Courses

The Historical Jesus: Lecture Twelve


"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

This is perhaps one of the most remarkable of the sayings of Jesus. Here Jesus clearly declares that His mission is aimed in such a way that it is intended to elicit division and conflict! In response to the work of Jesus one can either accept him or reject him. There is no middle ground and no areas of gray or shades thereof.

Some very good scholars use this text to support the idea that Jesus wished the kingdom of God to arrive to such an extent that he told Judas to turn him over to the authorities! By doing this, these scholars argue, Jesus was attempting to force the kingdom into existence and God into action. But when the masses did not arise in rebellion against Rome at Jesus' arrest Judas committed suicide because the kingdom did not come and God did not act. In the words of Albert Schweitzer, Jesus threw himself against the wheel of divine justice and it ground him to death.

This theory, though it has much to commend it historically, still remains speculative. More concretely we can simply say that Jesus' ministry was not intended by him to be a "warm and fuzzy" but rather a clear call to commitment; even ifthat commitment means that the obligation of family must be discarded.

He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know ho w to interpret the preou not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny."

The disciples are not only to keep an eye to the sky; they are also to act wisely in the here and now. That is, they must conduct themselves as citizens of this world too.

He said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.4 And again he said, "To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then in reply he will say to you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and alof God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Jesus once more reiterates the notion that loyalty to him requires obedience and constancy. One cannot be a disciple, so far as Jesus is concerned, and be half hearted at it. They must not rest on their laurels in the belief that everything is well with them. Or they might find themselves surprised on the day of judgment to be cast into gehenna.