Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Matthew 10:34–10:42
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 10:34-42
Date: July 2nd, 2017; Pentecost 4; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel lesson for this morning Jesus said, “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, the Prince of Peace who promises “Peace, I leave you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27) says to his disciples, “I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
Peace is an important part of Jesus’ message.
I think most of us view ourselves as being peace-loving people and we believe that Christianity is a religion of peace.
That’s why our Gospel reading for this morning is so surprising and it seems to be such a big contradiction.
How can Jesus say, “I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
Even more, how can he say, “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” (Matthew 10:35).
Aren’t Christians suppose to “focus on the family” and promote being family oriented - and now Jesus says that he is going to cause division?
These are some difficult words to hear and they require some unpacking to understand why Jesus said them.
To begin, it helps to consider our culture and society.
Today we are told to accept and tolerate all behaviours, all views, all beliefs.
Truth is a matter of opinion; there are no facts.
Everyone is right, there is no wrong. You decide what’s right and true for you and run with it. Let’s all just hold hands and get along.
Don’t you dare challenge my views or behaviour! Don’t you dare have a strong stance! That’s offensive!
In our culture of tolerance and acceptance you can believe and do whatever you want - well, with the exception of standing up for what is true and right.
Then you're just being hateful, closed-minded, and divisive.
And being divisive is one of the few things that our society won’t tolerate and accept.
And so, it’s very difficult and uncomfortable to hear Jesus say that he has come to give - not peace - but division. Even division among households and families.
But, while they are difficult words that make us uncomfortable, the fact remains that Jesus said them.
So, we need to figure out what he meant. And let’s begin by reminding ourselves of who Jesus is.
We read in 1 John, “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
Jesus says in the Gospel of St. John, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The Bible reveals to us that Jesus is God in the flesh, he is the life, and he is the truth.
We also learn from 1 John that God is love (1 John 4:8).
There are some who have the misconception that God’s love is the same as God’s acceptance. They think that God’s love equals acceptance.
So the misconception is that you can believe anything you want and do anything you want - Jesus accepts you just the way you are.
But does that view properly reflect what we find in the Bible?
Jesus didn’t accept false teaching. He called false teachers a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34).
He didn’t accept all behaviour. He flipped the tables of money changers who had turned his Father’s Temple into a shopping mall (Matthew 21:12).
Our Lord was never afraid to stand up for the truth or for what is right or wrong.
Even when it meant that he would suffer and die as a result.
In this fallen and sinful world, standing up for the truth results in division - among our friends and even members of our family.
To confess Christ is to confess the truth.
That means that we may have to tell others that what they believe is not true.
God wants us to live according to his will. The Bible reveals what is right and wrong.
That means that we may have to tell others that their actions are sinful and wrong.
This may lead to division. This probably will lead to division.
But although the One who is the way, and the truth, and the life leads to division, it is important to know that Jesus is not the source of division.
Our sin is to blame for that.
In fact, it is only in Christ Jesus that true unity is found. Only in Christ can we be one.
Those who reject God, those who reject truth, are the cause of division.
And it’s interesting to note that our society is trying to bring about peace by tolerating and accepting everything - while denying that truth even exists.
But there can be no real peace without truth.
Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).
Our sinful nature despises the truth because the truth is we can’t do whatever we want whenever we want.
The truth is we are sinners.
The truth is we deserve God’s wrath and eternal death.
The truth is there is nothing we can do on our own to save ourselves from our sin and death.
The truth is terrifying and we would rather deny it.
But, ignoring the truth does not make it go away.
Ignoring the truth is the most dangerous thing we can do.
You see, when we ignore the truth of our sin - we also ignore the truth of the Gospel.
The truth of the Gospel is that God has saved you from sin and death.
Jesus, God in the flesh, lived a perfect sinless life for you.
He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for you so that you will not suffer the punishment that your sin deserves.
Jesus died on the cross for you.
But he did not remain dead. When his friends went to the tomb to finish burying him properly, his body was not there.
Then, for forty days he showed himself to hundreds of people who touched him, spoke with him, ate with him, and witnessed his miracles.
Jesus has earned for you the forgiveness of all your sins and he has promised you victory over death. He has promised you eternal life.
This is the Gospel truth.
God has brought you to faith in this truth and Jesus is the founder and perfecter of your faith.
Some will label you as divisive, narrow-minded, and maybe even hateful for believing and confessing the truth of Christ.
Jesus warns that unity with God will cause division with the world.
But only in Christ can there be true peace in the family, true peace in the world, true peace in our hearts and minds.
This is peace that surpasses our understanding. This is peace that lasts forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.