Reading today’s lesson, I smile and think to myself that the families of Jesus’ followers didn’t get it at all, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Chosen One, the fulfillment of all the prophesies: God with us. And so when he talks about coming to bring a sword, he is talking about how this understanding will set folks against one another. He is The One. That is not going to sit well with a lot of people.
“How can you say that?” the mother-in-law will ask. “I don’t want you at my table talking like that.”
“Disgusting!” the son will say. “That’s not right! The salvation of Israel is through rising up against the oppressors under the leadership of a general like David! The Son of David, that’s who we’re waiting for!”
No, they just didn’t get it. The Messiah will not lead an army other than the army of compassion toward the least and the lost. Salvation comes in giving a cup of cold water to one of the little ones. (It must have been hard coming up with cold water in the Palestine desert. It would have meant searching out a good, deep well.)
Then I come off my high horse with the crashing realization that I don’t get it either. Well, sometimes I do, but not usually. Mostly I think about fighting, about triumphing over evil, about the conquering army that will finally usher in Righteousness. I want to be in that army, waving my cudgel with the best of them.
What would happen if we were all willing to die for one another? If, like those two desert fathers who tried to argue over who owned a brick and finally gave up because they both wanted the other to have it if it meant so much to them, we couldn’t find it in us to contest? If we truly, really, deep-down wanted the best for one another? If the salvation of one could only happen through the salvation of all?
Then Christ would ride triumphant through the heavens, with angels and trumpets, and we would all sing Hosanna, lifting our cups of cold water high. For the kingdom of heaven would have come on earth, a new age would have dawned, and we could all turn our attention finally to something else, to whatever is next in the unfolding creativity of God.