Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
"Come to the fountain and drink."
The maiden was young, and he could tell, shapely beneath her robe and veil. It had been a long, hot, dusty day for him and he was thirsty. His sandals were wearing blisters on his feet; it was time to stop and rest. It had been a long, hot, dusty day.
He watched as she leaned over the low wall, holding back her veil with one hand as she used the other to dip the long handle of the drinking ladle into the water - the clear, cool, soon-to-be refreshing water. Precious water. Precious youth. Precious woman. Cracks on his lips, the grit of the road on his face, he was tired. Tired of this journey. Tired of travel. Tired of all of the nots he had grown used to. Not sleeping in his own bed. Not eating regular meals. The people who were not understanding his message.
He shook his head slowly, as much to stretch and work his neck and shoulders as to shake out his thinking.
She held the ladle toward him, eyes downcast. "Drink", she said, simply. And he did. And it was all he thought it would be. His head tilted back and back until the cup was empty. He could feel the change immediately, new strength, resilience even, flowed into him. Renewal. Yes. It was just what he had needed. Gazing at his men - his followers - he saw that they, too, had been renewed by the rest, by the refreshment, renewed by the view.
They were scattered around the fountain, sitting and standing in clusters, like heads of grain - some here, some there - full and ripe and waiting for the threshing floor. And he knew what they didn't. The threshing floor was close before them. A time of separation. A time of division, of conflict. A time of winnowing, cleansing. He knew the things to come, and they were not easy. But they were necessary.
He was molding soldiers for his Kingdom. He was preparing the way. He closed his eyes. Father, they want it all now, he prayed, they want instant everything: instant riches, instant glory, instant peace. Show me, help me to make them see how far they need to go, how long and how difficult the road is. God, like water, flowed through his limbs. He could feel the power, the resolve. Standing, he called his disciples to him. He was about to turn their world upside down.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth."
He saw the confusion on their faces, he felt their puzzlement. The women at the fountain stopped filling their water vessels. Even the breeze had silenced, as if the world stood still.
"I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
Glancing toward heaven, he silently thanked his Father for the words, the words from the ancient scripture, words that everyone knew.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
Upside down. On the threshing floor. Confusion, like a wall, pushed at him from all sides. But his time was so short, and there was so much to be understood. He tried to explain again, another way.
"Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Some of his followers were nodding in assent. He could sense the wall coming down.
"Whoever finds their life will lose it..."
More confusion. Upside down. This was so difficult - one of the nots. They were not understanding, not comprehending. He was losing them. Some of the women had turned away and were beginning again to ladle water - precious, change-making water into their jars. The clay jars, vessels of life. He spoke louder, turning toward the women at the fountain.
"...and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
He had found life at the hand of the girl. Renewal and refreshment. What were they, after all, but vessels of clay, made to hold that life. This, the people understood. This, he could use.
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." He pointed toward heaven, lest there be any doubt. And appealed to the age-old custom of hospitality.
"Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward." This they understood. They had grown attentive again. He walked, purposefully, toward the young maiden who had given him refreshment. He smiled at her, encouraging her to look at him, eyes at him.
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Father, sometimes we want peace now, everything now. Sometimes we over-simplify.
Thank you for showing us that conflict and division can grow us in you.
That understanding sometimes comes from faith.