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For His Sake


June 25, 2023 |For His Sake |Matthew 10:34-39

JD Cutler



Picking up from where we were last week- we saw Jesus motivated by compassion teaching, preaching, and healing and then preparing to send out the twelve to carry on his ministry motivated by compassion.


As we noted last week, from verse 5 to 42 of chapter 10 Jesus is giving instructions to the twelve before he sends them out.


As sent out disciple makers ourselves, we would do well to look at the instructions Jesus gave these first century disciples. While their particular mission here is localized, the principles found within these instructions are repeated first to any who would follow Jesus, and then again to the disciples themselves later in their time with Jesus.

MacArthur calls this passage from 24-42 the summation of all the Lord’s teaching on the subject of discipleship. He goes on to say,

”Teaching which He repeats in many other places and many other times. Little pieces and bits of this teaching are here and there, all over the Gospel record, sometimes with a little different nuance of meaning and application. But this is the heart and soul of His instruction on discipleship.”

With that as our understanding, what is so shocking is that what we find here wildly contradicts the kumbaya, feel good Jesus of modern theology or the prosperity bringing Jesus of the word of faith and prosperity gospel crowds.

The Jesus we find in these verses seems offensive, divisive, and demanding.


There are two potential pitfalls upfront when we come to a text like this.

One, we simply and quickly categorize his words as hyperbole and therefore lessen their impact.

Surely there are places where Jesus uses hyperbole to teach, plucking out eyes and cutting off hands come to mind, right? Thinking about cedar house beams coming out of our eyes.


But just because something is hard to understand or difficult to harmonize, does not give us license to assume it is exaggeratory.

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Two, we acknowledge their difficulty and therefore ignore them either outright or subtly. We skim over them quickly rather than allowing them to confront us and our tradition and ideas.


For church going men and women, the danger is compounded in that we have heard some of these words so often that we have been desensitized to the weight of them. For those who may not have spent much time in church, you may have never heard this kind of talk from Jesus. My prayer this morning is that we would deal honestly with what we find, that the spirit would illuminate it for us, that we would not only understand it but desire it to be true in our own lives.


This morning, for times sake, we are going to deal primarily with verses 34-39, for sure some of the most difficult pieces of this teaching.


We will look at this text under two divisions. The correction Jesus makes to his disciples' thinking as well as the clarifying statements Jesus makes about his ministry, and the caution and counsel he gives those that would follow him as disciples.


Correcting and Clarifying

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For 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. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.


In one way this isn’t surprising because of what Jesus has already said so far in his instruction to the disciples.

After giving them some general instructions for their mission trip Jesus tells them that they would not always be received well in their travels. Indeed, he says they would be delivered up by men to the courts. That they would encounter interrogations and beatings. (what a pre-mission encouragement, right?)

But worse, Jesus says it won’t be strangers or gentiles that deliver them up, it will be those closest to them.


Matthew 10:21-22 (ESV) 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake.


But perhaps what is shocking is that here Jesus acknowledges, not that this (delivering up and betrayal among families) will mean things are not going according to plan, but that this is exactly what he came to do.


He says do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.

Do not think that it is strange that brother will be against brother, father against children, and children against parents.


The word ‘think’ here can be translated as ‘suppose’, as in do not assume that you know why I have come.

Most likely this is in direct reference to the popular idea among the Jews that when the Messiah came, he would bring immediate peace politically and socially.

Jesus wanted them to understand when they went out to carry out his mission in his name, they should not expect peace and they should not be surprised at division.


Jesus says, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. The ‘sword’ here representing the more literal idea, as is stated in Luke when Jesus says, 1 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.


Now immediately we feel like we are missing something, don’t we?

I mean Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6. When his birth was announced to the shepherds, the angels declared, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

In the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus accepts the worship of the crowd when they cry out, Luke 19:38-42 (ESV) “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

In that same scene, as he draws near to Jerusalem, he weeps over the absence of peace.

Jesus tells his disciples later (ESV) 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

We are repeatedly told in the New Testament epistles…

Romans 5:1 ​​(ESV) 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:14-17 (ESV) 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Colossians 1:20 (ESV) 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.


And yet here, when Jesus is sending out his twelve disciples, he says do not assume that I have come to bring peace, but a sword.

Essentially, he says, let me correct your thinking. You think I have come to pour out peace on the world, but I have come to pour out division.


Now what do we do with this?

How do we reconcile this statement with everything else we just talked about?

Before we attempt to, we have to accept that both the statements about peace and the statements about division are true, whether we can fully reconcile them or not.


However, I do think we can draw some distinctions that will help us better understand what Jesus is saying here.


First, we know that Jesus came to do the will of the Father, and that his obedience to that will, led him to the cross where he gave his sinless life so that those who were separated from the Father by sin could be reconciled, that they might experience peace with him.

We know that in reconciling us to the father, he broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, making peace a possibility between all men who come to the cross.

We could rightly say that his purpose in coming was to bring peace to those who believe.


Second, we know that Jesus coming did not produce peace in the world at large. His own people condemned him to be violently crucified by Rome and that Jerusalem would be overthrown and the temple destroyed by AD70.

