By Practical Christianity Foundation, (PCF)
Jesus said in Matthew 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring Peace on the earth; I did not come to bring Peace, but a sword." We might retort "Who said what?!" when we hear or read something like this especially in the Bible!
- the Prince of Peace,
- the One Who gives Peace which passes all understanding,
- the One Who gives Peace which is not as the Peace given by the world,
- the One Who greeted His disciples with His Peace,
- the One Who gave us Peace by overcoming the world,
- the One at Whose birth the angels sang "Peace and goodwill toward men",
- the One Who became our Peace with God,
Viewed at face value and without prayerful meditation, statements like this could be a stumbling block for any Christian studying the Word of God. Generally speaking, there are at least two simple reasons why we find it hard to accept that these are truly Jesus' words. There might be more, but we will consider these two for now:
- First, we must always consider any portion of the Scriptures in the context of the text in which it appears.
- Second, we must make sure that our understanding of the key definitions of the essential terms and phrases are close enough to the sense in which they are used in the Scriptures.
Would Jesus say something like this? Yes He would, and He did!
Jesus' statement is of course in verse 34 of Matthew's tenth chapter. That is obvious! That means, if we are to get a more complete understanding of Jesus' difficult words, we must look into the context of the whole chapter.
We learn from the first fifteen verses that Jesus called His twelve disciples, including Judas Iscariot, and sent them on a ministry trip throughout the towns and villages of the house of Israel. He specifically instructed them to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Not to any gentile cities or the Samaritans. This should by no means be taken as withholding the Good News of the Gospel from the Gentiles and the Samaritans. This is a specific mission assignment dealing with Israel's response to the Gospel and Jesus Christ the Messiah Himself.
Jesus sent them in His power, giving them full authority to prevail over demons, disease, and the dead. He sent them with power and authority to go by faith and in obedience. He instructed them to preach "the Kingdom of God is at hand." He directed them to go by faith without taking any provisions even for their daily necessities. He told them to offer His Peace wherever they went and greet the city, town, village, neighborhood, or the very household they come to, with His Peace. He instructed them to enter the home where they are welcomed and leave when the Peace they offered in His name is not received.
Jesus sent His disciples in His power with authority to prevail, but to go by faith and in obedience without looking to themselves or their own resources for anything at all. The essence of this mission was that the disciples were sent out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel in Jesus' name as His emissaries. They were not sent in their own name. So any response by the people would be a reaction directed at Jesus Himself and not the disciples.
In verses sixteen through twenty-five, Jesus warns the disciples that the people will reject their message and will actually persecute them. They will be hostile to them and will hurt them even to the point of killing them. In other words, the people will reject the disciples as they rejected Jesus Christ Who sent them and ultimately crucified Him.
One might ask, "why send them if the outcome is already known to be negative?" Because their reaction is recorded as the hard evidence of the people's rejection of the Messiah and His Gospel. We recall what the goats on the left would say to Jesus when they were reminded of their rejection of the Gospel. They denied if Jesus had ever come to them, stating that if they knew they would have responded differently.
One might ask still, "why would Jesus scare the disciples before sending them out by telling them what is going to happen to them?" Because Jesus was sending them in His power and in His name as sheep into the midst of wolves. The Gospel must be spread throughout the world by the hands, feet, and mouths of the disciples and believers across the ages commissioned to the task. The commissioned servants must know the environment into which they are sent so they would be totally dependent upon the Lord as they do His work. So Jesus encourages them to keep proclaiming the Gospel knowing that the Good News they are preaching will call some unto salvation and condemn those who reject the truth.
Jesus encourages His disciples not to be afraid of the hostile reaction of the people. He openly revealed to them that, as they take the Good News of God's Peace to the house of Israel, those who are hostile to the Gospel will greet them with the sword because they have rejected the Author of the Gospel. Even though the Gospel brings God's Peace into the heart of the redeemed, it triggers strife and hostility in the unregenerate heart of those who remain lost.
In saying that He did not come to bring Peace, Jesus meant that serving Him will pin the believer face-to-face against the enemies of the Gospel. While the believer will still have Peace in his or her heart, life and service for the servant of God will always be cast in a world which is shaped by hostilities toward God.
The message of Jesus' statement could also be misunderstood because of what some of us might mean by Peace. For most, if not all of us, Peace usually means the absence of conflict. Status quo, is often the commonly accepted definition of peaceful co-existence in all affairs of life and business. Think about that for a moment. If we think the absence of conflict equals Peace, then we come quite close to saying that an awful military dictator or a tyrant could qualify as a Peaceful ruler. As long as the subjects obey and quietly go about their business, as long as everyone does as everyone is told, any despot would reign at the helm of a "Peaceful" empire.
But Peace, true Peace, is the fruit of the Spirit by which every conflict of sin and rebellion toward God is overcome. Whether we quietly nurse it or courageously stand against it, as long as sin exists, there will always be conflict and the Peace of God is the only weapon by which we can overcome it. Peace, true Peace is worth what Jesus has done for us on the cross at Calvary. We have Peace in our heart because God is at Peace with us. The world is not at Peace with us because the world is hostile to God's Peace in us. But we will preach the Peace of God in season and out of season. By God's Peace, we stand firm against all ungodly forces and continue to offer the Good News of the Gospel calling everyone whose heart is riddled with turmoil and turbulence, to come and receive God's rest in God's Peace.
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