- Sacred Music
The 4th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
JUNE 28, 2020
# 685 “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” (st. 1, 2, & 4)
# 688 “Come Follow Me,” the Savior Spake (st. 1, 2, & 4)
# 696 “O God, My Faithful God” (st. 1, 3, & 4)
Almighty God, by the working of Your Holy Spirit, grant that we may gladly hear Your Word proclaimed among us and follow its directing; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
“Bad Peace, Good Peace”
June 28, 2020
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Now, here’s a Gospel lesson you may not have expected: Jesus comes to break up families and turn them against each other. Don’t take my word for it — take His: 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 (Mt. 10:34-36). Jesus declares that He has come to break up families. Just wait until your nephew, the skeptic, asks you to explain this one. What are you going to say?
First off, we rejoice that our Lord brings this strife, for-believe it or not-it is good news. Our Lord makes this joyful proclamation today: He comes to defeat bad peace with good strife.
Perhaps we ought to take a closer look at today’s Gospel lesson.
Our first clue in understanding what Jesus means is this: When Jesus speaks of turning families against each other, He is quoting an Old Testament prophecy from Micah. In the book of Micah, the prophet decries the sinfulness and the rebellion of Israel against God. Rejection of God’s Word has led to many terrible consequences in society.
On the national level, rulers are corrupt and judges are easily bribed; because the authorities are crooked, there is no justice for anyone. On a more local level, Micah warns that friends are not to be trusted: Friendship is based upon loyalty and trust, but sin has turned people to selfishness and greedy gain. Even more personally, Micah mourns that the family structure is being destroyed. In a family where all follow the Word of God, they will get along. However, declares the prophet, there are terrible outcomes when family members reject God’s Word; and this is the passage that Jesus quotes, Micah 7:6: For son dishonors father, Daughter rises against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.
When some in the family are believers and some are not, there will be strife. When a believing father seeks to correct his unbelieving son for sinful behavior, the son may well rebel all the more in order to dishonor his father. If a daughter-in-law objects to a mother-in-law’s false religion, the mother-in-law may turn critical of her daughter-in-law’s every action.
This is a key, timeless truth: When a family is made up of believer and unbelievers, there will always be strife because there are different gods in the household. That family will find peace in only one of two ways: Either all will come to believe in the Lord and abide by His Word, or all will decide that family is more important than God-they will either cease to speak of religion, or decide that religion just doesn’t matter.
This is the strife that Micah mourns: Because the people are rejecting God’s Word, it has led to hostility in families. Some hold to the truth, and some reject it. This is the first clue in understanding what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel lesson.
The second clue is this: Jesus comes to undo the wages and consequences of sin. All people deserve eternal death, because all are sinful and the wages of sin is death. Therefore, Jesus comes to undo this: He comes to die for the sins of the world so that all might be forgiven. This is the message of the Gospel: Apart from Christ, we face God’s eternal judgment. But by His death and resurrection, Jesus has undone this; by dying for our sin, He has won grace and life for us.
Jesus comes to undo the wages of sin: Let’s apply this to physical sickness and death. Sin causes both: It kills the body-it brings physical death. To bring physical death, sin often uses sickness to do the killing: Sickness is often sin’s choice means of death. Note this simple, important point: When someone is sick, they are often wracked with pain and tortured by mental, emotional anguish. When they have died, however, they look far more peaceful. The reason is obvious: Those who are physically alive can feel pain and experience strife; those who are dead are incapable of doing so.
The one who has died looks peaceful, but he has no life. When sin destroys, the end product looks peaceful; but it is a bad peace.
On His way to the cross to undo the wages of sin, Jesus shows that He has the power to do so by performing miracles of healing. He meets those who are pained, anguished, troubled-their lives are afflicted with illness. He heals them-He removes the illness and takes that trouble upon Himself. He undoes those wages of sin. But what about those who have already died-who “rest in peace”? Along the way, Jesus raises some from the dead. He undoes that wage of sin, too, because He is greater than death. He is taking all sin, sickness and death to the cross; there it will be defeated.
Now, note this as well: When Jesus raises people back from the dead to this life, those people are still in a sinful world. They will feel pain, they will face strife, and they will endure sickness again. They will undergo these things because they are alive. Where there is life in this world, there is strife.
These are our two clues for understanding our Lord’s words in the Gospel lesson for today. First, He is quoting Micah, who declares that there will always be strife in families where some are believers and some are not. That strife will cease only when all believe the Word, or when the family decides to ignore the Word. Second, Jesus comes to undo the wages of sin; and He demonstrates this when He raises people from the dead. Alive again, they will face strife; but they face strife in this world because they are alive.
With these two clues, we turn back to our Lord’s declaration: Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 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 (Mt. 10:34-36).
When Jesus comes, He proclaims that the kingdom of heaven is near. He is declaring that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, that He will redeem the world by His death on the cross. He further proclaims that all who trust in Him will be saved. When Jesus preaches this message, many who hear will belong to families where no one believes the Lord’s Word; and because no one believes the Lord’s Word, there is no strife in the family because of religion. Many will call this a peaceful, happy household; but because no one believes, they are all lost in their trespasses and sins. They are at peace because they are spiritually dead.
However, many who hear will believe, trust in Jesus, and seek to live by His Law and Gospel. Their actions at home will change, and they will seek to tell this message to the rest of their family. They will wisely warn sons and daughters of the dangers of promiscuity and worldliness. They will lovingly tell their in-laws about Jesus and warn against other gods. They will seek to guide their parents to the way of Truth.
