by Rev. Kurt Hering, UT
Scripture: Matthew 10:34-42
TEXT: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'" Matthew 10:34-35
This is the Gospel of the Lord?
Many a pastor, along with his congregation, has asked this very question upon reading and hearing these words of our Lord.
"I did not come to bring peace but a sword." This is the Gospel of the Lord?
Well, no, in the strictest, narrowest sense of the word, this is not Gospel. For the Gospel of the Lord is that all of your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. "It is finished." THIS is the Gospel of the Lord.
But in another, wider sense, this IS the Gospel of our Lord, for the narrow Gospel message of the forgiveness of sins is embodied in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we also call those four books of the Bible that speak of the life of the incarnate Christ -- that ever present God who took on human flesh to dwell among us -- Gospel books.
Because these are the words of Jesus, the living Gospel, this IS the Gospel of the Lord. But these words do not save do they? And you might, as many if not all Christian have at some time in their life, say, "If this is what it means to be a child of God, I would rather be an orphan. I thought Jesus came to bring peace."
And so He did, dear baptized. And so He did.
Hear the Christmas angel with all the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:13-14 NKJ)
Hear the resurrected Lord speaking to his terrified disciples as He Himself stood in the midst of them, ... "Peace to you." (Luke 24:36 NKJ)
Hear the Lord sending out His disciples to proclaim the Holy Gospel, "But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.' (Luke 10:5 NKJ)
So as we begin to take a look at this difficult text, dear people of Trinity, "Peace, be still. . . . Let not your heart be troubled," for the Lord is here to shower His love upon you this day.
And part of His love for you is to warn you so that you will be prepared when the world doesn't like the name and message you bear. For the Gospel that is the Good and even Best of News for you who believe, is the bad and most certainly worst of news to those who do not.
"But," you say, "pastor, my family is more important than ANYTHING. And here Jesus is saying to believe in Him I must be an enemy of my own flesh and blood. I just can't do that pastor."
First, remember that according to the Gospel, you have been given a new flesh and blood -- the flesh and blood of Christ. You are now His children.
Second, you do not HAVE to "do that." You do not have to BE the enemy. For being an enemy is not something that a baptized, believing Christian does any more. It is something that is done to him by his sinful flesh. As Jesus says, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt 26:4, NKJ) And thanks be to God, the believer is no longer His enemy and now can say with all confidence that "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal 2:20, NKJ)
So, now let us take a closer look at this word of warning from our Lord that is a word for word quote of the prophet Micah (Micah 7:6).
In becoming part of the body of Christ, we take up His cross. Bearing that cross we now will have the devil, the world and our sinful flesh, that unholy trinity, assailing us. For they have been defeated and are now in their death throes lashing out in a last desperate attempt to take as many others with them into their misery as they can.
In receiving peace with God in Christ, we now are at war with the world, because the world is at war with us - and that is because IT is not at peace with God. That is why we are called, as also is an entire section of hymns in Lutheran Worship, the church militant. And it is not just the world, it is also the devil and even our own sinful flesh enjoined in the battle.
Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword to earth, because the earth is the battlefield of this unholy trinity - the devil, the world and our sinful flesh .
The devil has as his mission to tear as many believers away from Christ as he can. He wastes no time with the world because he already has them. His battle is with us.
The world of unbelievers are not at peace with God, so when confronted with those who bear His name and His word they lash out and try to wound us or shame us into tolerating or even joining them in living in sin.
Our sinful flesh, like the devil and the world, is waiting to be destroyed. And so at times it too will war against us too, even agreeing to tolerate and join the world in living in sin.
All of this serves to remind us of the persistent deadliness of sin. And because of this war and its deadliness, Paul reminds us, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom. 6:1, NKJ)
Yes, even we believers must still hear the Law when tempted to continue living in the sin from which we have been delivered. Though we are not bound by it, the Law still serves to drive us back to the cross and receive forgiveness - which is precisely what Paul is talking about in today's epistle: "But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." (Rom. 7:13) And we have a loving example of that when Jesus used the Law to correct an erring Peter as he tried to prevent Jesus from bearing His cross when He said to His beloved friend, "Get behind me Satan." (Matt. 16:23)
Such is indeed a killing statement coming from the lips of a loved one, even from Christ Himself, but it is a necessary statement that we do well to remember when we sin or are tempted to permit the sin of our loved ones.
Yes, "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor 3:6 NKJ) And even our loving God says of Himself, "I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal;" (Deut 32:39, NKJ)
If our sin is not killed in this world, it will kill us eternally in the next. And so the Law of God comes down upon us with all its fury, to expose our sin and lay us low, killing us in order that the Gospel can make us alive again.
We see this when the same Jesus who says, "get behind me Satan" to Peter, also forgives and restores Peter to "feed His lambs." It is the same Law and Gospel message he has for us today.
C. F. W. Walther puts it this way in his book, "Law & Gospel":
"When the Law has laid us low, we can cheerfully raise our heads again because besides the Law we have another doctrine which proposes no demands of any kind?" This other doctrine is a doctrine which is given to purely lift us up unto the Lord, because it is the doctrine that brings the Lord down to earth. It is the doctrine of which we sing along with the Christmas angel: "From heaven above to earth I come, to bring good news to every one!" It is the doctrine of which the Apostle Paul says to Timothy and all pastors and their congregations, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." (1 Tim 4:16 NKJ) It is the doctrine called Gospel, for it is nothing but good news. And not just good news, but the best of news, news that Jesus Christ is here and forgives you all your sins. It is THE good news, Gospel message that simply having received it, the believer also receives the one who earned it on the cross and delivers it into ears, upon our lips and tongues, over our heads and so engraves in our hearts.
In today's Gospel lesson from St. Matthew, that good news message is hidden in this little phrase, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." It is hidden in that it is one little phrase amid a daunting presentation of Law. And it is hidden in that it is not seen by those who cannot and do not, with the eyes of faith, see their Lord Jesus Christ there speaking it.
That the Gospel is hidden in Christ and His death for the forgiveness of sins, that the Gospel is hidden in simple words spoken by sinful men, in a splash of water upon heads of all shapes and sizes, in a little piece of bread and a tiny sip of wine is the cause of all kinds of trouble in the world.
In fact, that the Gospel was hidden in the Son of Man who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, is the very reason He suffered, died and was buried at the hand of sinful men. It was an offense to the unbelieving world that this man claimed to be the very Son of God. And even today, the fact that God only sends the Gospel and gives salvation only through the means of preaching and absolving by the words of Scripture, the waters of baptism, and the body and blood of our Lord's Supper is the very reason that we believers will never have peace with the world. It is an offense to the unbelieving world that these things claim to bear the very presence of the Son of God.
Martin Luther once wrote that the most troubling times in his life were when he had no troubles at all. Why? Because in such cases he figured he had gotten so far off track that the devil saw no need to afflict him anymore. As our Jesus lovingly warns in the text today, where He is forgiving sins there most certainly WILL be trouble as that unholy trinity of the devil, the world and our sinful flesh make their last desperate attempt to sever us from our Lord.
But thanks be to God! Though the devil remains loose for a time, and will rage against you here in this world, and assail your flesh, the victory is indeed already won. Even as He sits at the right hand of the Father - which Father we receive here today because here we receive His Son, THE righteous man who once crucified for our sins is now risen to proclaim the message of the cross to us: "It IS finished!" All of your sins are forgiven and you have a seat forever with THE Righteous man in His kingdom, in the in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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