Reading: Matthew 10. 26-39
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 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—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
In this passage Jesus is talking about how much it would cost to be his disciple. But, in a sense, it sounds strange and doesn’t encourage at all to follow him, as if he says “People will hate you, persecute you and even kill you. You must be prepared, and do not be afraid.” Then, question is why should we get hated and ridiculed and persecuted, when we try to deliver the ‘Good News’? If it is the ‘good news’ to all, why isn’t everybody pleased with it, and doesn’t welcome it? Well, it’s not that simple. It is because this Good News is always preceded by some uncomfortable or unpleasant news, the news people don’t want to hear, that is, the news that we are all sinful and therefore, need a saviour. And, not everyone likes to hear this news. They don’t like it, because in order to accept a saviour, they have to accept their own moral or spiritual bankruptcy. They have to confess it. So, it is not an easy process, and that is why Jesus says in verse 34, “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”. To be honest, it’s not easy to understand. It seems contradictory, because we know him as the Prince of peace. And, he himself said in John 14, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’.
Then, what does it mean, when he said ‘I did not come to bring peace, but a sword? Here, we need to look at carefully the meaning of peace.
What it means is that peace is not the absence of conflict, or being silent as if nothing happened at all. Rather, it is doing something actively to solve the conflict, which will lead to make peace. That is the real peace. Therefore, this peace-making process will probably get us into trouble from all sides. It can be mocking, persecution or cutting off. In that sense, we must be prepared to face all sorts of divisions and conflicts inevitably, and even among household, as Jesus said in this passage. As for this matter of family division, you may find it difficult to accept. However, what is clear is that your Father knows you and he is the one who can count even the hairs of your head. You are worth much more than sparrows. That is his promise, not only for the future, but for the present as well.
Discipleship is a long journey, costly and tough. Yet, Jesus asks us to ‘tread the path he trod, live the life he lived, face the death he faced, love the way he loved, and shout the truth he spoke. In return, he offers us no less than everything – to be loved totally, known intimately, and held always before God. Amen.
Lord, help us to share the challenges of discipleship. Help us to support each other, and unite us in your steadfast goodness. Strengthen and envision us to face the challenges ahead, and may we faithfully play our part in your mission to this world. Amen.