When they do so, the battle will begin. Sons and daughters will not want to abandon their worldly lifestyles in favor of repentance, so they will rebel. In-laws will not want to abandon their gods for the true God, and a hostile wall of silence will build. Parents, who usually do know better than their children, will reject the Gospel as a “stage” in the life of their kids. From there, the strife will grow.
The world will say, “Look how much damage that Gospel has done. That family was getting along perfectly well before all that stuff about sin and grace, cross and Jesus. Now there are big problems, and it’s all the fault of Jesus and His followers.”
There is no doubt that, in such a case, strife has replaced peace; but it’s a good strife that replaces a bad peace. The family was peaceful because all were dead. The strife has arisen because some of them are now alive. And as those who have been saved continue to be faithful and speak God’s truth, they are wielding the sword of His Word-His saving Word! It is only by that strife-causing Word that others in the family can be saved.
This is the strife that Jesus brings: Deliverance from sin, forgiveness, faith and eternal life. He raises up believers from spiritual death to life. Where there was only spiritual death, there was no strife because nobody cared about God’s Word. Where there is life, there will be strife as God’s people rejoice in the Gospel, even as the world rejects it.
This is the message that Jesus proclaims: He brings good strife to conquer bad peace. He brings life where there was death. He brings forgiveness where there was only killing sin. He brings faith where there was rejection and unbelief. The world will blame Jesus for bringing life, forgiveness and faith; but for all this we give thanks.
Realistically, we know that the world will always perceive Christianity as a problem and the strife-causing Gospel as a bad thing. As society continues to drift further and further away from its ethical and moral moorings, Christians are denounced for speaking the truth because the truth is supposedly lacking in love. We must be ready to defend the faith even as we are accused of causing strife. Therefore, let us make some applications this morning.
Perhaps the most obvious application is to family, for Jesus warns us in this text of the danger of loving family more than God. “Family-first” is a virtue to the world, even as they seek to redefine it to mean anything; and as Christians we emphasize the importance of the God-given unit called “family.” However, family-first at the expense of truth is a destructive sin. It is always a temptation for parents to condemn one sin or another until one of their kids commits the sin; then it is not so bad, a transgression to be overlooked. Spouses are often tempted to avoid church, at least attend less often, in order to please unbelieving husbands and wives; after all, worship does fall inconveniently right in the middle of the weekend.
Believing children may have opportunity to tell their unbelieving parents about the Gospel, but can’t bring themselves to broach the topic. All such sins are committed in order to keep the family peace; but sadly, this is a bad peace.
Now, we dare not be smug or casual about this: This is a delicate situation for many, and has been perhaps will be-for years. Therefore, we do not bluster and bully. We speak the truth in love, live a life of one forgiven and lovingly apply the Word as the situation arises. To avoid the topic in order to maintain the peace is sin; to speak winsomely at the right time is not. Even then, however, there may well be some tension and strife. When such strife arises, you can say, “This strife is here because Jesus is here, seeking to save the lost. He has died for me, and He has died for those here who do not believe. And by His Word which has caused this strife, He is working to bring them to faith.”
Along with family, there is application to the Church; for this, we turn briefly to the Old Testament lesson, Jeremiah 28:5-9. As the destruction of Jerusalem draws near, two prophets speak to the people. Hananiah makes up a message of peace, predicting that Babylon will fall before it can conquer Jerusalem.
Jeremiah speaks the Word of the Lord, prophesying that Jerusalem will fall unless the people repent.
The people love Hananiah, but they attack Jeremiah because he’s causing trouble. He’s speaking the truth as Hananiah lies, but Jeremiah is the troublemaker.
It is the same today: Within the Church throughout the world, there are attempts to change doctrine away from the Word. All sorts of unbiblical teachings are advanced as right, true and the way of the Lord. Faithful to the Word, many have expressed concern about these movements, declaring the truth of God’s Word and asking those who advocate false doctrines to defend them from Scripture. But no sound biblical response is forthcoming.
Instead, there are accusations: “Why,” they demand, “do you seek to divide us? Why do you pick fights and cause such strife? Aren’t we all Christians and shouldn’t we walk together. Who are you to cause such trouble? Let’s just to get along and put aside our differences.” This is the way of the world: Those who speak truth, or even just ask for explanations, are accused of causing trouble, of bringing the strife.
At such times, we must respond both firmly and lovingly.
When someone departs from the truth of God’s Word, there will be strife and discord, not peace and concord. There is no doubt that there is strife in the Church. But the strife is here because Jesus is here. He is present among us. He has died on the cross to take away our sins. He is risen again to give us life. He continues to feed us with His Sacraments, and He continues to strengthen us with His Word. If our priority is to make the strife go away, then the solution is to declare that His Word doesn’t matter; but there is a heavy price to pay. Therefore, by the grace of God we continue to confess the truth of our Lord’s Word. It is called the Church Militant for a reason-there will be plenty of battles; but it is still the Lord’s Church, and He continues to abide with us.
Martin Luther once wrote that the most troubling times in his life were when he had no troubles — he figured that he had gotten so far off track that the devil saw no need to afflict him anymore. Where Jesus is, there will be strife as the world opposes. But only where Jesus is will you find true peace – peace with God. Peace which declares He no longer holds your transgressions against you. Peace that comes from this blessed announcement: You are forgiven for all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen