Summary: Being a follower of Jesus will bring us into conflict with those who are not his followers. However, being his follower means that we are called to help others to interpret his ministry so that they might become his follower too.
On and off, for the past 19 years Moira and I have been delighted to be able to spend time at her parents’ time-share apartment in Spain. The weather is predictably hot and the sun shines brightly! However, I was careless in packing my case. I was disappointed to arrive in Spain and discover that I had left my sunglasses in rain-swept Billericay (UK). I was unprepared for the strength of the predicted sunshine.
Right now as I speak Mexico is still in the midst of a category 5 hurricane. As at yesterday afternoon 11 people had died, windows were shattering regularly, trees were uprooting, tourists have fled the area, and there is major concern about the poorest communities many of whom live in flimsy homes. Many people and many buildings were prepared for the storm because weather predictions are better than they have ever been, and because many people were willing and able to respond to the weather warnings.
Jesus was speaking about the need to be prepared for the coming judgement; but it’s important to note that the paragraph which we just heard from the Bible (12:49-56) addressed two different groups. Verses 49 to 53 are addressed “to the disciples” (12:22). Verses 54 to 56 are addressed to “the crowd” (12:54).
Jesus had just said this to his disciples: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (12:48). He then presses home a possible cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Families “will be divided” (12:53). Yes, Jesus is indeed the Prince of Peace and he will ultimately bring peace with his heavenly rule and reign, but for now Jesus says that he Himself will be a cause of division; a point of division (12:51). The family member who doesn’t follow Jesus will come into conflict with the one who follows Jesus. It could be over Church, the use of money, or asylum seekers.
The way of Jesus is not the way of the man or woman who lives for number one. So for us disciples here today we must remember that being a dedicated follower of Jesus is very likely to bring us into conflict with members of our family. Priorities will differ. Don’t be surprised. Be prepared. Pray for those we know we are not yet disciples of Jesus.
After teaching his disciples Jesus turned to the crowd and congratulated them on their ability to forecast the weather and to respond to weather forecasts; and that was 2000 years ago way before weather balloons and satellites! Clouds rising in the west usually meant rain was coming, and a wind from the south usually meant it was going to be a scorcher (12:54-55); and whilst we have got much better at forecasting and responding to the weather, it seems that humanity is no better at interpreting and responding to what Jesus referred to as “this present time” (12:56); in other words the failure to truly respond to Jesus’ ministry.
In all of this there is a pressing onus upon disciples to be prepared and to help others to understand and to respond to the ministry of Jesus.