Most people, me included, like their Jesus to be warm and fuzzy. I want to hear about Jesus healing lame people, throwing out evil spirits, comforting the scared and hurting… Every now and then I can do with a good dose of Jesus driving out the money changers, at least when I am perceiving someone else to be the money changers. But this week’s lectionary passage? Wowzer.
Jesus warns that his mission, his very presence, is upsetting the status quo, and that it is getting worse. This shouldn’t be surprising given that whole business about the last being first and the first being last. But hearing Jesus spell it out in stark terms is unsettling, to say the least. It gets particularly sticky when he points out that this will divide families. But when the status quo is upset, there are domino effects, and some can be negative.
This is true in our lives, When we repent and believe the gospel, there may be friends we don’t spend time with in the same activities we did before repenting. From where they sit, it certainly may appear that the gospel is about division. Or maybe we are like the workers in the vineyard hired early, grousing about the late arrivals receiving the same wages, than we want to admit (Matthew 20:1-16)
More importantly, if Jesus has come to change the world, doesn’t it follow that there is something wrong with the world? This is the real source of Jesus’ angst. Sin and death in the world must be countered, and he is eager for things to change, but aware they won’t change easily.
Jesus’ frustration boils over in the second section of the passage. He points out that the crowd is good at predicting worldly affairs, but fails at recognizing the trouble he has come to counter.
If Jesus was just some countryside preacher, talking about love and healing people, he would not have been crucified. Instead the Messiah came to change the very fabric of our existence by offering God’s grace in abundance.