when men came to Him, their families would persecute them and drive them out. The introduction of Christianity into an average home of five would split the family. It is a curious mark of man’s perverted nature that ungodly relatives would often rather have their son a drunkard and dissolute person than have him take a public stand as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ! This paragraph disproves the theory that Jesus came to unite all humanity (godly and ungodly) into a single “universal brotherhood of man.” Rather, He divided them as they have never been divided before![5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (pp. 172–174). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 231). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Butler, T. C. (2000). Luke (Vol. 3, p. 209). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 682–684). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1421–1422). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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