Matthew 10:34-42—34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 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. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
37 ”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. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s lesson continues Jesus’ words to the disciples as He sends them out to preach saying, “The reign of heaven is at hand.” Jesus plainly tells them that they will be rejected for this message. Today’s text says that even families will be split because of the message the disciples bring in Jesus’ name.
The Prince of Peace says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Strange words from Jesus especially when we remember that, at His birth, the angels sang, “Peace on earth,” (Lk. 2:14). Such an odd saying from Jesus who, the night before He dies proclaims, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (Jn. 14:27).
Jesus did come to bring peace. He came to bring peace between us and God. Until we have peace with God, there will be no peace in any of our relationships.
These words of Jesus are hard, harsh, and difficult. This is not a warm, fuzzy Jesus. His picture of a sword cutting through the family is one that is hard to accept. Sons against fathers and mothers against daughters and enemies within your own household – tough stuff. Some of you may have personal experience of this sword slicing through your own family. Even if you don’t know this division in your own family, you probably know someone who has had the experience.
In fact, your Savior has gone through this Himself. A sword passed through the indivisible Trinity. God the Father abandoned His only-begotten Son as He paid for your sins. God swung a sword through Himself to bring you peace with Him. Yet, the peace you have with God can cause divisions within your relationships.
Your relationship with God defines your existence with others. You exist as a father, mother, sibling, child, or whatever because you first exist as God’s creature. “That relation is older and closer” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce). You see because of your sin, even your love for your family is filled with sin. You cannot truly love others, not even your own family, unless you love Jesus first. Only when you love Jesus first can you really, truly love your family.
The first commandment is to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. If you love mother or father, son or daughter more than God, you don’t love them at all. They are gifts from God, remember that. Even a focus on your family can cause you to make idols of the gifts God has given. Too often our idols are not statues of wood and metal that we bow down to. We fashion idols out of the gifts God gives us – our houses, our finances, and, yes, even our family. Rather than recognizing them as God’s good gifts we idolize them.
That is why Jesus sends out His twelve disciples. He sends them out proclaiming that God’s reign has come in Him. Jesus stands on the earth that was created by Him but is in open, sinful rebellion against Him. Jesus brings the peace with God that comes only through His atoning sacrifice and delivers the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus sends out the disciples to proclaim, “The reign of heaven is at hand.” This means that all the gods and idols we have made for ourselves are coming to an end. They are coming to an end because of the sin that we brought into His creation. This means that God’s judgment is also upon us sinners.
In Christ, God is at war with sin. The Great Physician is amputating what is incurable – your sin, your evil, your wickedness. He took it upon Himself and nailed it to the cross, buried it in the tomb, and left it there when He rose from the dead.
So Jesus sends His messengers with the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins even before the event of the cross. Therefore, every person who received the disciples and their message received Jesus and even the Father who sent Jesus. Christ’s mission is to unite heaven with earth by being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This amazing fact means that when you receive the message of the disciples you receive Jesus and the Father. Whatever division comes out of that is easier to bear when you have the presence of God.
Jesus closes this text speaking about rewards for receiving the prophet, righteous person, and giving even a cup of cold water to a “little one.” The prophet is the disciple who speaks the message given to him by Christ. The righteous person is the disciple who is made righteous by Christ. The “little one” is also the disciple – even a gesture as small as giving a cup of cold water to the disciple is noticed by God.
The cross of Christ does divide. It can divide you from those who should be dearest to you. But it divides you from your idols and sin. It brings you into the presence of your Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter. And it refreshes you now and into eternity. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.