“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” -Matthew 10:34
The essence of Christmas is Immanuel. Christmas as an historical event can, of course, never be repeated. Mary and Joseph went to the city of David nearly two thousand years ago and there Mary was delivered of the holy child, Jesus, the Christ, was born. The prophesied Prince of Peace had come and His birth was announced by the host of heaven and the one brilliant star that appeared, disappeared and reappeared. The historical event can never be repeated as event for the unique historical situations need never be repeated.
But Christmas can be preached and is preached throughout the ages. The Christ of glory declares the essence, meaning and purpose of His birth, His coming, through preaching of the gospel of peace. We rejoice in His birth because He is ever with us. His birth is meaningless, if His promise is not true; “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Thus, how must we view the words of Matthew 10:34. Note that, in the first place, Jesus forbids His disciples to “think” that He had come to send peace. Secondly, Jesus assures the disciples that the purpose of Christmas is that He is come to send a sword. Strange words spoken by the Prince of Peace. Paradoxical? Only apparently so!
Jesus is certainly the Prince of Peace throughout history and all eternity. Jesus sends and brings peace to His own by the power of His Spirit and on the basis of the power of His atoning blood. He carried away all the wrath of God towards His own. All the elect, the Church, which had been given to Jesus, the Christ, from eternity, are the ungodly whom God declares justified on the basis of the shed blood of the Head of the Church. Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Abiding peace…for the Church in the world of sin and throughout all eternity.
But there is another kind of “peace”. Of this other peace Jesus is speaking in Mt. 10:34. Earthly peace it might be called. It would be the result of the removal of all hatred, strife and war from among men and nations. Man is at war with himself, for he is an enemy of God and his neighbor. The natural man and all humanity is ethically one; humanity is corrupt, depraved, dead in sin. This ethical oneness of humanity occasions and causes and manifests itself in hatred, bitterness and strife among men.
Jesus has not come to send peace on the earth. Not an earthly peace. He has come to send division and the sword.
From the context of Mt. 10:34 it is plain why Jesus spoke these words. He had just commissioned His disciples to preach the gospel to the lost sheep of Israel. The disciples had entertained the idea of the establishment of an earthly Kingdom of peace, with Jesus as King. The disciples envisioned a glorious Kingdom exceeding even the glory of Solomon’s kingdom. For the King, Jesus, had power to heal the sick, to cast out devils, feed thousands with just a few loaves of bread. The disciples were more than eager to go out and declare the gospel of physical amelioration, their social gospel. But when Christ warned them that their preaching of His gospel might occasion their death, the disciples were undoubtedly mystified. Thus Jesus says: Think not! He understood their perplexity. The disciples had figured that Jesus came to establish an earthly kingdom of earthly peace, which all men everywhere would gladly rejoice in and, therefore, not be offended by their preaching. Thus Jesus attempted to remove their misunderstanding by warning “that I am not come to send peace on earth…but a sword.
Not peace, but a sword I am come to send. What did Jesus mean with this term “sword.” The sword is used symbolically for tension, strife and war. Jesus had come to send division. (Luke 12:51) Christmas brings the everlasting division between men. There are in every age those forces that stand in opposition expressed by the terms: faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience, the lie and the truth, light and darkness, Christ and anti-christ, Christian and anti-christian. This division is always a spiritual warfare. This spiritual warfare is between the true Church and the false church, believer and unbeliever in any particular family, and between the old and new man within the one saint.
This struggle is life long and throughout all ages to the end of time. Never will there be an earthly peace and a kingdom of Christ of this world. Many desire it. Most preach it. But they who preach a Kingdom of Christ of this world, or a social gospel, must of necessity experience disillusionment and frustration. Total disillusionment comes “when” every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.” Not their purpose, but His is ever accomplished.
This struggle throughout the ages is the evidence that God has in grace caused the seed of the woman to hate the Devil, the lie, and sin on the one hand, and on the other to love Him, the truth, and the Christ. In the beginning, after the fall, the first declaration of the gospel takes the form of God’s act of “putting enmity” between two seeds. Christ came to bring that division among men. Whenever and wherever Christmas is preached, there division results. This dark side of Christmas is the shadow that is inseparably joined to Christ’s work as the Savior of humanity, the elect Church.
The disciples had to learn this. The disciples were called as Christ’s heralds to serve this purpose of the Sender Peter and John s.mn learned this after Pentecost for “they had called the apostles and beaten them.” (Acts 5:40) Paul must have learned this when he was left for dead after having been stoned in the streets of Lystra. Remember the beautiful sermon Stephen preached.
This lesson we must learn.
Every preacher of the gospel must willingly, through his preaching serve “the sending of the sword” tor this is the purpose of Christ’s coming, Christmas. It is the Church’s calling to be submissive to the King who came to send division. Preaching that leads to a compromise of the truth and to peace with the unbeliever is a gross disservice to Christ.
Why does the preaching of the gospel of the Christ bring division? Because through Sovereign grace, only some persons according to God’s purpose of election are drawn out of the ethical corruption, depravity and death: and drawn into the fellowship of God in Christ. Only some are so blessed. Those whom God is not pleased to draw into the light and the fellowship of Christ are left in their sin and corruption which death they love. Therefore, the result of Christ’s work is spiritual warfare between two peoples: Ables and Cains. Jacobs and Esaus; faith and unbelief which is a reflection of God’s election and reprobation.
The nominal church is troubled by his teaching of Christ…I am come to send a sword. The apostatizing church would attempt to explain this truth away. But Christ’s purpose cannot be denied Him nor undone, for He is the living Lord to whom all power and glory hath been given. His purpose is ever accomplished. Tension, strife, and war follow the footsteps of the Christ as He goes forth in all ages declaring the purpose of His coming…of Christmas. Church history testifies to the truth of Christ’s teaching. In the world ye will have tribulation. The servant is not greater than his Master. Even as they hated the Christ, they will hate and persecute the Master’s brethren. Christ’s preaching occasioned His death. Our preaching occasions the persecution of His Church.
Christmas brings everlasting division.
It would be good to think about these things as you do your Christmas shopping. Everywhere music, laughter, gaiety, and shouts of “Merry Christmas”. But it is all a facade. Many shout “Merry Christmas” only because they have distorted and corrupted the idea, meaning and purpose of Christmas for themselves. Is it possible that in Hell some will rethink this expression and ask themselves why they had formerly spoke of a Merry Christmas? The reprobate world is a seething cauldron of iniquity and hatred toward God and His Christ. This hatred is awakened by the preaching of the Church.