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Monday evening President George W. Bush came to Cincinnati to give an address to our nation. The purpose of the speech was to gain support for a war against Iraq. Saddam Hussein has been the focus of instability and war in our world for the last 15 years and again it looks as America a nation torn by terrorism over the last year is speaking not of peace but all out war.
The word is full of war and violence. The violence in Jerusalem between Jew and Arab still rages. In the Sudan in Africa, Christians and Muslims are killing each other by the thousands. And it is not only global violence but local violence. Domestic abuse is rampant in our homes. Members of the clergy are accused of violent acts against children. Kidnappings are a daily occurrence on the news. This world is spinning out of control. And it would just be nice to have a period of peace in this world.
We’ve been looking at the tough sayings of Jesus on Wednesdays. And in Matthew 10:34-39 we read of a perplexing saying of Jesus that seems to say that Jesus has not come to bring peace to this world. In fact, Jesus seems to say I am not the source of peace; on the contrary I am a source of division!
Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 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 – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lost it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:34-39).
Jesus says, “I have not come to bring peace to the earth.” Reading this passage brings to mind the many accounts in scripture that paint Jesus as an agent of peace. Is this a contradiction in the Bible? After all Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9. Luke 1 tells us that Jesus was coming to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Jesus’ own words and actions also point to him as being an agent of peace. Remember when he said, “If someone strikes you on the cheek turn to him the other cheek.” Jesus was promoting peace in the face of retaliation. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Jesus said, a blessing will come to those who strive for peace.
Remember when Peter one of his disciples cut off an ear of a Roman soldier Jesus reprimanded him. “Peter if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.”
In Luke 19 we read of Jesus standing on a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He stood there and cried over the city because he knew of the violence she would experience in the future. He saw the day when Titus the Roman emperor in AD 70 would ransack Jerusalem and kill nearly a half million Jews. He said, “Jerusalem, if you could only see this day and if you only knew what would bring you peace but it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42). Jesus was saying that if the city would just accept him there would be peace in Jerusalem. He was saying I am the agent of peace.
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