by Aaron Burgess
The world is full of war and violence. The violence in Jerusalem between Jew and Arab still rages. In the Sudan in Africa, Christians and Muslims are killing each other by the thousands. And it is not only global violence but local violence. Domestic abuse is rampant in our homes. Members of the clergy are accused of violent acts against children. Kidnappings are a daily occurrence on the news. This world is spinning out of control. And it would just be nice to have a period of peace in this world.
We’ve been looking at the tough sayings of Jesus on Wednesdays. And in Matthew 10:34-39 we read of a perplexing saying of Jesus that seems to say that Jesus has not come to bring peace to this world. In fact, Jesus seems to say I am not the source of peace; on the contrary I am a source of division!
Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. 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. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lost it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:34-39).
Jesus says, “I have not come to bring peace to the earth.” Reading this passage brings to mind the many accounts in scripture that paint Jesus as an agent of peace. Is this a contradiction in the Bible? After all Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9. Luke 1 tells us that Jesus was coming to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Jesus’ own words and actions also point to him as being an agent of peace. Remember when he said, “If someone strikes you on the cheek turn to him the other cheek.” Jesus was promoting peace in the face of retaliation. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Jesus said, a blessing will come to those who strive for peace.
Remember when Peter one of his disciples cut off an ear of a Roman soldier Jesus reprimanded him. “Peter if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.”
In Luke 19 we read of Jesus standing on a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He stood there and cried over the city because he knew of the violence she would experience in the future. He saw the day when Titus the Roman emperor in AD 70 would ransack Jerusalem and kill nearly a half million Jews. He said, “Jerusalem, if you could only see this day and if you only knew what would bring you peace but it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42). Jesus was saying that if the city would just accept him there would be peace in Jerusalem. He was saying I am the agent of peace.
I. WHAT DID JESUS MEAN?
So there is some confusion as to what exactly Jesus is talking about? If he is an agent of peace then what does he mean in Matthew 10. That he did not come to bring peace. To shed some light on this passage let me make a few points about it.
The first point is this: THE PEACE JESUS BRINGS IS NOT SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PEACE. I think it is important to understand that what Jesus is saying is that the peace he brings to the earth is not an external peace. His mission does not include political and social reform. Jesus’ goal is not bring to world peace and stop all wars. In fact, he said that after he left, the world would experience wars and rumor of wars. There would be famine and pestilence.
The main reason Jesus brings this up to his audience is because the Jews in his day expected the Messiah to bring a time of political and social peace. The Messiah, they thought, would be a war hero who would overthrow Roman rule and bring a time of peace to Israel. But Jesus is making it clear that he had not come to be their war hero. That was not the kind of peace he came to bring.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt and the people laid palm branches at his feet and sang “Hosanna” they believed that he was the Messiah and he was entering Jerusalem to set up a political kingdom and throw Rome out and bring a time of peace to Israel. But that was not his agenda and Jesus made that known to them. That’s why they rejected him and had him killed.
And Jesus comes and says in Matthew 10, “If you think I’ve come to rescue you from the Romans, you’re wrong. I’ve not come for peace but for conflict.” The Jews wanted political and social freedom, Christ had come to give them another type of freedom.
Now a lot of people today in the world believe that Jesus’ main mission in coming to earth was to teach how to live at peace. My brother attends a Mennonite College in northern Ohio and the teaching of the Mennonite church is that Jesus was a pacifist and that he would never condone war or violence of any type and they interpret all of Jesus’ sayings and teachings in a political context.
People are always trying to push Jesus into the world of politics. Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed started the Christian Coalition. A coalition that attempted to rally Christians to vote a certain way in elections and promote a Christian agenda. But it failed because Jesus was not a politician he was Lord. And he had not come to bring social reform.
The second point that may clear up this passage is this: THE PEACE JESUS’ BRINGS WILL CAUSE DIVISION. And when you look over the years, his message has brought great division. It divided the Jews and Christians. To this very day, Jews refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. This conflict got the Romans involved. Over the years, they had become tired of hearing the Jews and the Christians constantly fighting about this “Jesus”. A hatred would develop for both of these religious groups. In fact, the Roman emperors became famous for their creative ways of persecuting followers of Christ. They fed Christians to the Lions, killed them in the Gladiator rings and crucified them by the thousands, even setting the bodies of those crucified on fire to light their highways and streets during the darkness of night. The message of Christ divides.
In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!” This wasn’t his goal but he knew that this would often be the result. Families would be divided by Christ. We all know of families who are divided because of Jesus.
