22 August 2015

Luke 12:49-56

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” (v. 51)

Psalm: Psalm 73:15-28


What an extraordinarily difficult text on which to end the week! For Christians, Jesus is the prince of peace, the one who offers us a radical alternative to the violent competitiveness of the world. How does that sit with these verses?

Well, perhaps we need to see Jesus as the prophet whose time has come. When Jesus talks about bringing fire on the earth, he is echoing the ancient story of Elijah (1 Kings 18:36-40) who called down God's fire on the sacrificial altar on Mount Carmel. But Luke, of course, is also the author of Acts, and he wants us to think about the fire that is the sign of the Spirit's power at Pentecost (Acts 2).

Yes, Jesus does bring peace, but that is a peace that comes from accepting him and his message. A key word is 'Kairos', one of the Greek terms for time. This is different from 'chronos', which tends to mean a specific time (a period of hours or days). Here 'kairos' is translated 'season'. Now, says Jesus, is God's urgent time. Decisions need to be made now and actions taken.

In recent years, 'kairos' documents have been produced to emphasise the urgent need for Christian response to crises. These have included, in the years before Nelson Mandela's release, the call by South African theologians for a confrontation with apartheid and, more recently, calls for justice for Palestinians.

To Ponder

  • What do Christians need to see as the 'kairos' moment in today's world? What prophetic words and actions might you be asked to give in response?
  • What potential conflict with friends and family might come from a radical Christian commitment? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.