Luke 12:54-56
Recognizing The Current Hour

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  The message given to us for today is Luke chapter twelve, verse fifty-six starting from verse fifty-four.  "Jesus spoke to the multitude.  'When you see a cloud appearing in the west, immediately you say, A shower is coming.  And it's just like you say.  In addition, when you see the south winds blow, you say It'll be warm.  And it will be.  O hypocrites, even though you know how to recognize patterns in the sky and the earth as you do, why don't you know how to recognize the current hour?,'" (Luke 12:54-56).

2.  In an agricultural society where the weather is directly related to daily life, whether or not one can correctly recognize patterns in the sky and the earth is a life and death issue.  As you know they didn't have meteorological forecasts like we have developed today.  People earnestly used to discern the way the weather was going and make their activity plans based on that.  Clouds appeared in the west.  As moisture laden atmospheric conditions moved in from the Mediterranean Sea rain showers would fall suddenly.  As people knew from experience that that would actually happen, they discerned it from the clouds.  Or the south winds would blow in.  They could tell that the wind which blew in from the southern desert would bring in a heat wave.  And so it would.  Thus they went all out in correctly recognizing the patterns of the land and the sky and acting upon it.  But, the Lord said, "why don't you know how to recognize the current hour?"  He said that they didn't tell "the time now" like they really should have.   What did the Lord mean by his words?  In order to understand this, let's take a look at the context to today's passage.

The Time Now When Fire Is Let Loose

3.  Before this passage are written some extremely put words from the Lord.   That passage begins with verse forty-nine and goes like this, "The reason I came was to throw fire upon the earth.  How I wish the fire was already burned and done!  But, there is a baptism I must receive.  Until it is over I will suffer so much.  Do you think I came in order to bring peace on earth?   You're wrong.  I tell you this, it is rather for division.  Because from here on after, if there are five people in one house, three will be divided against two and two against three.  A father will be divided against his son, a son his father, a mother her daughter, a daughter her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law," (12:49-53).

4.  The Lord says he came to throw fire.  The Lord wants the fire to be burned and done already.  But the fire was not burning yet.  Before the fire burns out there is something for the Lord that he has to do.  The Lord states that there is "a baptism that he must receive." The Lord says until it is over I will suffer so much.  It is clear that the baptism which the Lord has to receive points to the suffering that he has to receive.  There is a fire that has to be let loose after he goes through this suffering.

5.  What does the fire mean?  In the Old Testament the Lord God uses the expression "consuming fire," (Deuteronomy 4:24).  Therefore, the symbol of fire is often used to express the mighty works of God in which God himself appears and performs, especially his works of judgment and purification, (Isaiah 66:15 etc.).  It was John the Baptist who connected this fire and the coming of the Lord Jesus in his speech when he said, "He will impart to you a baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  And with a winnowing fan in his hand he will clean up the threshing room's every nook and cranny, gather the wheat, put it in storage and burn up the husks with an unquenchable fire," (Luke 3:16-17).

6.  As we look at this, we see that what is called a fire that is supposed to be let loose by the Lord stands for the descent of the Holy Spirit as a specific outworking of God at the end times.  John understood the work of the Holy Spirit which was inaugurated by the coming of the messiah as the judgment of God like a fire that destroys and consumes sinners.  The wheat is put into storage, but the husks are burned up to ashes.  However, by the coming of the Lord Jesus the work of God in which he destroys sinners to oblivion has not begun.  Later, at the backdrop to when John sent a messenger during his imprisonment and when John had the messenger ask Jesus, "Are you the One we expected to come?  Or, must we wait on someone else?," it is believed that John was a very disappointed man.

7.  But, the Lord Jesus said that in order for fire to be let loose there was a baptism that he himself was expected to receive first.  First the cross of the Lord Jesus had to be set up.  First the Lord Jesus had to take upon himself the fire of the wrath of God the Father.  In his experiencing this, fire would be thrown upon the earth.  And a fire was let loose.  We are informed of this through the second scroll that follows this gospel [of Luke, which is Acts]; what we are informed of is this, [the fire] is the descent of the Holy Spirit and the inauguration of preaching from the church.  But, the descent of the Holy Spirit and the inauguration of preaching from the church were not directly the work of God to burn sinners into destruction.  What is the Bible saying?  Please look at the very end of this gospel account.  As Luke was looking out for a new period of time in which the fire of the Holy Spirit first was to be let loose, he recorded the following words of the Lord, "It is written like this, 'The messiah will receive suffering and rise again from the dead on the third day.  In addition, repentance that grants forgiveness of sin will be proclaimed by peoples of all different nations in his name.' Starting from Jerusalem you will be witnesses of these things," (Luke 24:46-48).  In other words, it's that the final call of God has begun from there on out.  The new time has begun when repentance that grants forgiveness of sin will be proclaimed by peoples of all different nations in his name.  It began with the fire of God.  It was a fire that was let loose when the Lord was baptized with the baptism that he was supposed to receive.

8.  Whenever God makes a direct appearance, a sinner is only destroyed.  When fire is directly let loose, a sinner is only consumed away.  [This is] because God is a consuming fire.  However, the Lord Jesus received for us that judgment which was supposed to come with that fire.  The Lord accomplished the redemption of sin.  Because of this, a repentance that grants forgiveness of sin by way of the work of the same God is proclaimed.  But, if put in other words, if we were to refuse the repentance that grants forgiveness of sin it would also mean that forgiveness of sin is no longer possible.  That would mean one is condemned with the fire of God as judgment upon oneself.  Thus, this is something we had better take seriously above all other things.  Our lives may be influenced by the weather, but whether we repent before God is a critical time which will influence our eternal destiny.

