I don’t think most of us are prepared to hear a Gospel like we just heard, where Jesus says, “I didn’t come to bring peace. I came to bring division” and extreme division among nations, among peoples, even within families, where it’s the most hurtful. We think of Jesus as we sing on Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people on Earth,” that Jesus brings peace. We think of Jesus coming on Easter Sunday night and saying to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”
So what is happening here? Well, first of all, we should realize that when Jesus makes these distinctions today, he is not giving his goal or his vision, that he really wants division, he wants people to hate each other. No. But he’s saying, “As I preach the word [and] try to show you God’s ways, some will listen and some won’t, and there will be divisions because of what I say [and] what I teach; those who accept it and those who reject it, even with hatred.”
This, I guess, shouldn’t really surprise us because when Jesus was presented in the temple as a tiny infant, remember what Simeon said about him? “He will be a sign of contradiction. Some will follow, some will reject.” And in his own life, that happened. There’s that beautiful passage in the fourth chapter of Luke, where Jesus preaches in the synagogue. It’s right after he’s come back from the desert and he’s ready to begin his public life, and he is offered the chance to read the Scriptures….