Many of my friends are preaching tomorrow on Luke 12:49, if you are unfamiliar with this text, read it below ... a challenging text to say the least!
I am not preaching, but I am reading the Gospel as the deacon of the service, and I have not done a full job of reflecting on and wrestling with and exegeting this text. That said, my reaction to this text is that: Jesus means business! Jesus did not come in a trifling way, and his mission on earth was not one that was unimportant, or without challenge. Many of us desire "peace" and "unity" rather than division, and we desire some semblance of love and companionship between sons and fathers and mothers and daughters. However, these gaps and divisions between generations are real ones, and Jesus' coming is a New Thing, the Gospel, the Good News - but it may not initially look so peaceful, or unifying or perhaps even 'good.' Jesus came into the world and he meant business, he came with power and might, and Jesus also comes into the world today, and means business, he comes into the world in power and might. Do we trust God enough to see that Jesus is calling us to interpret the present times? Will we live in a way that embraces the eschatological framework that God is going to come and judge us, and that Jesus does not come in a trifling way, but comes in a real way, to deal with real injustice; that Jesus does not come into the world powerless, but transforms and explodes the power systems of our world - even the relationships between family members of different generations?
This text is a challenging one, and even a scary one. The image of Jesus here does not seem to be an image of a 'good shepherd,' but rather a terrible taskmaster. Perhaps we need to see that God cares about the world enough to send someone who loves us, but also who will ask us to account for those things we have done, those things we have left undone, for those things that have been done in our name, and for all the ways that our lives intersect with sin and evil that is done in the world. God cares about the world enough to send His Son who loves us, and loves us enough to judge us, and to empower us to live up to that judgment.
May we hear these difficult and challenging words, and heed them as a wake up call!
Luke 12:49 (NRSV) "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 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."
54 He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, "It is going to rain'; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, "There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?