9.  When we know this, we can understand to some degree the words in verses fifty-one and following which are at first glance incomprehensible.  "Do you think I came in order to bring peace on earth?   You're wrong.  I tell you this, it is rather for division." (verse fifty-one).  For sure, his words like this were really hard to accept for a land of this national character which "considered [messiah] sacred with a view towards peace."  But, when a person truly repents and attempts to live anew with God, you can expect that the seed of division between those around you who look for the old way of living will arise.  Harmony is certainly important, but peace with others is not such an important matter that we are to overlook the truth, flip off the sin issue, or must preserve it to the point of casually dealing with matters pertaining to salvation and damnation.

10.  But, then, there are some who may say, "I won't have anything to do with a religion that produces conflicts."  Thinking like that is selfish.  But, we should at least keep in mind two things.  First, division and conflict do not mean the outright hating of one another.  Jesus did not say to his disciples to "hate your enemies."  No, instead he said "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44).  Aren't we to assume there were already conflicts at the point in time when Jesus used the word "enemy?"  It is precisely by facing real conflict in a serious way that the message to love [your enemy] comes to have any significance.  The differences stand out in bold relief, [that is, the differences] between "loving" and not thinking too much of righteousness and truth, and compromising to keep the peace stand out in bold relief.

11.  And secondly, we must consider the real world carefully.  We might say "Don't have conflicts," but the reality is that we fight over trivialities.  Though we might detest having conflicts over a genuine question of whether we are following God or not, we stress each other out over insignificant things.  We have confrontations because of our selfishness, we have confrontations in order to preserve our interests, we fight claiming our reputation has been hurt and we fight though claiming that getting into arguments is not really our style.  Don't we?  But then the reality is that we compromise on what's truly important.  I am being repetitious, but a person's daily life might be influenced by weather, but whether one repents before God is the crucial time which will influence on one's eternal destiny.

The Time Now When One Should Reconcile With God

12.  Tucked into today's passage of scripture, the same thing is said by means of the parable after it.  Look at verse fifty-seven.  "Why don't you judge on your own what is right?  When you go to an official with the one who is suing you, strive to make peace with him along the way there.  Otherwise, he will bring you to the judge and the judge will deliver you to the jailer, and the jailer will throw you into prison.  I'm telling you straight out, you will not be able to get out at all until you pay every last cent," (verses fifty-seven through fifty-nine).

13.  What is being said here is that people are to look at the big picture.  The Lord was only using an example here.  There is no need to interpret it allegorically in every detail one by one.  What he is saying is simple.  It is to "make peace."  With whom does he say to make peace?  Since he said something quite extreme in the word of the Lord given previously when he said, "I came in order to bring division," what is being said here is not just to "go reconcile with your neighbor."  What's more, with this speech he is establishing that the one who sues is a hundred percent right.  There is no longer room for defense or excuse.  If that's so, then in the final analysis it is the relationship between God and man or woman that is laid down here.  Setting aside relationships with others, it says that we must first reconcile to God.

14.  Of course, since on humanity's side there is sin, it is impossible to ascertain reconciliation from the side of humanity.  The reason we can strive for reconciliation with God is that God is looking for reconciliation.  The reason we can repent and turn to God is that God himself is looking for our repentance.  It is because repentance that grants forgiveness of sin will be proclaimed to persons of different countries in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Through the coming of the Lord Jesus and his cross and resurrection, that specific hour such as we've been describing has been inaugurated.

15.  In regards to this Paul too has written the following, "As all these things come from God, God has let us make reconciliation with himself through Christ, and he has imparted to us the duty to serve towards reconciliation.  In short, God has let himself be reconciled to the world through Christ, and in not holding people accountable for sin [but Christ] we are entrusted over to the message of reconciliation.  Thus, as God exhorts us through ourselves, we are fulfilling the role as messengers of Christ.  I beseech you on behalf of Christ.  Please make reconciliation with God," (Second Corinthians 5:18-20).

16.  The saying itself of "please make reconciliation with God" is God's grace.  So, it also says, "Now [is] the time of grace, right now is the day of salvation," (Second Corinthians 6:2).  But, since it is grace we mustn't think the time will last for ever.  There is always an end to the time of preaching when repentance is proclaimable.  How did the Lord put it in the previous parable?  He says, "strive to make peace with him along the way there."  It's not possible to be on one's way somewhere for ever.

17.  Thus, we must rightly acknowledge the time now.  That is the message of today's biblical passage.  People try with all their might to read the patterns in the sky and the land because it concerns their every day lives.  Today, those who live in the city limits might not look up at the sky with the same mindset as they had.  Instead, it might be better understood if you said, "even though you know how to read stock prices and the exchange..."  Or, you really know how to see right through and determine so very very ably so many other things, things that affect your every day life, things that deal with the advantages and the disadvantages to your lifestyle.  But, you have never really earnestly asked, or discerned or seen through all the way into [your life].  In [your] relationship with God you must recognize the current hour; for, because the Lord Jesus has already come, "Now [is] the time of grace, right now is the day of salvation."

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