Summary: What Jesus DIDN'T mean when He said, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." A study of how this part of scripture is commonly misunderstood.
It’s been a memorable weather week, for the first time since they started keeping records, 49 of the 50 states had snow on the ground at the same time. Northwest Florida even had snow – the only state without snow was Hawaii. There is usually always snow on the top of Mauna Kea, which rises 14,000 feet above sea level on the Big Island. But observers there report there was no snow this week. And meanwhile, they’re hauling in snow in Canada for the Winter Olympics—go figure!
That’s unusual weather, and I have an unusual message topic today: “The Prince of Peace Carries a Sword.” There are many titles given to Jesus in the Bible, and one of my favorites is “Prince of Peace.” In Isaiah 9:6, the Jesus’ birth was predicted 750 years before it happened. This prophecy says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And yet in the passage we’re about to read Jesus says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” When I first read that many years ago I scratched my head and thought, “Wait a minute! I thought Jesus was the Prince of Peace, but here He says He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.” Which one is it? Is He the Prince of Peace, or does He carry a sword? The answer is “yes” to both.
We’ve all seen paintings of Jesus holding a little lamb in His arms; that’s the warm, fuzzy, precious moments Jesus. But idea of Jesus holding a sword, like Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart,” upsets our sensibilities! So what did Jesus mean when He made that radical statement? First, don’t forget the context. Jesus is sending His disciples out to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. He is warning them that there will be many people who will reject their message. He also warns them some of them would be arrested and killed for their testimony about Jesus. When you understand this context of opposition, these words make more sense.
Matthew 10:32-39. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 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 lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
So much of what Jesus has said has been misquoted or taken out of context. In this message I want to spend the first half of this message telling you what Jesus didn’t mean by this statement and then talk about what Jesus really was saying. But primarily I want you to leave here with an understanding of what this truth means to you in your daily life. So let’s start with two common misunderstandings about this statement.
MISUNDERSTANDING ONE: JESUS ISN’T OPPOSED TO PEACE
In fact, He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27) Jesus knew there are different kinds of peace. He came to give us peace, but not the kind of peace the world understands. In our time, people keep talking about the need for world peace. In fact, for years, whenever a beauty pageant contestant has been asked the question, “And what is the one most important thing our society needs?” The right answer is always, “world peace.”
I think every beauty pageant contestant should just say “world peace” to whatever the question may be. You may remember a couple of years ago in the Miss Teen USA pageant Miss South Carolina was asked, “Why do you think a fifth of Americans can’t find the USA on a world map?” Here is her answer: “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as, uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for…” She would have been better off if she had just smiled and said, “World Peace.”