Jesus’ declaration that he has come not to bring peace but to bring division is unsettling. Images of a peaceable kingdom where lions lie down with lambs float further away as we see Jesus’ ministry causing more conflict than it resolves.
Since history is always written afterward, the authors of the Gospels have the benefit of knowing what is coming in Jesus’ story. They know that the baptism he has to undergo is a violent and excruciating death. We too read the Bible with the end in mind. We know that the Resurrection will bring a happy ending to the Crucifixion and that the last pages of scripture herald God’s final victory. The trouble with knowing the end of the story, for us and for Jesus, is that we live in the middle. In today’s passage, Jesus tries to alert the crowd of the storms that lie ahead.
Predicting storms is tricky business. Jesus admonishes the crowd for being good meteorologists of the signs they see in the weather conditions while being clueless of the signs of the times. The crowds gather not to hear from a man who will die in shame on a cross but in the hope for a glimpse of a miracle worker, a chance at victory with a military Messiah come to conquer their oppressors and set things right. They cannot interpret the signs that the coming storm will dash all their hopes before God will fulfill them in the most unlikely way.
We too have hopes. We look anxiously for signs that the best of our hopes will come to pass. But to follow Jesus means to cling to him as our only hope, even if it means clinging to him through storms on the way to eternal calm.
Lord, be our peace in the storms of our lives. Amen.
Isaiah compares the people of Israel to a vineyard that God has planted. However, the grapes that grow there have become wild. There is no justice, no right living in the vineyard so God is considering letting it be destroyed. The psalmist bemoans the state of God’s people using the same metaphor. The vineyard has been overrun, burned, and cut down. The psalmist appeals to God to restore the vineyard. The author of Hebrews presents many more examples of people of faith in past times. All these exemplars now surround us and cheer us on in our life of faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cautions that following the gospel requires full commitment. For some, this will mean tension in relationships, even within families. Following Jesus is not a commitment of convenience.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7. Recall a time when you lovingly prepared a place. What would prompt you to destroy it?
Read Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19. How has God restored you when you have been at your most vulnerable?
Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Who makes up your personal Faith Hall of Fame? How does each person cheer you on in your spiritual journey?
Read Luke 12:49-56. What does it mean for your life of faith for Jesus to have come to bring division?
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