Jesus wields the sword - Matthew 10:34-42

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Jesus wields the sword - Matthew 10:34-42

Peter Gammell
Peter Gammell
July 1, 2023

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36  a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-42 are abrasive. Isn’t Jesus the prince of peace? Why would Jesus claim to bring a sword and to actively divide family members from one another? This seems out of character. Why would Jesus say this? And to whom is he speaking?

Jesus is preparing his disciples to meet opposition in their evangelistic journeys. He warns them that people will not receive their message. They will drag them before kings and rulers for judgment, even try to kill them. But, Jesus tells the disciples to not fear those people. They can only kill our bodies, not our souls. Only God holds that power. And he will use his power against those who reject the gospel of God’s kingdom! To them Jesus brings the sword. 

Jesus speaks no peace to those who reject his rule and liberating grace. Jesus is totally against the oppression of the poor, affliction of the sick, and the enslavement of his children. Those who exploit God’s children are in opposition to God, and Jesus will speak no peace to them. They must die… 

This is true, right and good. God loves his children and he opposes all who would harm them. And we thank God that he is just, and that he does not tolerate evil.

But even as Jesus pronounces judgment on the enemies of the gospel, we become aware that he also turns his sword towards us. Because we are those people. We all resist the gospel.. I rebel against the gracious rule and reign of Jesus as my prince of peace. We don’t want a ruler, we want control over our lives. When Jesus says, “this is what sexuality looks like!” we say, “No! That’s too restrictive. You don’t know my needs, Jesus!” When Jesus says, “Forgive as I have forgiven you” we say, “You don’t understand what they’ve done Jesus! You don’t know how I’ve been wronged!”

We’ll follow Jesus as long as we get what we think we need, but our addictions and secret sins are close at hand, always promising to give us what we want. And when the whole grace thing doesn’t get us where we want in our relationships, we carefully manipulate others and justify taking from them to get what we need. This is our flesh, our sinful nature. Except by the grace of God, we will not let go of the chains in which we are enslaved. What a horrible place we find ourselves in! Harming others and undoing ourselves as well. We are enemies of the gospel. And so, Jesus turns to us and comes in for the kill. 

Martin Luther called Jesus’ sword play the alien work of God. It seems foreign to God’s loving character. When God closes in for the kill, we  wonder, “how can Jesus be good and loving?” In Romans 7 Paul explains how. He says that we are married to sin. We’ve loved sin, and lived in sin and the natural offspring of this union is separation from God. We are legally bound by our marital relationship with sin. We cannot escape it. We’re stuck in a hellish way of life. And Paul says the only way out is… death?? 

What? That can’t be right. But yes, if you think about it, dead people don’t have any legal obligations. They don’t pay taxes or get tickets. Because they can’t, right? The law can’t reach them anymore. When we marry we vow, “Till death do us part.” Death releases us from our marital obligations. And Jesus is happy to release us from our marital obligations to sin. He doesn’t want to wait for the natural end of our marriage. He wants us now! So he brings a sword. 

Jesus, in his love, knows that we must die in order to be freed from sin. We are stuck in our rebellion, manipulation and addiction and so he turns his sword against us. We are slain… and buried.

And there, in the black darkness of the tomb…of knowing we have no way out… There in the silence of the grave, Jesus speaks. Not only does he speak, but he himself is present. He too has died. He died and was buried, and he meets us in our tomb and says, “I am the resurrection. Those who believe in me will never die! You are no match for sin, death, and the powers of hell, but I am! And I have overcome them all, for you!” And in that moment, Jesus plants faith, hope and love in our hearts. We emerge from the waters of baptism, having been buried with Christ and now raised with him too! 

We trust that, as Paul says, “(we) also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that (we) may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead…” We are trusting that through Christ, we have already died. Paul says this again in Colossians 3:3, “For you have died , and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The mystery of faith is the reality that even as we live physically, we have died and been raised to new spiritual life through Christ when we were baptized. Just a chapter before in Romans, Paul states, “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4 ESV). Jesus has given you life!

Are you facing the sword today? Are you hiding a secret love affair with sin? Then Jesus is drawing close to you. He is coming to kill you so that you might be freed!  He does everything so that you might turn to him and trust him. He wants nothing more than to deliver his beloved children from the powers of sin, death and the devil. Jesus went through suffering, humiliation, and death in order that he might free you from them all! Look to the cross and see God. God, radically in love with you! God, who will stop at nothing to remove all opposition and obstacles that would separate you from him! God, who even in his work with the sword, gives you eternal life. 


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