TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 10-11
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” – Matthew 10:34
Jesus preached peace.
He regularly said “Go in peace” after he healed someone.
In Mark 9:50, Jesus said, “Be at peace with one another.”
After he was resurrected, Jesus said to the disciples “Peace to you!”
According to Zechariah in Luke 1:79, Jesus came “to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
In Acts 10:36, Peter says that the word that God sent to Israel was the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.
In Romans 14:19, Paul says we should “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
In Corinthians 7:15, Paul says, “God has called you to peace.”
Galatians 5:22 says that peace is a fruit of the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:13-17 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Despite the overwhelming testimony of scripture that Jesus was a messenger of peace and who came to make peace between those who were divided through the cross (Ephesians 2:13-17), many have used Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34 to teach that Jesus will come back with an actual sword to do violence and take vengeance on unbelievers and sinners. Ultimately, those who teach this message do so to justify their own violent tendencies and desire for vengeance.
However, when taken in the context of Jesus’ immediate teaching and the context of the entirety of the New Testament, it’s clear that Jesus is not saying he came to bring a literal sword and literal violence to the earth. Rather, Jesus is speaking about bringing a sword to our affections, what we trust in, and what our lives are based on.
In Matthew 10:35-36, Jesus says, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” This is a quote of Micah 7:6.
Micah 7 says that the godly have perished from the earth and that all men lie in wait for blood, that is all are violent. Everyone’s hands are set to do evil, and they do it well. Therefore, we should put no trust in each other and have confidence in friends because even sons treat father’s with contempt, even daughters rise up against mothers, and even a man’s enemies are of his own house. “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear.” (Micah 7:7)
So, the point of Micah 7 is that our trust should be in God our savior and not any person, even those people that are the most important earthly relationships that we have. Which is why Jesus says in Matthew 10:37 that anyone who loves, or has greater affection, for father or mother, son or daughter, than him is not worthy of him.
What Jesus is really saying when he says “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” is that he has come to separate us from this world, even our strongest affections in it and for it, so that we can be wholly devoted to him. Therefore, Luke 10:51 has Jesus saying, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you but rather division.”
A sword divides. So, while the Matthew and Luke record slightly different words from Jesus, the meaning is the same.
But, why did Jesus come to bring division?
Because division is the means of creation.
Genesis 1:3 says, “And God separated the light from the darkness.”
Genesis 1:7 says, “And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.”
Genesis 1:9 says, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.”
In Creation: A Witness to Jesus, I wrote how all of Genesis 1 is a testimony of Jesus. John 1 says that Jesus came to usher in the new creation. And, Jesus creates by separating light from darkness, love from fear, and life from death within us. He brings a “sword” and not peace to do this.
1 John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desired of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.”
James 4:4 says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God?”
Jesus brings a sword because he needs to separate us from all the desires and friendships of this world because none of these desires are from the Father and every one of these desires makes us an enemy of God.
And, just what is the sword that Jesus brought to separate us from the world?
Therefore, Jesus says in Matthew 10:38, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” While Jesus brings the sword, the cross, he doesn’t force it on us. we have to choose it. We have to want Jesus to separate us from the world.
What does the cross do?
It puts us in Christ as we identify with his death, burial, and resurrection.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul says this because we no longer regard Christ, or anyone, according to the flesh but the Spirit. “For to set the mind of the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
So, we are back to peace. The sword that Jesus brings is to get are mind off of fleshly things, the things of this earth, and to set our minds on the the things of the Spirit, the things that are above, the things that are pure, lovely, worthy, of good repute, etc. For, to set the mind on these things is life and peace.
That this is the purpose of the sword that Jesus brings is confirmed by Hebrews 4:12, which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Yes, Jesus brings a sword and not peace to the earth.
He does this to separate us from every earthly desire that we have that keeps us from God, not to bring violence.
As the sword, the cross, separates us from the our earthly desires, we become a new creation. Separation, division, is the process of creation.
As a new creation, we have life and peace in the Spirit.