Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 10:34-42
Dear people at peace with God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Isaiah prophesied that the Saviour shall be called Prince of Peace, and that there would be no end of peace in His kingdom (Is. 9:6,7). Zechariah prophesied that the Christ would guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). At the birth of Jesus, the angels announced peace on earth to the shepherds (Luke 2:14).
Yet 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.”
This does not mean that the prophecies concerning Jesus are wrong. The Holy Spirit is never wrong. Jesus did come to bring us peace. He came to bring us peace with God. As Romans 5 tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1) Christ came to reconcile us with the Father by dying for our sins and earning us forgiveness. That is why we have peace with God.
However, not everyone wants peace with God. Not everyone thinks that they need peace with God. There is thus no peace between those who have peace with God and those who do not have peace with God.
As Jesus says, He even divides families. He says, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
Those who do not have peace with God have always despised and hated those who do have peace with God. In others words, unbelievers have always despised and hated believers throughout history, even within families.
Within the same family, Cain despised his brother Abel and murdered him out of jealousy because God accepted Abel’s offering but not his. Abraham’s son, Ishmael, born of the slave woman also persecuted his brother Isaac, the son of promise. Esau sought to kill his brother Jacob who had received the blessing from their father Isaac. The church has and always will be persecuted by those outside of the church, even within the same household.
This is even seen in Jesus’ earthly family. At a time when His family did not believe in Him, Jesus’ own family came to seize Him from a crowd saying, “He is out of His mind.” They wanted to stop Jesus from teaching the crowds because they thought He was delusional. They set themselves up to oppose Jesus and His work. Those of His own household sought to seize Him and take Him away.
There is bound to be strife and hostility between believers and unbelievers, even within families. One group believes that there is nothing beyond the peace they can achieve on this earth. The other group looks ahead to eternal peace after this earth is destroyed, and is willing to sacrifice peace on earth for eternal peace with God.
The church on earth has thus often been called the church militant. It is a pipe dream to hope for peace for the church on earth because Christ’s church is the kingdom of truth in the middle of the world, which is a kingdom of lies. There is no rest for the church on earth as there is constant affliction due to unbelief. The rejection of truth results in tension, strife, and the persecution of believers.
Those who believe that there is nothing beyond the peace they can achieve on this earth do not want to hear God’s Law which tells them they are sinful. God’s Law is not a pleasant thing to hear. Hearing that what you want to do is wrong and sinful in God’s eyes makes the world angry and fills them with hatred. Nor do unbelievers want to hear that Jesus died for their sins. They hate that anyone would even suggest that they have any sins for which Jesus would need to die. Jesus is thus a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (I Peter 2:8).
The temptation for the church is to stop fighting. Just shrink back and keep quiet. Why should we trouble ourselves by speaking the truth and offending people? Why can’t we just keep quiet and keep our faith and confession to ourselves?
If we do, we cease to be the church of Christ. Once we stop fighting, we are already defeated. There is no rest for the church as there is constant affliction due to unbelief. There is no rest for the church because the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh will not stop fighting against what is true, holy, and righteous.
The Holy Spirit tells us through Saint Paul that it is even necessary that there are factions or divisions in the church. It is necessary that the church is divided and split so that those who are genuine may be recognized (I Cor. 11:19). This may be surprising, but divisions in the church reveal who is following the teaching of Christ and who is wandering off into the lies of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. Divisions in the church force people to examine what Scripture says and to pick a side. There is no fence sitting. As Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).
This really is not a complicated thing. Either we follow what God says in the Bible or we follow the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. We either are enemies with unbelievers, even if they are of our own household, or we are enemies with God. Either we prioritize peace with God or we prioritize peace on earth.
The thing about peace on earth is that it will never happen. We can avoid some conflicts, but others are unavoidable. We can avoid confronting sin that we see in our family, but then it sits there and festers and soon takes over entirely and then it is too late for our family. We can shrink back and keep quiet about the evils going on in our society to avoid offending people, but those evils are going to take over our society, and those same people we wanted to avoid offending will come after us and seek our destruction and the destruction of the church that follows what God says in His Word. This will happen because unbelievers have always despised and hated the church since the time of Cain and Abel and they will not stop until the earth is burned up with fire on Judgement Day.
There is no hope for peace on earth. Our hope is in heaven. Our hope is in heaven, because despite those times that we have kept quiet when we should have spoken, we have the blood of Christ covering our sins. Despite those times we have sought peace on earth instead of peace with God, Christ Himself is our peace. Despite those times we have fallen into following the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, we have the forgiveness of sins because Jesus died for us. Thus we have peace with God.
We have peace with God because He will not charge us with the offences we have committed. Christ was charged with all our offences and paid the penalty that we deserve. Christ has released us from the Law which held us captive and we have peace with God. God is not angry or wrathful towards us because we are no longer His enemies but are at peace with Him through our Saviour.
Thus, yes, as prophesied in the Old Testament, our Saviour is the Prince of Peace. There will be no end of peace in His kingdom. Christ has guided our feet into the way of peace. No strife or conflict on earth can take away the eternal peace we have with God. Our sins and iniquities cannot take away our peace with God because Jesus has taken our sins away from us. Even on this earth which has no peace, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.