4th Sunday After Pentecost June 28, 2020

“Jesus Brings His Sword!” Matthew 10:34-42

      Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 10th Chapter.

      “34[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For 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. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37Whoever 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. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      If we would consider the way the world is going today we might think Jesus fits right in. We have been plagued with news of protests in various cities. We have been faced with bizarre political slogans that divide communities and homes. We have been shown lack of understanding on every hand. We have seen threats and violence displayed many places. If you do not agree with these forces of violence, you have no part of them. You are declared unworthy in their judgment of you. Staying silent does not give you escape either. You are declared to be complicit with those who oppose the protestors.

      Our Lord seems to be fitting right in with all this turmoil. Jesus says he does not come to bring peace but a sword. He comes to cause division in the most precious of relationships. He comes to demand from us, if you will, unqualified love for himself. Jesus demands you bear your cross and follow him. Not to do so declares you to be unworthy of His attention. To remain silent makes you complicit with those who reject Jesus.

      This seems a far cry from the angels’ message at the birth of Jesus. Remember their song of praise as they joined the herald of Jesus’ birth. “Glory to God int highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Isaiah also named Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.” The coming of the Messiah is marked by peace according to these words. Yet we see that Jesus says he does not bring peace, but a sword.

      Moreover, Jesus proclaims he comes to divide the most precious of relationships, ones of familial love. Is this not contrary to the commandment of God which tells us to honor father and mother? Is this not contrary to the command of God to love your neighbor as yourself? Is this not contrary to Jesus teaching to forgive you neighbor seventy times seven?

      Not in the least. These words of Jesus are not contrary to the will of God. Nor are they lacking honor or respect for the basic foundation of society. There is no hint of rejection of God-ordained relationships. Nor is there any hint of rebellion against God-established authority.

      What is being held before us today is a return to the way of life God planned and created for us in which to live. In returning to the way of life created by God we will be at cross purposes with the way of the world. I say cross purposes because it is an appropriate description of the believer’s manner of life in this world.

      First, we must consider why the Son of God took on human flesh. Such an incarnation was promised long ago. God promised to be born in human flesh in order to redeem the world from sin and death. Such sin and death are the result of the fall of those to whom God first gave life. Their fall follows Satan’s fall from grace as he sought the throne of his Creator. Since that time, all the world has been at enmity with God, everyone seeking their own way and turning from the way of their Creator.

      Today we see this quite clearly in the slogans that have signaled our rebellion against the authority of God. If you look at the reason for being for some of the organizations you will see the evil and rebellion which they want to sow in peaceful communities. Peaceful protests were turned into full-fledged rebellion and rioting. These organizations have gone so far as to demand the defunding of police departments. One city has even passed legislation to defund their police. Such an action opens the door for further destruction and violence.

      There indeed is something satanic behind such movements. It is cloaked in deceptively acceptable words, but hides the truth that what is sought is the disruption of all authority and the undermining of societal norms that promote the welfare and protection of the community. Through these means Satan is tearing down what God has built up.

      Recently monuments to historical figures of our US history been torn down. The reason being given is to fight racism. This past week statues and artwork depicting Jesus and His mother Mary have also been included in such destruction. A testament to the true goal of these protestors. That true goal is to oppose all authority and remove the witness of God from this world

      Consider what St Paul writes, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood … but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our life in this earth is plagued by not only our sinfulness, but also by the rebellious spirits which have also fallen from grace. They oppose God’s will at every turn. They know they have been defeated by the Son of God, and soon will receive the due reward for their rebellion. Until that day when all of creation is judged these rebellious spirits do what they do best. They seek to undermine and destroy the works of God.

      Our Lord now speaks to us of a greater power than the words and hands of those who oppose God. Jesus speaks of the sword He brings to this world. Certainly, it brings division. Certainly it brings disruption of normal life. Certainly, it sets those who live under the sword against their community. But this sword is the sword of truth. Not man’s truth, but God’s truth. Jesus uses that sword to do battle against those things which oppose God’s will.

