Readers Question / Comment - What did Jesus mean by saying that He came to bring a sword, not peace?

Dear Iain,

How are you doing?

Would you be so kind to explain to me the meaning of Matthew 10:34-36, please?

What did Jesus mean that He came to bring not peace but a sword?

Many blessings to you,

Claudia


JPN Reply:

Hi Claudia,

Merry Christmas and yeah, I'm doing fine thanks! Hope things are well with you.

Matthew 10:34-36 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.'

It is important to read this in the context of what the Jewish expectation of the Messiah was at the time. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came He would bring in peace. They were looking for the Messiah that would setup His kingdom and fulfill the great prophecies like Isaiah 11:1-11. Even today the Rabbi's still use this as an argument for why Jesus can't be the Messiah. For example:

Rabbi Tovia Singer argues, “If Jesus were the Messiah, you would know it from reading the newspaper, because the front page, instead of being about wars, would be about peace. But since Jesus’ time until today, more than one hundred and twenty million people have died in wars.”

In addition, Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi says that when the Messiah will come, “There will be no more wars in the world, everyone will dwell in peace and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.”

From : https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/jesus-really-messiah-come-no-world-peace/

Jesus of course knew exactly what His first coming was for, and also what would happen at His second. He knew that He came first of all to die for the sins of mankind (thus bringing the believer peace with God) and it would not be until His return at the second coming that He would bring the peace to Israel and the world that was hoped for at that time.

So in Mathew 10:34-36 Jesus was expressing this misunderstanding about His first coming. It wasn't one that would bring the peace that many expected but one that would bring division. It would actually turn one against another, even within families. That was the case for first century believers and is still the case today. If a Jew believes in Jesus and departs from Judaism they can be cut off from the family. Same with Hindus (although this can get more violent). Muslim believers who depart Islam and become a Christian can even be tried for blasphemy and executed in some countries! So Jesus was stating the reality of what faith in Him would mean for many. It is not that He desires division or conflict, but He knew that would be the result for many who believed in Him.

Now we shouldn't think that Jesus was talking about a literal 'sword' or inciting violence like Muhammad did though. He was talking about the division believing in His name would bring and the need to be willing to make and suffer that cost. That is why He goes on to say:

Matthew 10:37-38 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; (38) and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Following Jesus, for many, is a dangerous and risky proposition. Then and now. It brings division within families and even communities in many cases. But that is the price believers need to be willing to pay.

Also have a look here:

https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-sword.html

Hope this helps,

Iain.