To Bring a Sword on the Earth
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
The cross stands as a silent sentinel proclaiming that you have to come God’s way – or you won’t come at all. Many people cling to the filthy rags of their own righteousness and then wonder why God won’t take them in. The cross stands in judgment over the sinful pride of the human race. Just as Christ was stripped of his robe before he died, even so we must be stripped of ours.
When Christ died, he didn’t die alone. Two thieves died with him. We often focus on the thief who cried out, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” We know that man was saved because Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). But there was another man hanging beside Jesus. He cursed and swore and blasphemed the Son of God. He died as he had lived, a wretched sinner, unforgiven.
One thief was saved – that none would despair.
One thief was lost – that none would presume.
The cross that saved the one doomed the other. Jesus spoke of this truth when he declared, ‘‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). These words shatter the popular notion that Jesus came to make us feel better about ourselves. The exact opposite would be closer to reality. Jesus is the great divider of humanity. He came to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother (Matthew 10:35). As hard as those words sound, they come from the lips of Jesus himself. We dare not ignore them or water them down. The cross judges the world—and every one of us individually—by confronting us with our sin, calling us to repentance, and challenging us to a higher allegiance than anything we have known before. And then to top it off, Jesus calls us to “take up the cross” and follow him. Those who will not do it are not worthy of him (Matthew 10:38). These are strong and even troubling words. Most of us will spend a lifetime trying to understand what they mean. Those who choose the way of the cross, though it is filled with pain and difficulty, will save their lives. Those who reject the way of the cross will lose all they have lived for.
Jesus calls us from the cross and he calls us to the cross. Those who will not heed his call will hate him all the more. And they stand condemned by the very cross that would have saved them.
Lord Jesus, may I never be ashamed to follow you even when the road leads to a cross. Amen.