Matthew 10:34 - Peace and the Sword
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.Luke 2:14
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.Matthew 10:34
Does this sound like Christmas, that Jesus came to bring a sword? A sword stands for warfare, bloodshed, opposition, a battle. And notice that the text doesn't say that the result of His coming will be the sword and bloodshed. No, the very purpose of His coming was to bring a sword. How paradoxical that the "Prince of Peace" should bring war!
I'm sure that not many sermons are preached on this passage in the Christmas season. Our children are likely never told to memorize this verse in school, catechism, church school or Sunday School. Why not?
The thoughts expressed here just don't seem to fit. The angels praised God in the highest heavens because this child would bring peace on earth.
Long ago the prophet Isaiah had prophesied concerning Him when he said:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that bring good tidings of great joy and come with tidings of peace!
Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, had prophesied that He would guide our feet in the way of peace.
Paul says in Ephesians 2 that Christ is our peace because He has "broken down the middle wall of partition."
That is the heart of the song of the angels!
Sinners, Christians, people living in this world are encouraged and given hope because He will bring peace in this troubled, sinful and hostile world, delivering us from sin and giving us victory over death.
But here it seems to be different. We can ask all kinds of questions, or try to raise objections, but the truth remains that He came to bring the sword, war and death. Also these words are a part of the inerrant and infallible Word of God as they state the purpose of Christ's coming.
Jesus came as the Son of God, to save sinners. This we all know. We all also know that these sinners live in a world of sin. All of mankind is sinful, corrupt by nature. The devil is "the prince of this world." All sinners are slaves of sin, and can therefore do absolutely nothing by themselves to be delivered from this dreadful bondage. We all have mountains of debt which have to be paid, which no one can even begin to pay. Jesus came into this sinful world to save His sinful people from this dreadful slavery.
His coming meant that a battle would follow. That was the "sword." First of all He had to conquer and crush the devil himself. In His ministry we see this "sword" in His constant encounter with the opposing Pharisees and Sadducees. It was a bitter battle all of His life. Often He stood all alone, not even the disciples understanding Him, or giving any kind of spiritual and moral support. Think also of Gethsemane, "Here the wild bulls of Bashan" (Psalms 22) come enmasse to attack Him. (Visualize a herd of wild bulls attacking a person with the intention of mauling him to death). This took place spiritually in Gethsemane when the hosts of devils would crush Him as He was lying in the dust, sweating blood. This was His battle to save His people. He made atonement on Calvary and He arose from the grave, as victor. The result was peace, wonderful peace. When sinful man by faith is justified before God, he has peace in His soul. That's the peace the angels sang of in the fields of Efratha-first "the sword," then peace.
By His work of the sword, He brought peace to His sinful people. The power of sin had to be destroyed, and the devil dethroned. Jesus saw him "fall from heaven like lightning."
That's what Christmas is all about. "He will save His people from their sins," the angel said to Joseph.
Unbelievers and the world do not enjoy this peace. They are still "in their sins." They may have a formal celebration of Christmas, make a big ado about it, but the real Christmas with its wonderful peace they do not have.
How do we as Christians enjoy Christmas? Although many Christians condemn the Christmas commercialization, they do very little that is positive to observe it.
What the Lord wants us to do is to see His condescending love to come to wage this battle for us – how He fought sin as the holy One. He fought this battle even in His prayers and in His lonely life. He really was "alone in the crowd." None really understood Him while He was on the cross. Even while He was living His life on earth and doing His work, He was the "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," as He came with the "sword" to destroy the devil and the power of sin. That we must see anew each Christmas.
Take a second look, during this Christmas, at yourself as a sinner. Even though we have been redeemed there is still much sin in the most holy. Try to see anew the determination, love and dedication of the Lord when He came into our lives and our world to fight the great battle for us against the devil and our sin in order to deliver us.
And knowing now what He paid and that our salvation and victory are sure, we can have peace of which the angels sang.
When the Lord gives us a new birth and makes us Christians, He works this in our human nature that was controlled by the power of sin. The result is that we now have a new nature which fights against the old nature. This produces a continuing battle in our lives. Paul says that the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, for these are contrary to one another. This battle all children of God know by experience. Recall the words of Romans 7:
For the good which I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, I keep practicing ... Wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? And the answer follows, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is in Him alone that we find wonderful peace, following the battle within our own natures and lives.
People of God who possess His Spirit and know Christ still live in this sinful world. It's the same world in which Jesus lived. He said, "They have hated me, they will also hate you."
Jesus also prepares His disciples for this kind of life, as He in the 10th chapter of Matthew tells them that He is sending them "like sheep among wolves." What a picture — helpless sheep in the midst of a pack of vicious, hungry wolves! In the same breath Jesus says that that opposition of the world may become so strong that brother will betray brother to death and a father, his child, and children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. How intense is the hatred of the devil and the world for the cause of Christ!
Sometimes the Lord made the battle general for all Christians. He told us that in the world we shall have tribulation, but that we should be encouraged, because He has overcome the world.
Later in this same chapter Jesus makes all this very personal:
And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Many of God's children have experienced incredible suffering for their Lord, some giving up their lives. Let us not forget, that at this time there are large numbers suffering in prison and labor camps.
In some measure, all children of God must and do experience this kind of opposition, beginning with the struggles against our old sinful nature. Ours is a lifelong battle.
However, we are always given great encouragement. Christ assures us that He has overcome the world. The real victory has already been achieved. He promises that He will also give us a share in this victory in His time. These promises can give us inner peace.
The victory is sure!
However, Jesus' work with the "sword" still isn't finished. It wouldn't be finished even if we were already in heaven.
He will return to give us new bodies and to create a new heaven and earth. He will overcome the devil and all his host. Death and all His enemies will be "swallowed up" in victory. What is "swallowed" is gone. All His enemies will be completely defeated. His work of the "sword" will not be completed until that is accomplished.
And in the new heaven and earth peace will reign forever. It will be a peace beyond the highest expectations any one of us on this earth can begin to have, beyond all human understanding and comprehension.
This hope, the great General and Captain of the hosts of all His people left with us, even before He died: "Peace I leave with you, peace I give unto you. I do not give you as the world gives." The world cannot give such promises and cannot keep what it promises. Christian.
And then these words follow, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."