I remember visiting with someone who had just had a quadruple bypass. Everything hurt. It was a major effort just to get up and take a step or two. He had to hug a pillow to his chest every time he coughed. It was miserable. He was wondering if letting the surgeon open up his chest was the right thing to do.
I remember another person who was bald from chemotherapy. The medical community had administered a precise dose of poison with the idea that it was enough to kill the cancer without killing the patient. He couldn’t eat. He was weak. Life was miserable.
Then there are all the people who are in physical therapy after receiving a new hip or knee. They are engaged in a love-hate relationship with the therapist. There is a lot of pain involved with the recovery.
With the proper care and the blessing of Almighty God, these people recover and lead active lives for decades after their treatment. Eventually, they will come to see that the time of painful recovery was worth it in the long run as they enjoy extra years of life and health.
Once you achieve a certain maturity, you come to realize that there are circumstances where present pain leads to future gain. There are times when we realize that we have no choice but to endure a time of hardship for our own good. At such times, many people will say, “Well, let’s just hurry up and get this over with.” They understand that life is about to get very bad, but that they will be better off in the long run.
Apparently, Jesus felt that way as He was traveling to Jerusalem to keep His appointment with the cross. He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50)
Here Jesus was speaking of the bloody baptism of His death on the cross. In this baptism by blood, Jesus will endure the full wrath of God for the sins of the world. By enduring this wrath, He will earn forgiveness, life, and salvation for you and for me.
Jesus knew that He faced a gauntlet of shame, pain, and forsakenness by God the Father Himself. He knew that the endurance of that gauntlet would bring salvation to the world. He knew that there was a specific time that the Father had set aside for this gauntlet. His desire was that that time would hurry up and get here. The sooner it started, the sooner it would be finished. In a way, Jesus was like many of us. He wished there was a way that He could hurry up and get it over with.
On the other hand, there are some very important ways in which Jesus is different from us when it comes to our desire to get it over with. When it comes to medical procedures, each of us receives the gain from his own pain. Blood circulates better. The cancer goes into remission. We can move more easily with less pain. In the case of Jesus, however, His pain is your gain. He suffers, but you receive the benefit. He forgives your sin. He adopts you into His family. He gives you eternal life in His joyful presence. His eagerness to endure His bloody baptism on the cross is for you.
At the end of His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus kept His appointment with the cross. With His suffering and death, He earned forgiveness for you. You can be confident of forgiveness because, at the end of His ordeal, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” He finished His baptism in blood for you.
His baptism in blood guarantees that your baptism joins you to Him. His righteous life becomes your righteousness. His holy death washes away all your sins. His resurrection is the promise that you will also rise from the dead to join Him in eternal joy. All that He has belongs to you because His pain is your gain.
Sadly, there are those who reject this gracious gift that Jesus earned with His baptism in blood. Some simply reject the idea that there is an eternity. Others believe in a life after this one, but prefer to earn their own way into eternity. In either case, by rejecting the gift that Jesus earned for them, they have condemned themselves to eternal torment. There is salvation for them, but they do not have it because they reject it. It is they who have lost their salvation.
Jesus warned that those who reject His salvation will take offense at Him. He said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53They 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.” (Luke 12:51–53) Even the strong bond of family will break apart over the salvation provided by Jesus Christ.
This division is not God’s will. He would have us all bear with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2–3) Never the less, the evil one uses those who reject the Gospel to attack the Gospel. So it is that Jesus is simply being realistic. Even though He does not desire division, those who reject His salvation will cause that division.
This division is especially strong in our current culture. That is because we are willing to sacrifice truth for the sake of peace. We are willing to tolerate all sorts of evil for the sake of “just getting along.” We do not base our decisions on what is right, but on what is pleasurable. We are more interested in what makes us feel good than in what truly is good.
The really sad thing about this is that there can be no real peace without truth. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32) So it is Jesus Himself who established truth as the source of freedom and He taught that the truth that frees us is found in His very Word … the Bible. When Martin Luther studied the words of Jesus concerning peace and truth, He said, “Peace if possible, truth at all costs!”
Christ’s attitude toward the truth also caused Adrian Rogers to say, “It is better to be divided by truth, than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than to speak a lie that will comfort and then kill. It is better to be hated for telling the truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better to ultimately die with the truth, than to live with a lie.”
The devil, the world, and especially our own sinful nature despise the truth. They despise the truth because the truth states that we are fallen sinners. The truth is that each and every one of us sins many times every day. That means each and every one of us earns God’s eternal punishment every day. The truth is that there is nothing that we can do to rescue ourselves from this condition. This is a terrifying truth that we would rather ignore.
The problem with ignoring the truth is that ignoring the truth does not make the truth go away. Although the truth of our sin is terrifying, ignoring this truth is the most dangerous thing we can do.
When we ignore the truth of our sin, we also ignore the truth of the Gospel … the truth of the baptism of blood that Jesus endured on the cross … the baptism of blood that earned forgiveness, life, and salvation for you.
The devil, the world, and especially our own sinful nature will do anything to hide this truth from you. They will label you as divisive, narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful, and so forth. They will tempt you to surrender the truth just so that you can get along. In this way, they hope to rob you of the truth that saves. They say that they are trying to create unity when they are really trying to create division … especially division between you and God.
Jesus warns us about the deception of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature by telling us the truth that unity with God will cause division with the world. God does not cause these divisions. It is the false doctrines of false teachers who cause the divisions. As the Holy Spirit inspired Jeremiah to write in our Old Testament reading, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 23:16) Everyone who expresses an opinion without checking it against the Word of God is a false prophet. They are the true dividers.
Jesus was eager to undergo His baptism of blood on the cross in order to unite us with Him. For He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) He has sent the Holy Spirit to work in us through Holy Scripture, Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper to establish and maintain the faith that receives the unity and other gifts Jesus earned for us. The unity that Jesus earned for us lasts into eternity where those who believe will experience the joy of Christ’s presence forever. Amen
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