In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Judica, Lent 5
March 28, 2004
Text: Matthew 10:32-42
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34 ” Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. 40 ” He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear friends in Christ,
Sometimes the only way to peace is through war. In 1914 it didn’t matter that the Belgians did not want war against Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The German army invaded Belgium. The Belgians, in order to protect and defend their country, responded with their own army. It was not that Belgium wanted war with Germany; far from it. But Germany’s aggression forced war on Belgium.
When cancer attacks your body, it has declared war against your health and it seeks to kill you. The cancer itself must be attacked in order to save your body. Therefore weapons are arrayed against the cancer: chemicals, radiation, and perhaps surgery. Cancer will not surrender without a fight. It does not respond to kind words asking it to go away.
Jesus was born into this world under the angelic headline: Peace on earth! Jesus came to bring peace between God and man. Yet within months of being born, this baby was marked by King Herod for death. We find that God’s plan for salvation, the sending of His only-begotten Son in human flesh and blood to take on our sin, is a plan that is attacked by the world, and by the prince of this world, Satan. The attacks against Jesus would grow especially prominent as He started in to His public ministry. Some tried to stone Him to death for blasphemy, for claiming to be God. Others called Him the devil because of His power over devils. Others made fun of Him for eating with “sinners.” Finally, we know that Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus to His enemies, thereby bringing Jesus to the cross. The life of Jesus is as the psalmist wrote: “My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war” (Ps 120:6,7).
Jesus tells us, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Why must it be a sword? Because the enemies of Jesus cannot stand to allow His kingdom to come to us. The enemies of Jesus attacked Him while He walked this earth. And Jesus teaches: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
This is not paranoia on the part of Jesus. He understood the nature of His work here on earth. It was not some pleasant task of just being nice to people. But His work was a dirty work; a work filled with struggle, with temptation, with sickness and death, with all the poisons of Satan and the demons directed at Jesus. Jesus’ life on earth was not all sunshine and daisies. Even though He is the Light of the world, His time on earth was a time of darkness, and most especially the last week that led to the cross, Holy Week. Jesus would tell those who arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
So Jesus must warn us: “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’.” What will cause such civil war? It is the Gospel. It is the truth of God’s Word. With Jesus there is no middle ground, no neutrality. He says, “He who is not with me is against Me.” If we fail to understand this, if we think that we can have Jesus without consequences, then we do not yet feel the weight of the cross in our lives.
If we seek to accommodate the agendas of this world with the truth of Jesus, then we will not offend, we will not be salt in the wounds of the world, we will simply be weak, watery tea. If we fail to confess Christ with the boldness and vigor His Gospel deserves in the face of those who will deny Christ and the salvation He offers, we will deserve the judgment found in Revelation against the church of the Laodiceans: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev 3:15,16). “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”
God knows our abilities. He knows that we have our fears in this world. He knows that the life of His people in this world is not easy. The Holy Spirit Himself prays for us just like Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, even though He knew he would soon deny Him. Yet Peter was restored to faith. Peter knew he failed and he wept bitterly over it. But he did not stay away from Jesus. And Jesus did not stay away from Peter. Our Savior forgave Peter and was able to use him and give him great boldness.
We can all find times in our lives when we did not confess our Savior as we should have. We feared the laughter of friends. We feared the ridicule. We feared to be different. All these fears we bring to Jesus. His suffering and death on the cross was for these sins, too. The absolution includes our sins of denial. You are forgiven.
Our Savior does not leave us forsaken here. He gives us the Gospel by which our fears and weaknesses, our sins of whatever kind, are washed away by the blood of Christ. The Word is brought to us to encourage us in our faith, to strengthen us, to give us the knowledge that our Savior loves us even in our frailties. He does not ask us to be as strong as He is. He asks us to trust Him to carry us through whatever comes our way. He teaches us to pray for the doing of the will of God: “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will, which would not let us hallow His name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world and our own flesh.”
Devil, world, and flesh conspired against Jesus. The powers of darkness sought to extinguish His light forever, and in that way to keep us all enslaved to shame and eternal death. Jesus came to bring war, not peace but a sword, on these enemies, so that you and I can have peace. Jesus came for us even though we are born in sin, born as soldiers on the other side.
Listen to our Lord’s exhortation today. He speaks so that we rely on Him, on His power and strength. He does not intend for us to try to do this on our own. He knows us too well to demand that of us. No, He simply says, “follow Me.” Trust Him. Rely on His lovingkindness for you. He will remember you, and confess you before our Father who art in heaven.
My manifold transgression
Henceforth can harm me none
Since Jesus’ bloody Passion
For me God’s grace hath won.
His precious blood my debts hath paid;
Of hell and all its torments
I am no more afraid. (ELH 276:3) Amen.