7:03 PM

Matthew 10:34-36 - Lauren

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." How does such a statement reconcile with the image of Christ as Prince of Peace who praises peacemakers in Matthew 5? Has Jesus come to unite or to divide?

This sentiment of bringing the sword and dividing family members appears also in Luke 12:51, 53 as well as in the story of the second horse in Revelation 6. Similar language appears in the OT in Micah 7:6. This striking language, then, is not unique to Matthew. Davies and Allison speak of v. 34-36 in an eschatological fashion. Jesus is making it clear that his presence on the earth does not immediately usher in the promised time of eschatological peace. Rather, his coming exacerbates tensions and drives a time of intense tribulation (218-19). Jesus comes and divides the faithful from the unbelieving in shocking ways, as if familial ties were being destroyed with a sword. Luz focuses again on this dividing of family members. The image presented in v. 34-36 is one of the most radical love, in which home, family, possessions are counted as nothing in comparison with Christ (111). The most intimate of human bonds will be strained and must be counted as secondary in importance to the Lord.

These interpretations certainly shed light on the intensity of these verses for me, the absolute primacy of Christ above all things. However, I still find the image of the sword and the tossing aside of peace troubling. Earlier in this very chapter (v. 13), Jesus was speaking of the disciples' peace during their travels! If the author of Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience who has been waiting for a military Messiah, to what degree must we look at this passage in that light? Could such an image of sword have been incorporated into Jesus' discourse in order to appeal to these Jews?

Comment (1)

Why do you think Christians should be suspicious of the family? I imagine Jesus does not mean that he has come to set his disciples against one another. Is there something particular about the family that makes it ripe for division in the face of Jesus?

I'm intrigued by your suggestion that this talk of the sword might have appealed to Jews ready to oppose Rome with violence. In *The Politics of Jesus,* Yoder makes the case that most of Jesus' disciples seem to have come from among such Jews. Clearly Jesus maintained a discourse of intense resistance, though one might ask if recourse to violence would have been resistant enough for Jesus. Jesus' words themselves also seem to have divided, as listeners seem to have heard very different claims in the same words.

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