      The first use of this sword of truth is to call sinners to repent of their rebellion. There is the warning of coming judgment upon those who continue to reject the God of creation. Jesus speaks of this when he warns against loving this world more than the Creator of this world. He says, “Whoever loves father or mother … son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

      Jesus is not saying don’t love your family. He desires us to love one another and care for one another. Rather, Jesus says your relationships on earth are important, but there is one relationship of eternal importance. That relationship is with your Creator. He is here before you to do you good. He has come to you to redeem you from your life of rebellion. He has come to bring you life and the favor of God. He has come to restore and to heal. He has come to bring you into the Kingdom of God.

      So then, what does it mean to be worthy of Jesus? The word worthy is understood to be one of a comparison between two objects. These objects are placed on opposite sides of a scale. So you have a known quantity compared with an unknown quantity. Much like a gold assayer will measure the quantity of gold that is brought to him to prove its worth.

      Jesus is the measure of worth. He is the known quantity against which everything must be measured. Jesus speaks of the standard of measurement. He says the standard of measurement is the cross. When we consider this cross, we must understand its nature. The cross is a sign of suffering for the truth. The cross is the sign of redemption for sin. The cross is the sign of deprivation of life upon this earth. The cross is the sign of God which draws sinners to see the Lamb of God sacrificed for them. The cross is the sign of God which gives life to those who were dead in trespasses and sin. The cross is the sign of Jesus which penitent sinners bear.

      To this end Jesus says that true worthiness before God is to find your life in the cross of Jesus. So Jesus tells us to bear the cross He gives. Where is this cross given? What sign was placed upon you in your baptism? The sign of the cross was made over your head and over your heart. It is the sign that in Holy Baptism you were redeemed by Jesus Christ and received the cross of faith.

      Bearing that cross of faith, Jesus empowered you to die to self and live for your Savior. This means that you live as Jesus lived. Not counting yourself better than others, but rather counting others the same as yourself. You were redeemed from sin and the power of death. Live then as one who is blessed of God to be rescued from judgment and freed from eternal punishment for sin.

      This means that at every opportunity given you by God, you are to boldly proclaim your life in Jesus Christ. It does not necessarily mean standing on a street corner calling sinners to repentance. It does mean that your life will now be lived contrary to the way of life in this world. As you were measured in the scale of Jesus righteousness and sacrifice for sin, so now you will measure the voices heard in the public square against the Sword of God’s word.

      What is the truth underlying the messages placed before us by politicians, activist groups or neighbors? How is their worth to be measured when set against the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do such voices incite rebellion? Or do they encourage humility and peace? Do such voices rail against the servants of God? Or do they respond in submission to governing authorities? Do those voices seek social justice at the expense of civility? Or do they promote forgiveness and repentance at the expense of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin?

      As we live our faith before our neighbor, we must also remember to live our faith before our Savior. This will not be and easy task. For this task will reflect the life of Jesus Christ in thought, word and deed. The voice of the Gospel is not a welcomed voice because this world seeks revenge and rather than repentance. The voice of the Gospel is not welcomed in this world because the world seeks hubris, sinful pride, rather than humility. The voice of the Gospel is not welcomed in this world because the world seeks to crucify rather than to be crucified. The voice of the Gospel is not welcomed in this world because the world did not welcome Jesus.

      Yet, Jesus has received you through the Gospel. Jesus died in your place. Jesus called to His presence. Jesus poured His salvation upon in the water of Baptism. Jesus marked you for His kingdom under the name of the Triune God. Jesus gave your life purpose and meaning by clothing you in His righteous death and resurrection. Jesus gave you the sword of His Gospel to defend your faith and give witness to the hope that is within you. Jesus strengthens you to bear your cross of faith. Jesus counts you worthy by faith for eternal life.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen