We cannot escape conflict

No peace but a sword

Matthew 10:34–39

The ambassadors of Jesus

40 Blogs of Lent: Day 9

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.
Matthew 10:34–39

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Five times in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “I came that…” this is the third.

    1.  “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil” Matthew 5:17.
    2. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” Matthew 9:13.
    3. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” Matthew 10:34.
    4. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” Matthew. 18:11.
    5. “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” Matthew 20:27-28.

Matthew’s Gospel is meticulously structured, a narrative section followed by a period of teaching, this is near the end of the second teaching section where Matthew collects together Jesus’ teaching first to the disciples who were being sent out to preach with instructions and warning for those who would take the Gospel out after them, including us.

But it is also one of five sayings where Jesus says who he is and why he came. There are two contexts here and it is important that both are taken into account in any interpretation of the passage.

People are divided by the teaching of Jesus. This is explicitly found in John’s Gospel: After Jesus has said “I am the good shepherd,” the people are divided, some say he has a demon whilst others point to his miracles as evidence that he is not possessed.  People are divided by Jesus, they have to make a choice.

Jesus knew his teaching would divide people, in fact much of it is deliberately designed to be divisive. You are either for Jesus or against him, sitting on the fence is not an option. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus said persecution would come from our own families, here he expands on that.

Are you with Jesus or against him?


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