Matthew 10: 34-42, Christ brings Division
General Idea: This passage concludes the training exercise Jesus is giving His disciples. Christ came to give us peace. However, we often turn it into strife. Hostility towards what is good and righteous will wage against us as sin seeks its triumph and rationalizes its place. So, what is true will be turned into what is not, causing divisions even amongst friends and family! The peace is there for anyone to grab and hold on to; yet, all too often, people refuse it!
The cost of surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ is high! It was high for God, and it can be difficult and troublesome for us as well--troublesome as in how the ways of the world will come against us. But, remember, our faith is wonderful because our security is in Him. If we do not seize the peace, we will have trepidation in life and disconnect from God. This can cause fear and apprehension in the life of an unbeliever as he wonders if he should choose this Way, and even to the Christian who fears what might happen if he surrenders his all. The good news is the Cup of Cold Water we are given; this is the fact that we are precious and acceptable to God, and He has our best in His Will. We do not need to fear; He will care for us no matter what we face or give up. Christ is with us, holding us in His arms of Love.
1. Do not think. Most Christians naturally assume all will be well, as the plan for us is good and wonderful. And, this is true. But, what God sees is what is good--Character, relationships and spiritual growth. This competes with what we see as good--possessions and power. Strife will result, as convictions and assumptions clash with Truth.
a. Most Christians are getting bad theology from the airways and even the church, with the thinking that God will not allow suffering or hardship if we have enough faith. But, when you read the Bible, you see that the opposite is true; hardship built character and maturity in the lives of the persons in the Bible (Luke 14:25-33).
b. God is much more concerned with our spiritual growth, maturity, and character than anything else. Our focus is on comfort; His focus is on how to sanctify and perfect us, not to please and pamper us!
c. A man against his father refers to the rebelliousness and strife in Jewish history toward God, which affects families and relationships greatly. This was most evident during the rein of Ahaz (2 Kings 15:36-23:14). Yet, Jesus is still bringing us rest and peace (Matt. 11:29)!
i. The Early Christians and traditional Jewish thinking believed that sufferings would become more intense towards the end of days, as Revelation tells us.
ii. The Jews saw the Messiah as the One to lead a war to end suffering and persecution, and to bring peace. The Messiah did just that; but His peace is our spiritual comfort and security, not our physical comfort. Jesus is saying this peace of physical comfort is some time in the future, and not to take our comfort in that.
d. The nature of conflict is the collision of presumptions and wills. When our eyes are on His Will, and our presumptions are sequestered under His precepts, we will see only the strife caused by the Gospel!
e. Micah, 7:6, describes the terrible tribulations to come and that the evils in the land will lead to untrusting relations and conflict. Micah, 7:7, shows us our Hope!
2. Love His father more. This does not mean we are to ignore our family and friends, or hate them; we are still called to build them up (1 Tim. 5:8). Rather, this means we are not to put others before the Lord (Phil. 2:12)!
a. Our validation is who we are in Christ, not what we have or want.
b. Christ is our vindication; knowing this will prevent most of our quarrels as our eyes will be on Him and not on our desires.
c. The only One who could demand greater love was God, this being another statement for Jesus' divinity.
d. This passage goes against the grain of most Christian mindsets, as it did when Jesus first gave it (Luke 14:26).
i. For a Jew, being a good parent was the highest call, and family was sacred (Duet. 6:4-7; 13:6-11; 2 Maccabees 7:22-23).
ii. Jesus is demanding our allegiance and loyalty beyond anything else. Nothing must be in His way, the way of Christ working in you and using you (Gal. 1:10)!
e. The Gospel will bring peace. But, to those who oppose it, strife will fill the gap and it will boomerang back to the doer of the Word.
i. We have to be prepared that we will offend and cause strife in Christ's name (John 15:18-20; Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:4; 2 Tim. 3:12).
ii. At the same time, we need to be diplomatic, and model the Fruits of the Spirit. We must be as kind and as loving as possible so to hold back as much conflict as possible. We do not deliberately cause it, yet we know we may do so merely by being His representative.
f. Cross, refers to the crossbeam (not the entire cross) that a criminal would carry to his crucifixion and death (See article on the crucifixion of Jesus), penitently going to a shameful and painful end. He would endure a mob of people cheering for his death as well as his horrified family members. It is a picture of what Christians go through in life with antagonistic people reviling in the prospect of our suffering, seeking to destroy us.
i. This is another illustration that shows us the importance of obedience and trust in Him.
ii. We are to be identified with Christ even if it means losing our life. This is not a burden that we pick up on His behalf or that God imposes upon us; rather, it is a joy to serve because of what He does for us (James 1:2-4).
iii. It is simply the joy and wonder of trusting and obeying Him!
g. He who finds his life. The Jews often contrasted life on earth with the life to come.
3. He who receives you. This continues the theme of verses 11-14, as the principle of hospitality may be not offered by those antagonistic towards God.
a. As His representatives and ambassadors, we model and embody Christ; thus, what is done to us is also done to Him!
i. We are commissioned to be His body on earth, collectively as the Church, and individually, each living out His call and precepts.
ii. In ancient times, when one received an emissary, he was receiving the person who sent him.
b. The prophets were also God's representatives (Num. 14:2; 11; 16:11;
1 Sam. 8:7). God hates those who misrepresent Him (Jer 26-30-pay close attention to 28:8-9). Those who listened to and embraced the prophets also embraced God's Will. Those who provided for the prophets were rewarded by God (1 Kings 17:9-24; 2 Kings 4:8-37).
c. A righteous man emphasizes the fact that we as Christians are in Christ, and when someone receives us, they receive Him. When they reject us (provided we are following His call and character), then they also reject Him.
d. Little ones. Although referring to children as in need, dependent and helpless, this phrase refers to all that follow Jesus, not just kids. As Christians, we are like children, dependent on God (Matt. 18:1-6; 10-14).
e. A cup of cold water was the most highly praised and most difficult gift to give. Remember, there were no ice machines; they had to go climb a mountain and bring it back, taking weeks of incredible effort. It is also the best gift a poor person was able to give, since one did not buy it, but rather went out and got it.
f. Reward tells us the importance of being hospitable to His children. We are all to consider assisting, helping, motivating, encouraging, and providing for others as significant calls and ministries. These are not to be secondary after thoughts! All too often, we ignore other's needs and only see to our own needs. How sad that is!
John tells us that He must increase and we must decrease (John 3:29-30). If we refuse this vital call, God just may allow those hardships to come our way, breaking us down so we will yield and grow as His child. Just as a good loving parent will discipline his child, we, too, will receive discipline. But, this is not a personal attack; rather it is a way we can grow and be better used by our Lord (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23-24; 1 Pet. 1:5). We have to be willing to be identified with Him no matter what the cost, as the rewards will be far greater than we could ever imagine! So, are you willing to reduce yourself to the real you? The person as you are called by Jesus Christ to be? So that He is greater in character and precepts in your trust and faith, and in your obedience and application of life? And, so you become less in your will, aspirations, lust, and sin? If not, what is in the way of God working in you?
1. If you had known ahead of time all the pain and suffering you would or could go through as a Christian, would you have made the commitment of faith in Him? Why, or why not? (Have you wondered why God does not tell us what is ahead in life? Perhaps the reason is that we are not ready for it and could not handle it.)
2. How is it that we (humanity) are the ones who turn peace into strife?
3. What are some examples you have observed of hostility toward what is good and righteous? What were the reasons?
4. If we do not seize the peace, we will have trepidation in life and disconnect from God. Have you experienced this? How so?
5. Why do most Christians naturally assume all will be well, believing the plan for us is good and wonderful?
6. What does God see as good, and how does it compare with what we see as good? Who needs to change?
7. What are some of the convictions and assumptions, from your life or the lives of others you have observed, that clash with Truth?
8. Why do you feel that God is much more concerned with your spiritual growth, maturity, and character than with your comfort? Why is that?
9. What is the nature of conflict? How can you help squelch it?
10. How have you put others before the Lord? How can you achieve a balance to love and honor family, and still put the Lord in first place?
11. Our validation is who we are in Christ, not what we have or want. How can knowing this help you weather the storms of life?
12. Does Jesus need to demand your allegiance and loyalty, or does He already have it?
13. Have you ever considered that you are His representative and ambassador when you model and embody Christ; thus, what is done to you is also done to Him? How does this make you feel? How does this give you strength and perseverance?
14. Why would God hate those who misrepresent Him? Then, why do so many people in Church leadership do so?
15. As Christians, how are we like children, as in being dependent, for example?
16. Does your church consider that assisting, helping, motivating, encouraging, and providing for others are significant calls and ministries we all are to do? If not, why?
17. Read John 3:29-30. What does God want you to do with this passage?
18. What do you need to do to initiate that He must increase and you must decrease? What would that mean and look like?
19. Why is it hard to be willing to be identified with Him no matter what the cost? What can you and your church do to help facilitate you to yield and grow as His child?
20. Are you willing to reduce yourself to the real, called by Jesus Christ "me"? If not, what is in the way?
© 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org