Conflict - Then
October 17, 2020
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to “Set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:34-36).
Some people who read this text feel it is atypical of the loving, compassionate nature of Jesus. In our mind’s eye we see Jesus as drawing people together, especially families, rather than creating division among people.
The meaning of this passage becomes clear when we consider the context in which it is given, the significance of the word ‘peace’, and the expectation of the Jews regarding the coming of the Messiah. Again, context is most important in correctly understanding a passage of Scripture.
Jesus was getting His disciples ready for their mission in preparing the people of Israel for His ministry (Matthew 10:1-42). One of the issues they would encounter would be the messianic expectation of the people. Many hoped Jesus was the Messiah given the fact that He spoke with divine authority and displayed divine power through miracles. But their messianic expectation was more political than spiritual.
The word ‘peace’ was used among the Jews to express one’s blessings, temporal and spiritual, upon another person or family. While the expression was to convey spiritual blessing, the emphasis was more on temporal, material blessing.
The expectation of the Jews was that when the Messiah came, all temporal prosperity would be focused on Judea. Therefore, ‘earth’ (literally - ‘land’) should be thought of as the land of the Jews, not the whole earth. What Jesus said could then be understood as, “Don’t think that I am come to send a sword to force the Romans out of Judea; I have come to send a sword to cut off a disobedient and rebellious people from Judea.” His ‘sword’ (spiritually) was for Israel who would reject Him as their Messiah.
After they crucified Jesus the Messiah the Jews became victims of their own cruel and destructive factions. They were already divided politically (Galilee vs. Judea) and spiritually (Pharisees vs. Scribes vs. Sadducees), but the introduction of Jesus into the mix made them even more so. From that time until A.D. 70, the Jews spent their time and effort butchering one another until the Roman sword (literally) was let loose on them, decimating them and the land.
“Father, set my mind and heart aright so that my expectations in Jesus Christ will be according to Your will, plan, and purpose. Do not permit me to stray into popular opinion or belief, but to hold fast to the truth of Your word as You have given it. May it continue to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.”