10.01.07 Mt. 10:34-39 (See comments on Lk. 12:49-53)
CONFLICT AND SACRIFICE.
34 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn
A man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
A daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household (Micah 7:6).
37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me
is not worthy of Me;
The person who loves son or daughter more than Me
is not worthy of Me.
38 And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me
is not worthy of Me.
39 Anyone finding his life will lose it,
and anyone losing his life because of Me
will find it.
“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus, who is often known as the Price of Peace, said, “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” What did He mean when He said He came to bring a sword?
Those who accepted Him were rejected by family members who did not accept Him. Complete dedication will be opposed by others in the family who do not agree to such a commitment. This imagery is based upon Micah 7:6. For two thousand years many Jews who did come to faith did so at the great cost of being permanently separated from the families whom they dearly loved. The sword is clearly symbolic of the division within many families concerning the identity of Jesus. For example, in the Muslim world today, those who come to faith in Christ Jesus are often confronted with the option of renouncing Christianity and returning to Islam, or face death. Another example is a personal one. Once, when this writer taught ministry students in the Middle East, one day a student was missing from class. Then there was a knock on the door and two men were looking for him. He fled for his life and I never saw him again.
In this passage, the Greek word for peace (Gk. eirene 1515) simply does not do justice to the statement of Jesus. As a Jewish rabbi, He spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, although He was certainly fluent in Greek as well. But His teaching language was the common language of the people – Aramaic. The Hebrew word (salon 7965), like that of its sister language Aramaic, means peace, completeness, good health and welfare. Since Jesus would have thought and spoken as a Jew, not as a Greek, this is a classic example where word-study students conclude that Jesus meant the Greek definition of the term, rather than the Hebraic meaning. In fact, the Greek meaning most likely had nothing to do with Jesus.
“The person who loves father or mother more than Me.” The absolutism of Hebrew idioms is more than a mere challenge to the modern reader. Parents were highly respected since they brought forth life into this world. Jesus required a commitment of devotion that was beyond their customary understanding. Teachers – including sages and rabbis – were held in higher esteem than parents because they taught man how to live and how to prepare for the world to come. The Oral Law gives an example of this prioritized devotion:
If his father and his teacher each bore a burden, he must first relieve his teacher and afterward relieve his father. If his father and teacher were each taken captive, he must first ransom his teacher and afterward ransom his father; but if his father was also a Sage he must first ransom his father and afterward ransom his teacher.
Mishnah, Baba Metzia 2.11
“And whoever doesn’t take up his cross.” This phrase was not a Jewish proverb nor was it a form of Jewish execution, but everyone was were all too familiar with this horrific form of capital punishment. The word “cross” not only meant execution, but it was also the universal symbol of an agonizing death. Jesus demanded His disciples follow Him even if their decision would result in martyrdom upon a cross. In the early first century, it symbolized death, but within a few years of the resurrection, it symbolized eternal life.
“Anyone finding his life will lose it.” There is a deep internal desire in everyone to continue life eternally; no one desires death. Jesus here emphasized the need of commitment in carrying His cross in a different way. Anyone who determines to find his own way to salvation will fail. Jesus is the only way to obtain eternal life.
. See also Jubliees 23:16, 19; Mishnah, Sotah 9.15.
. Vine, “Peace.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 1:173-74; 2:464.
. The difficulty that has been revealed here with the word “peace” extends to many other words, such as the word “law,” where the Hebrew definition emphasizes “instruction” which is completely missed in the Greek.