Blog / Book of the Month / The Sword of Christ Jesus / Matthew 10:34–42 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 2nd 2023 / The Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Sword of Christ Jesus / Matthew 10:34–42 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 2nd 2023 / The Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Sword of Christ Jesus / Matthew 10:34–42 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 2nd 2023 / The Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 2nd 2023: Season of Pentecost / Matthew 10:34–42 "The Sword of Christ Jesus"

[Jesus says] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come 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 person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever 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.

“Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. We hear the word doctrine and it’s a word that can be somewhat unfamiliar to our ears. Doctrine is another word for teaching. So the doctrine of the church is the teaching of the church and the teaching of the church is intended to be the teachings of Christ Jesus.  Teaching is part of what we call “the great commission” Jesus says at His ascension, forty days following His death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I Am with you always, to the end of the age.”[1] This is from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the same Gospel from which we are given our Gospel reading today, in which Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Now there is a slogan that has been levelled (sadly by some in the wider church, primarily outside of our own Lutheran circles) that says “doctrine divides; love unites.” This by the way is a false dichotomy; a false dichotomy is where you are given two things in such a way that suggests that one of them is bad and the other is good and then you are made the chose between the two of them, to move into this camp or that camp and then to hunker down and duke it out. In the case of “doctrine divides; love unites,” a person is to have the kneejerk reaction that anything that divides is instantly bad and anything that unites is instantly good so doctrine must then be bad and therefore for the sake of love doctrine must be rejected. This conclusion doesn’t sound like Jesus in our Gospel reading today. So someone who has deeply believed the idea that doctrine must be rejected for the sake of love will see Jesus in this passage as either wrong or dangerous or both. They will need to explain Jesus away, or sidestep what He teaches, or worse correct what He taught as though they themselves know more than He does (That’s a breaking of the first Commandment by the way. Putting themselves over and above God). As ones baptised into Christ Jesus who are followers of Jesus we need to learn from Jesus and what He teaches not seek ways to escape from His words to us. This then leads us back to the teachings—doctrines—of Jesus, which become the teachings—doctrines—of His disciples and the teachings—doctrines—of the church. When you hear the word doctrine consider it to be interchangeable with the word teaching: now take that a step further and ask ‘will Jesus teach His church something that is false?’ No. The teachings—doctrines—of Christ Jesus are true in and of themselves because He is in and of Himself the Truth and “there was [and is] no deceit in His mouth.”[2] So if someone rejects the teachings of Jesus they reject Him and His heavenly Father who sent Him. Jesus is honest with us that this rejection will cause division even in families. 

Let’s go back to the first part of what Jesus teaches today, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” What does a sword do? It cuts to the bone, it decapitates and dismembers, cuts ears from heads, and depending on the skill and severity of its use it can even divided the body from the soul. Is Jesus speaking of a physical sword? In the book of Hebrews we find a definition of this sword of which Jesus speaks, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”[3] When the infant Jesus was brought for circumcision at the Temple “old man” Simeon prophetically says to the Virgin Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”[4] The disciple Saint John who was a student of Jesus and who heard firsthand the teaching of Jesus we are given today wrote down this description of Jesus in the Book of Revelation, John writes “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest. The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.”[5]

During the years of Jesus’ public ministry, before His death and resurrection, after Jesus had had a long and challenging conversation with His own Jewish people who were interested in following Him for earthy prosperity and not for the eternal gifts of God[6] Saint John tells us how it was that “many of [Jesus’] disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” [to which] Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”[7] Over and over again we see examples through the course of Jesus’ public ministry of Jesus’ teaching “piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We see how people walk away, or how they plot against Him, how they publicly challenge Him to His face. Regardless of how they go about it we see people rejecting Jesus, and we see people holding fast to Jesus. We see Jesus, who is the Truth, teaching the Truth cutting to the heart of faith and belief asking always do you believe this.[8] Regularly this revolves around what Jesus teaches in His Word. To dig a bit deeper into that let’s consider the first temptation when “that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan,”[9] tempted Eve and Adam with the words “Did God actually say,”[10] while his temptation had the after effect of disobedience and murder and theft and lies at its root the temptation was to question God’s Word and the truth of it in their life. Once they had sinned in this way in order to protect them from becoming eternally cemented in their sin [the LORD] drove out the man [and his wife from the garden of Eden], and at the east of the garden of Eden [the LORD] placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”[11] Again we have the image of a sword dividing.

Here’s another example of Jesus teaching and a telling reaction to it, “behold, a man came up to [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only one who is good.[12] If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to [Jesus], “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to [Jesus], “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.[13] Here we see Jesus teach a man and yet because the man would not believe what Jesus taught the man became divided away from Jesus by his disbelief choosing instead to concern himself with what the World valued most.[14]

So let’s think one more time about that slogan, that false dichotomy “doctrine divides; love unites.” Consider how “doctrine divides;” is not bad when in Christ Jesus it divides the faithful from the unfaithful, the righteous from the wicked, the good from the willfully evil. Likewise consider how “love unites;” is not good when it bring the wicked together in a common cause against the righteous. When people rally around the rejection of Jesus and the Word of God and the teachings—doctrines—of the church in favour of their own prideful desires. For example when Jesus teaches, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,”[15] a line is drawn instantly in the sand. For centuries no one contested this—in fact it isn’t even the main point of what Jesus is talking about that day—and yet with everything that Jesus teaches, all of the doctrine He upholds, a day either has come or may come when Jesus’ teachings point by point are questioned, when the devil will push people to ask “Did God actually say,” or to provoke people to shout Jesus’ teachings down in anger out of spite and sinful desire burning with the passions of lust, greed and shallow petulance.

Take for instance the small catechism, which you have by the grace of God learned from and may yet still learn from, this would easily be categorised as the teachings of the church, the doctrine of the church, drawn from Holy Scripture, from God’s Word and we as Lutheran’s say it is a good and right exposition of Scripture, which it to say it teaches what the Bible teaches, it teaches what Jesus teaches. So we use it as a lens through which we evaluate what the World teaches, just as we use what the Bible itself teaches to evaluate what the World teaches and we measure the teaching of the World against the teachings of Jesus. If you don’t know how to read a ruler or measuring tape you can’t use it to see how long or short something is with any accuracy; if you don’t know Scripture, if you haven’t studied it or the small catechism or the teaching—doctrines—of the church, the teaching of Jesus the Christ, how can you know the truth of something being presented to you by the World? If you do know these teaching—doctrines—then you can see if what is being presented to you matches with what Jesus teaches or not, whether it is true or not. Think of the Word “indoctrination” a word usually used in a pejorative or negative sense to mean a “process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically,” Jesus wants you to critically test the teaching of the Word against what He teaches in order to have the truth, remember what Jesus teaches in John chapter eight, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[16] Free from what? Freedom from dishonesty! And now we have a division: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come 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 person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Jesus does this with His word and His teaching, with the Truth, with His own presence.

On the way to His cross and passion, on the night in which He was brayed Jesus said to His disciples and He says to you today “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the World gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”[17] Interestingly this is said by the same one who says “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth,” remember you will have peace in Christ even if you have no peace in the World. It is a vanishingly small possibility to have both peace with the World and peace with Christ Jesus. As Saint James teaches “Do you not know that friendship with the World is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the World makes himself an enemy of God.”[18] Therefore hold fast to His teachings—doctrines—and abide in Him. Be courageous and don’t go along to get along with worldly ideas and teachings that oppose or contradict God’s Word and what Jesus teaches. Remember, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” [So you can stand firm on Him. And as the Book of Hebrews warns us] “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace,”[19] and this sword that Jesus brings Saint Paul includes in the Armor of God when he writes in Ephesians six, teaching, “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”[20] With the gift of this sword from God divide for yourself and your family the truth Jesus teaches from what is falsely taught as truth from the World. To the best of your abilities separate them from each other with God’s Word.

Dear ones Jesus didn’t come to bring acceptance of everything celebrated and promoted by the World, He came to save us from these false and hazardous teachings, to save us from the wickedness that leads to total destruction; to forgive us when we have fallen headlong into these diverse and strange teachings and to pull us up out of the hellish pit and kill trap from whence they came. Amen.

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Matthew 28:18–20
[2] Isaiah 53:9
[3] Hebrews 4:12
[4] Luke 2:34–35
[5] Revelation 1:12–16
[6] John 6:22-59
[7] John 6:66–69
[8] John 11:17-27
[9] Revelation 20:2
[10] Genesis 3:1
[11] Genesis 3:24
[12] Here Jesus implies with His question that this man must be asking Him his initial question because he thinks Jesus is both good and has an answer; because only God is good and only God truly has this answer so perhaps the man is asking because he surmised that Jesus could in fact truly be God?
[13] Matthew 19:16–22
[14] You can find many instances like this in fact during Holy Week while Jesus was teaching in the Temple in the days leading up to His cross and passion a number of people came publicly testing Jesus’ teaching many of these people would be among those who plotted Jesus’ death, Matthew 22:23-45
[15] Matthew 19:4
[16] John 8:31–32
[17] John 14:27
[18] James 4:4
[19] Hebrews 13:8–9
[20] Ephesians 6:17

Photo Credits: main photo man reading Bible from pexels; detail black and white crayone from pexels; man in armor with sword from pexels; detail of painting of Jesus presented at the Temple from picryl; detail of Adam and Eve from pxfuel; detail of Bible Study from pexels; detail of stained galss window of key and sword with Bible from pixabay; painting of Jesus' crucifixion from rawpixel; detail of reading Bible from pexels.