Luke 12: 49-53
‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! ‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on, a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; father opposed to son, son to father, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law to mother-in-law.’
The imagery in the Gospel for this Sunday is stark, confronting and disturbing. Stark, when contrasted to the Christmas message, when in Chapter 2 of the same Gospel, Luke writes:
“And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours’ ” (Luke 2: 13-14).
On the surface the two messages seem incompatible with each other, and that is disturbing. However, whilst the birth of Jesus and the proclamation of the angels may have brought great joy to many, it certainly caused concern and discord for others. Matthew’s Gospel highlights this well.
“Suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him’ ” (Matthew 2: 13).
Underneath the Christmas message, resides an undercurrent of discord and division. Luke returns to this message, with the dramatic statement by Jesus in the Gospel for this Sunday.
The message of Jesus, because it challenges believers to be authentic disciples that are counter-cultural, brings acceptance from some and rejection from others. Jesus in this passage does not account for the ‘fence-sitter’, you are either a disciple or you are not!
This division is in many ways part of the building of the Kingdom of God. The Baptism that Jesus refers to in this passage is the cross, his own death and subsequent resurrection. We are called, as disciples to carry our crosses also, on a daily basis. At times, it will cause conflict and division, at times it will lead to joy happiness. The incarnational-cross that we encounter in the Gospel, is calling us to be faith filled disciples, proclaiming the good news, each and every day.