Jesus warned that He would cause conflict
Matthew 10:28, 34-36, 38
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…
… “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
Jesus was pretty up-front about the reality of hostile reactions — not everybody sees the Good News as good for them, especially if it threatens their status quo in some way.
Even families, He said, would be divided about what He represented.
Saying that He did not come to bring peace presents us with a problem. What, then, He did come to bring?
Foretold as the “Prince of Peace” with government on His shoulders1, Jesus was announced as Saviour and Messiah by an angel accompanied by a heavenly host praising God for the One bringing peace to those on who His favour rests2.
This is a fundamental truth and expectation — that “The Lord blesses His people with peace”3. In His final long discourse to the disciples, He promised them: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you… not… as the world gives”4.
But there’s a clue in the “not as the world gives” phrase, easily overlooked. So let’s look at it.
Peace with God is taking a position against the one who opposes God. Peace with God by definition is a rejection of Satan and his control — and that puts up a target for all the retributions Satan is known for, like confusion, conflict and slander.
Wind back the story three years and we have Jesus fasting alone in the wilderness, and having a series of encounters with Satan5. In the third and final of these confrontations, Satan shows Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour”6, and he goes on to say, that if Jesus would worship him (Satan) instead of His Father, he would (so he said – but he is is a liar on every occasion) allow Jesus control of those power structures.
There’s a lot of power and control in the world’s systems and institutions where sin, corruption and lack of submission to God puts them at the disposal of the devil. These might be human kings or rulers, and they might even be religious leaders — the Temple and Sanhedrin council was a case in point — but Satan had all he needed to pull their strings and use them for harm, and not for good. We see this same strategy today.
Jesus the Prince of Peace and proclaimer of justice to the nations7 is resurrected and ascended to heaven as Lord of Lords and also as Great High Priest. So our allegiance and deference to Jesus — just by itself — stands in opposition to every strand of ungodly control and corrupt administration, in the world or, sadly, in the less spiritual and more institutional dimensions of Christian religion..
Why does that mean His disciples will encounter conflict rather than His peace?
- Many people will receive Him and respond to His love and the grace of His acceptance. However some will react against to the Lordship dimension of this.
- Jesus in you or me — the Holy Spirit one with our human spirit — will stir up opposition from every spirit that is not submitted to Him. It is an unseen, unspoken, spiritual stand-off.
- The mention of Jesus, as well as the presence of Jesus, brings into focus the reality of two spiritual kingdoms which are opposed. The kingdom of darkness is exposed by Jesus’ kingdom of light. Jesus taught about the “strong man’s house” and Satan’s kingdom,8 and went on to say, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me”,9. With Jesus, the common philosophy of the world is overturned: everything is not relative, there no middle ground, there exists no variety of paths to the truth. It is light or darkness, Him or the enemy of our souls!
That said, Jesus as Lord confers peace, wholeness, spiritual prosperity and inner joy on to those who are His. It is like joining a regiment on the front line: being shot at by the enemy is what happens — but this is a uniquely well supported and equipped regiment, led personally by the most highly decorated and personable commanding officer, who also has an unmatched record of victory.