And some of you have known the conflict that Christ has brought to your personal relationships. When you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior some thought you were crazy others thought you had given up on your religion or heritage. You’ve been ridiculed, made an outcast. Your old friends don’t understand. Mark Miller has been told several times by his family members, “Don’t push your religion on me.” He has not experienced peace with his family but division. The affect of Jesus sometimes brings not peace but division to a home.
The third point that will help clear things up is this: THE PEACE JESUS BRINGS IS SPIRITUAL PEACE. The peace Jesus is alluding to in Matthew 10 is spiritual peace. He says my goal is not to bring social and political peace to Israel. The peace I come to bring is peace with God. Did you catch that?
The whole purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth was to bring man back into a peaceful relationship with God the Father. Because of our sin, we are at odds with God in fact we are at war with God. Warren Wiersbe says, “Instead of there being peace on earth through Christ, there is now peace in heaven because of his death on the cross.”
Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus came to reconcile us to God by making peace through his blood shed on the cross. That is why we sing that song, “Nothing can bring me peace with God, nothing, nothing, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Jesus told his disciples a few nights before his death. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:7). That is an illusion to the cross. I am going to the cross to bring you peace with God. And doesn’t it bring peace to our lives to know that our sins are forgiven and we are no longer separated from God. That God is no longer holding our sins against us. That is true peace. To be made right with God. Jesus was not coming to bring social peace he was coming to bring spiritual peace.
II. A CHALLENGE TO US!
As we read the rest of Christ’s saying in Matthew 10 we see him saying that his peace comes with a high price. THE COST OF FOLLOWING CHRIST IS HIGH. You want to follow me, it is going to cost you Jesus says, “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lost it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Take his cross. The cross was an instrument of Roman torture. The cross meant death. No one escaped it without dying. What Jesus was saying here is that following me means death for you. You have got to be willing to crucify yourself for me. Someone once said, “Jesus died for us, now he asks us to die for him.”
Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The cost of following Christ is to give up all selfish desires. It means to be willing to leave everything for him. Family, friends, stuff. Just as Christ was willing to sacrifice his life on a cross, we are to sacrifice it all for him.
Jesus promised, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29). It will cost you everything he says. It’s not easy to follow me. You want my peace? You need to be willing to sacrifice it all. It’s hard to follow Christ.
My friend Chad Doer tells about his friend Andy Martin. With tears in his eyes, Andy tells the story of his friend Sadar. Sadar Che-Check is a native of Ismir, Turkey – what was once the Biblical city of Smyrna and is now in the heart of the Islamic faith. Sadar left his family to come to America but never left the Islamic faith that his family had poured their lives into for generations. It just so happened that Andy and Sadar would strike up a friendship at where else but a BP gas station in Columbus, Ohio. This is where Sadar was employed and the two would often spend hours together, simply talking about Turkey and building a wonderful friendship.
In the months to follow Sadar was made to feel part of the Martin family. Often coming over for dinner and spending time with the family. A neat thing began to happen. The more time he and Andy spent together, Sadar seemed to be drawn closer and closer to Christ. It wasn’t long before Sadar wanted to walk away from the Muslim faith and place his trust in Christ. Andy had the opportunity to baptize Sadar into Christ. They rejoiced with Sadar at his new found joy but the Martins also realized how difficult it would be for Sadar to keep the faith having so many family members who were Muslim. The truth of the matter is, and the reason that Andy tells this story with tears in his eyes, is the fact that Sadar would be a Christian for only 27 days. Soon after making his decision for Christ Sadar called home to talk to his family back in Turkey. They told him that he was no longer welcome in their home and his mom began to explain to him that if he ever came back to Turkey as a Christian, his family would have no other choice but to beat him and some would even go so far as to try to kill him. For Sadar Che-Check the cost of discipleship was great…too great. He renounced his faith in Christ only 27 days after choosing to follow him.
Don’t be mistaken. To follow Christ is not easy. It’s not a walk in the park. There is nothing more difficult then following Christ. He said it himself , “The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.” (v13-14, NLT) Jesus is not deceptive in his invitation to follow him. He wants you to understand that it will be difficult and conflict is sure to follow but He wants you to know that he will always be there. He wants you to know and experience the peace that comes with having a personal relationship with your Savior.
Taking Gospel to the People
by Elisabeth Johnson
True Discipleship, Christ Brings Division
by Edward F. Markquart
Battle Your Heart to Keep Jesus First
by Gregg Bitter
Losing Life and Finding It
by The Joshua Victor Theory
Peace With God
by Dr. Lonnie H. Lee
The Welcome Wagon
by The Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
Second Sunday after Pentecost
by Richard Alan Jordan
Devotional Thoughts Based on Matthew 10:34-39
by James T. Batchelor
Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
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