Wednesday, June 15, 2005


LUKE 12:49-53

"Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." To many, these words of Jesus do not seem to fit his character. Given what we know of Jesus, this saying may appear contradictory, almost out of character. We associate Jesus with peace. On the night that Jesus was born, the angels sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." Jesus clearly taught non-violence and non-retaliation. He declared that peacemakers were blessed. He taught his followers to turn the other cheek when slapped on one cheek. And he wept over Jerusalem because it rejected the things that make for peace. Jesus' followers proclaimed the gospel of peace and Paul saw himself as an ambassador of reconciliation. Jesus was surely no promoter of division but the Prince of Peace.

However, we cannot dodge the challenging words of today's gospel reading. They address an all too common reality. To follow Jesus is to attract detractors, persecutors and opposition, sadly, often from within one's own family. Jesus was no stranger to family division. It seems likely that members of his own family were not sympathetic to his ministry. And John informs us that members of his extended family refused to believe in him.

The purpose of Jesus' mission was peace but his presence would inevitably divide. His words are true even today. To follow Jesus wholeheartedly and uncompromisingly incurs hostility. We soon discover who our true friends are if we take a stand for Christ. To follow Jesus is a radical call. To embrace the gospel is to lose the affection of the world.

Jesus knew that to follow him would mean opposition and suffering for his disciples. He warned them of it on many occasions. However, it was not until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit that they were willing to accept and face it for themselves. But Jesus did not ask anything of his followers, which he was not willing to face himself. At this point in the gospel, he was on his way to Jerusalem. He knew that there he would face suffering and death. Yet nothing would prevent him from fulfilling what he knew to be the Father's will. In fact, he longed for this hour to come. Jesus calls us not to be afraid to face opposition, not to turn away from suffering. He has gone before us on the road, and he is with us now.

Ask Jesus today to help you to be his faithful disciple and never be afraid to walk where he has led.

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