O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Mt. 10:34-42
Preached on June 29, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, did you hear what Jesus said in today's Gospel? "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Does that sound like Jesus? What about all the times that the Bible speaks of peace? Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. The peace of the Lord be with you always! O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. Lord, now you let your servant go in peace. We thank you that you have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. The Bible clearly teaches peace is a good thing ... especially peace with God. But here Jesus is saying, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." What is going on?
Before we panic at Jesus' words, let's remember the first rule of interpretation ... context, context, context. What has Jesus been talking about when He seems to pull out this sword? I mean, what is the situation? Today's Gospel follows last week's Gospel where we heard that Jesus was pairing off His disciples and sending them out to preach the Gospel to the towns He would be entering. He warned these preachers that, while a few people will receive the Gospel with joy, most people will reject the Good News with extreme prejudice. Most people will persecute those who bring the Gospel to them.
So this sword isn't about physical fighting. It isn't about countries or nations. It is about preaching. Jesus is telling His sent ones that they should expect conflict when they faithfully proclaim the Gospel. With the Gospel hardship is bound to come. Not that they should want conflict, or look for this sword - but because the Gospel must be proclaimed to the whole world, a world that doesn't want to hear it, this sword is inevitable. And who will this sword be pointed at? Who will it effect? These preachers. Those who proclaim the Gospel.
But the warning gets much more personal than that, doesn't it? Because where can these preachers expect the persecution to come from? Those closest to them. Their friends and family. For 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. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. The Good News of Jesus will even cause family members to turn against each other.
Now the word "enemy" here in the Greek is ekthros, which means scoffer or mocker - it doesn't mean they are going to physically harm you - much more that they will laugh at you, malign you and treat you poorly because of the message of Jesus. But you know all about this, don't you? It's one thing to speak of God's public preachers, but what about you who share Him with those in your life? Be honest. Why is it so hard for you to tell someone about Jesus? Why is it that you don't speak of Jesus with everyone you meet? Is it not because you fear the way they will see you? That they may reject you on account of the message? Aw, so you do know this sword! You know it well - personally - and it doesn't really surprise you that Jesus would speak this way.
In fact, you know far too well the weight of what Jesus is saying here. "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." It is as if Jesus said, "Who is more important to you ... your parents or me? Who is more important to you ... your children or me? Who is more important to you ... you or me?" What does it say when you are unwilling to examine God's Word to learn His will? What does it say that, even when you hear God's will quoted directly from the Bible, you insist on your way over His? Are you the one who proclaims the Gospel, or are the one who brings the sword against the Gospel. There is no middle ground. Jesus said, [Matthew 12:30] "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." If Jesus is not more important than you, your parents, or your kids, then you are not worthy of Jesus. These are Jesus' words, not mine.
Well, that settles it then, doesn't it? I am not worthy of Jesus. I can't live up to the standard He reveals in our text. I am not the peace. I am the sword. The enemy. I am the one causing division. I am the one who is against Him. And so are you, for no one can live up to this standard. No one - except Christ - your Savior.
This is why He comes. To do what you cannot. To face the sword. To make you worthy. For there was a time when Jesus' own family did not believe in Him. [Matthew 12:46-50] He was preaching to the people when his mother and his brothers asked to speak to Him. But Jesus said to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his hearers, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Jesus left His family behind for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
But not only His family. His close friend Judas betrayed Him. His other friend Peter denied Him. All His other friends did not gather, but scattered in the very hour He needed them most. Jesus is the One to suffer this sword. Jesus is the One rejected for His preaching - pierced for the Gospel.
But you know that's just the beginning. "Taking up the cross" was not merely some figure of speech for Jesus. For Jesus went out from Jerusalem bearing His own physical cross - dragging His own death instrument - carrying the rugged wood on His recently tortured back. Yet there was something far heavier on His shoulders - something far weightier that came with that cross - SIN - your sin, my sin, Peter's sin, Judas' sin - the sin of the whole world - our moments of silence and our moments of backpedaling - our moments of putting Him second or last - Yet all this He took willingly - all this He came to die with - to suffer for - to destroy - so that you and I might be saved from it. Jesus lost His life alright - and He did it for your sake.
Christ is the only One who can do these radical words in our text, yet He does them for you. He does them to make you worthy. To put Himself on the scale in your favor. To save you.
God desires peace. He is even willing to suffer and die so that you can have it. And even if the world hates it. Even if your friends and loved ones mistreat you on account of it - you have the comfort of Christ. You have the One who loved you more than His own life, who promises you eternal life - who forgives you all your sin. You have the prophet's reward for free, so cast your fear aside and confess His Holy Name. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr