Sunday, July 02, 2023

Matthew 10:34-42; The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; July 2, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Coming back from vacation is always a shock to the system. You know how it feels. You always feel more exhausted than when you left. You have a mountain of work to do to catch up on (I had over 700 eMails to dig through… so much for AntiSpam software!). I must admit it would have been nice to have an easy week, something light weight to think about, but no… I sat down on Tuesday morning to study the lessons for today and look what I found…
34"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

You know, life would be much easier if Jesus hadn’t said things like, “I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” It really doesn’t sound much like “good news” does it? To you and me and our everyday lives “good news” would be an end to conflict, and an end to trouble. And just try to explain words like this to those skeptical relatives that we all have. You know; those people who would just love to point a verse like this and ask you to explain what Jesus means. What are you going to say?

After all, when I read it, it sure sounds like Jesus, the “prince of peace,” says that he’s come to bring strife and trouble into our lives and not only that but to break up our families… Listen again; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. …to set children against their parents, parents against their children. He’s come to make enemies inside of families. It’s a difficult verse for us to swallow. Jesus can’t mean what he’s saying, can he? Does Jesus, the baby in the manger sleeping in “heavenly peace” surrounded by angels singing about peace on earth, bring peace or strife?

Well, many people believe that Jesus comes to bring peace. In fact, in general people, even those who don’t call themselves Christian think highly of Jesus. They love Jesus when He tells stories about how to get along with each other, and to care for those who are less fortunate than we are. They love Jesus when He says, “love your enemies.” They love Jesus when He tells a good story about how we should care for other people, like the “Good Samaritan.” But they don’t want to hear from Jesus when He says that without Him, without His death on the cross, they are lost. They don’t want to hear Jesus when He says that without Him, they face an eternity of God’s punishment in hell. People don’t what to hear Jesus when he says stuff that causes conflict and trouble.

Think about the family that peacefully co-exists with one another, until one of them becomes a Christian. Suddenly the family is in conflict. Those who don’t know Jesus don’t want to hear about Him as their only Savior. They don’t want to hear about sin and repentance. They don’t want to hear about changing their lives to conform to God’s will. From the outside, from the world’s point of view this family was better off before the “good news” came to them. The members of the family will push the new believer to compromise and leave them alone, “for the sake of peace.” “You keep your Jesus to yourself.” The problem is, Jesus calls us all to be witnesses of what He has done. He calls us all to bring the life saving Word of Jesus to those who don’t know Him. He never promises that it will be easy. He does call us to be faithful.

There was an event that happened over 500 years ago, on June 25. The reformers faced the Holy Roman Emporer Charles. He demanded they give up the Gospel they had discovered. They stood in the face of certain death to testify about the truth of Jesus. It would have been easier, more peaceful, to compromise their faith. Instead they confessed what the bible teaches about Jesus clearly and strongly. Some of the most important words confessed that day were these:

Our Churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by there own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight. (Romans 3:21-26; 4:5);

But don’t think that they were successful because they had the power in themselves to confess Jesus to kings. They were clinging to the promise of Jesus. A promise that He also makes to us today in this text. After all, if all Jesus said to us today was that there would be conflict that wouldn’t be very much good news. Listen again to what Jesus says:
40"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. 42And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matt 10:34-42, ESV)

At first you might miss the promise here. But look carefully at what He says. Whoever receives you receives me. You see, Jesus doesn’t expect you to go out there and speak about Him by yourself. In fact, He knows exactly how difficult it is. He knows how you’d rather keep silent at work when people speak about Jesus, because you don’t want to cause problems. He knows how you’d rather “keep your Jesus to yourself” during family discussions to keep the peace. He knows you’d rather not speak about the errors in other denominations for the sake of community togetherness. But Jesus promises to be with you at all the time. He promises that when you speak the truth about Him and what His Word teaches, He’s right there with you. It’s the same promise He gives at the end of St. Matthews Gospel:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

If Jesus says He’s always with you that means always. That’s Jesus right there with you during the discussions in the break room at work. That’s Jesus right there with you around the family table. That’s Jesus right there with you at the community coffee table.

The real good news is this. Jesus is with you… always. And even though Jesus wants us to speak up, He’s not going to skip out on you because you get cold feet. He’s not going to punish you because you get weak kneed and fail to proclaim Him in public. You and I are sinful people we fail all the time. That’s why we need a Savior. That’s why Jesus lived a life that was always headed for the cross. He didn’t just die on the cross; He died on the cross on purpose. When He was pinned up there on the wood, He had you in His heart and your failures and sins on His shoulders. He died to take your sins away and give you a new life free from sin. That’s what St. Paul was talking about. Through faith in Jesus Baptism makes you dead to sin. Dead as Jesus was in the tomb. Dead as all sin deserves. That’s how you were with Jesus on the cross, dying to sin. That’s how He is with you now living a life that isn’t controlled by sin. You are alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:1-11) Not alone, ever.

So, you know what? You’re going to see some conflict when you talk about Jesus, when you dare to confess the truth about Him. That’s ok, that’s to be expected. In a way it means that you’re on the right track. Martin Luther once said that when everything was going smoothly in his life, he worried that he wasn’t doing anything to get Satan’s notice. The thing to remember is that Jesus is with you, He has given you a new life through baptism into His life and death and resurrection. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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