Hello and welcome to Thursday’s podcast.
Today’s passage is Luke 12: 49-59. Our focus verse for today is v51 which I’ll read for us now. Remember these are Jesus’s words to the crowd that have gathered around him.
‘Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.’
I have had the great privilege of being able to serve some of our local secondary schools over the past two years, primarily through leading and supporting the work of Christian Unions. In one of the schools I’m in, we’ve started Youth Alpha, an introduction/refresher to the Christian Faith, with the Y7/8 lads. This week, we looked at, ‘Jesus – who is he’. Being in that session, listening to the students’ questions, and for some the challenges levelled against what they were hearing about Jesus took me back to my own experience of Alpha some 7 years ago now. I remember listening intently to the others on the course – some of whom who weren’t shy in making their opinions known.
The person of Jesus Christ has and always will provoke a response in people. Jesus constantly challenged the status quo. He totally polarized opinions. He said and did things which were considered controversial. He said he was God. Indeed, he was crucified for it.
Jesus asks the crowd who have gathered around him – Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. As I listened to the students in that Alpha session this week, I was reminded again of the truth of what Jesus says here – as uncomfortable as it is for us. It’s not that Jesus didn’t come to bring peace. He did! He is described as the prince of peace. The one who reconciles us to the father. The Apostle Paul writes about a peace that Jesus offers us – a peace which the world cannot understand or provide. However, it’s clear from this passage, and indeed many others as we read the Gospels together, that Jesus can also be described as the great divider – amongst people. Jesus came not only to bring salvation but to bring division – as people decide whether or not to follow him.
Rather than focus on the why Jesus causes this divide, which we haven’t got the time to fully do justice to in this short podcast, let’s consider how we might respond again to this challenge today.
One response, as we saw on Monday, might be withdraw, to hide our faith in Jesus for fear of being disliked, shunned or just considered plain weird!
I was recently really challenged by this as I’ve been approaching secondary schools about something called the Higher Tour – which involves groups of gifted musicians/evangelists leading creative sessions with the students. It’s set to be the largest youth mission in our region for many years. Already 31 secondary schools are signed up across our region, and the vision is to reach 50. Please do continue to pray for this work! And as I’ve been contacting school about the tour, the temptation has been, at times, to talk about how this work will enrich the PSHE and RE curriculum, yes… that it will have a massive impact in terms of a student’s sense of self-worth, yes… but to not mention Jesus – until the very end at least. Thankfully, the vision of Higher is so clear and bold, I’ve simply had to do so and be up front about that from the beginning to avoid being disingenuous. Some schools have signed up straight away, others have asked really good questions about how the bands present the Christian faith and how that works in their schools, some schools have heard it’s a Christian initiative and said no.
All the team who are supporting the fantastic Gospel work of this tour can’t change how a school’s senior leadership team will respond when we mention Jesus. As hard as it is, it’s actually reassuring to know that. We ourselves cannot convince someone that Jesus is who he says he is and that we all need to receive Him as Lord and as our saviour. Thankfully, salvation is God’s doing alone and not ours.
What we can do though is choose how we, as believers, live and communicate out our faith. We saw on Monday that God doesn’t want us to live our life in boxes. What he calls us to is to live out our lives of faith in the divide we see in our families, friendships and workplaces when it comes to Jesus, and as we love and serve them that we would be ready to take the opportunity to speak of the hope we’ve found in Jesus, but to do so, as Peter writes, with gentleness and respect.
This really is at the heart of what we’re doing as a church this year at STC – as we engage with the Grow Project. That we ourselves would grow bigger in our faith and be better equipped to share that hope we have in Jesus with the divided world around us.
Jesus, thank you that in you we find salvation. That you have brought us out of spiritual darkness into your wonderful light. Help us today to live as your disciples and may we have the courage and boldness to speak of you to those whom you have placed around us. Amen.
READING: Luke 12:49-59
‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
He said to the crowd: ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, “It’s going to rain,” and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, “It’s going to be hot,” and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
‘Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.’