Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
8) Matthew 10 - The real enemy
I came not to send peace (on the earth), but a sword. But how can this obvious declaration of the Messiah Himself
be harmonized with the general picture drawn of Him as the great "prince of Peace?" (Cf Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 2:14).
There are two possibilities.
1) This is a Hebraistic expression, emphatically stated to carry a point without intending to exclude absolutely
what is negated. Accordingly, Jesus is saying, "I came not only to bring peace, but also a sword." As
indicated above, but to the preconceptions of that day, it was entirely essential to the successful
communication of His divine message.
2) Then, in harmony with the foregoing, it is also unquestionably true that Jesus did not come to bring peace
on earth to just any and every rebel against God. Though He came to being true harmony between God
and man as well as true brotherhood among men, yet to accomplish this mission, Jesus could not leave men
the way they were.
But why cannot men have peace the way they are? Peace cannot be enforced. Open hostility can be put down by
force; but good will can come only by voluntary consent. So long as men's wills are opposed to the Gospel, there
can be no peace. In fact, war, division and fire must necessarily break out where the claims of Jesus are proclaimed
in a hostile world. Feel the intense emotion of the Lord as He speaks about this revolution (Luke 12:49-51).
Jesus Himself knows that He is Himself such a Conscience. He too must disturb their self-complacency; awaken
their deadened fear of the living God. The history of Christianity is not a peaceful history. This fact is brought
forward sometimes as a proof that Christianity has been a failure.
Is peace the first aim of Christianity? Is it the main object of the Christian religion to give you an undisturbed and
placid life? To live is to endure and overcome, to aspire and to attain. It is not the best thing in the world for a man
to have no doubts, to ask no questions, to be free from all speculation and all wonder. It is not the best thing for a
man to receive his opinions ready-made and to reiterate them unthinkingly till he comes to look upon them as
But the disturbance Christ brings produces immediate war. This automatically divides the world into two hostile
camps (Luke 12:51). As Jesus will immediately point out, the lines will be drawn even in families, between those who
follow Him and those who do not. But Jesus must provoke this kind of war; otherwise, men would go on to their
doom perfectly satisfied with themselves, unaware of their fate.
While the figure of the sword may mean war, it is also possible that the main emphasis of Jesus is on the use of a
sword to split asunder what had before been of one piece or a unity.
When some great cause emerges, it is bound to divide people; there are bound to be those who answer, and those
who refuse the challenge. To be confronted with Jesus is necessarily to be confronted with the choice whether to
accept Him or to reject Him; and the world is always divided into those who have accepted Christ and those who
have not. Jesus is the very bond of lasting peace and true union. Jesus Himself is the sharpest line of separation
between men and the greatest disturber of easy consciences. He brought no peace to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:3).
His very birth brought anguish and break to all parents in Bethlehem with boys under two. His birth brought a sword
that pierced His mother's soul and signaled the rise and fall of many in Israel (Luke 2:34-35). The Babe's protection
brought additional fears and frustrations to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-19, Matthew 2:13-14 and 22). But the angels'
song is still true "peace that passes understanding" to "men with whom (God) is well pleased." (Luke 2:14,
Ephesians 2:14, Philippians 4:7). But to enjoy this peace, men have always had to decide about Jesus Christ, and
this decision has involved many other choices of which the Lord now begins a short list (Matthew 10:35). I came to -
what follows this verb expresses the purpose and result of the Lord's earthly mission. What He lists here, then, is
not avoidable, since the breakdown of some of these family ties partakes of the essential nature of the life to which
the Master calls us. This crisis cannot be evaded without compromise of conscience.
a man at variance against his father,
and the daughter against her mother,
and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
These words are quoted practically verbatim from Micah 7:6. Did Jesus mean for His disciples to understand Him as
speaking within the framework set for them by Micah?
It might be that Jesus is merely appropriating the well-known expressions of the ancient prophet. Micah had used
this language to describe the height of treachery rampant in an era of injustice at all levels of society. However,
Jesus' context is not so much general injustice as the particular heartlessness of those who refuse to accept Jesus.
Jesus' intention is to bring into sharp relief the bitterness of religious intolerance. I came to set a man at variance
against . . . here is one of the first intimations of the individualistic and personal character of Jesus' religion
(Matthew 3:7-10). It makes a clear break with the patriarchal concept of religion whereby the whole family, including
the children, by virtue of their birth into the family, becomes participants in all the religious privileges of the paternal
head. There is no suggestion in infants. Rather, Jesus insists here on the extremely personal character of our
adherence to Him, by demanding the unhesitating severing of even the dearest relationships that become a
hindrance to absolute fidelity to Him.
The bitterest thing about this warfare was that a man's foes would be those of his own household (Matthew 10:36).
A man's foes shall be they of his own household. If the Jew and the pagan held their religions at a higher value than
the ties of kindred, is it not possible that Jesus has sometimes reflected: "What do I need enemies for, when I have
disciples like that one!?" But the disciple must ever recall that they of one's own household are never the ultimate
enemy, the devil.