We know that his disciples were opposed, persecuted, beaten, and martyred.

We could right say that the result of his coming was that he brought division to the world.


So did Jesus not accomplish what he came to do?

Not at all. Those of us who have come to Jesus are recipients of his peace and now have peace with God.

But we also know that there is coming a day when all the world will know peace. When all who have chosen to remain in their sin and rebellion will be sent to the place prepared for them and all those who know Jesus and his merciful forgiveness will be with him forever. There will be peace, fully and finally.

Jesus did come to bring peace and one day it will be fully realized, but before then there will be division.


One commentator gives a simple yet colorful illustration. Imagine you decide to clean out the garage, or tackle organizing your closet. Your purpose is to bring peace and harmony to the space, but you know first you will create chaos, right?

Everything gets drug out and piled up to be sorted, right?

Spouses, if you have ever walked in on a spouse doing this you know what I’m talking about.

You think, what a mess! But to achieve the end result of organization you must go through the chaos.


In the same way, Jesus came to bring peace, but before it is finished, there will be division because at any given time before Jesus returns, there will be those who are at peace with God through Jesus and those who are at war with God in their sin.

There exists on earth two kingdoms which are, by nature, incompatible. This division is seen in the marketplace, in the social order, and even in the same household, which is where Jesus turns now as he clarifies where this division will take place.


In what way will this division manifest itself?

Jesus says, ”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. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.

The word set here is a play on the idea of a sword, literally it means to cut into two pieces, to divide.

Jesus quotes Micah 7:6 here. Micah 7:6 (ESV) 6 for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.


Do you understand that coming to Jesus, experiencing salvation, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light immediately puts you at odds with those still in the kingdom of darkness?

To be a friend of God is to be an enemy of the world and of those in the world.


In other countries, this is more easily seen and understood. To come to Christ is to be shunned, driven from your home, and possibly even put to death by your own family.

In America, there is little chance you will be put to death, but do not for a minute think that you will not experience this division if you are a Christian.

The world is increasingly hostile to the Christian worldview, it has been and always will be incompatible with the world’s systems. The closer and more faithfully you follow Jesus the more your life is going to provoke and incise the world and the more you will see the reality of Jesus’ words to his disciples.


If you have not or are not experiencing this, you are either not following Jesus very boldly or you have withdrawn from the world. Jesus clarifies that even the most closely held bonds of human affection, parents and children are not stronger than the division caused by following him.

Let me say that again, the most closely held bonds of human affection are not stronger than the division caused by following Jesus. This is the reality Jesus wants his disciples to know, this is why Jesus first corrects and then clarifies.

...the most closely held bonds of human affection are not stronger than the division caused by following Jesus.

In the same way, many believe today that if they trust in Christ all their troubles will disappear.

Their life will be peaceful and full of blessings.

Some pastors even go as far as to promise prosperity and a life of ease to those who come to Jesus.

No wonder so many people are discouraged in the church, no wonder our young people are walking away from the faith by high school or college, no wonder we are seeing a rise in people who identify with no religion.

What do you expect when people have been sold a bill of goods that is completely opposite of what Jesus said we should expect?


If you come to Jesus, will you experience peace?

With God? Yes. With the world? Absolutely not.

You may even lose some of your closest relationships because your beliefs and worldview are radically different than those closest to you and as much as you try and make peace, it may not be possible.


So why not just avoid it all together, I mean, can’t I just follow Christ quietly? Can’t I adopt the worldview of live and let live? Interestingly enough, it is as though Jesus anticipates this type of questioning and answers it, even before the disciples ask it. After correcting and clarifying, Jesus moves to cautioning and counseling.


Cautioning and Counseling

37 Whoever 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. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.


Three times Jesus says the words, ‘is not worthy of me’. These are powerful words, frightening words.

There is a warning here for those who claim to follow Jesus, indeed, Jesus not only used these words when instructing his disciples, there was another time, great crowds were following him and he turned to them and said.

Luke 14:25-27 (ESV) 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Here we find this warning is not just for the twelve, but for anyone that would come to Jesus.


For the sake of our sermon today, let’s deal with the caution in verses 37 and 38 and then the counseling Jesus gives in 39 separately.

First, the caution.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.

Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.


The context of the first two are easy to see, aren't they? Jesus has just finished saying that he came to bring division among even the closest of families.

What happens when by following Jesus you come into direct conflict with your family?

When following Jesus and his call on your life puts you at odds with what your parents want you to do?

When following Jesus and his lordship of your life puts you at odds with your children’s choices in their lives?


I know someone who chose to walk away from the faith and has forbidden her parents from even naming the name of Jesus to their only grandchild. How do you faithfully follow Christ and not openly declare him to those closest to you?

Do you follow Jesus knowing that your relationship may be destroyed or do you put the relationship with your child and grandchild ahead of your relationship with Jesus?


What do you do when your child wants to participate in something that regularly takes them out of gathering with the church body? Do you disobey the scripture to not forsake the gathering of yourself together to make them happy or do you risk upsetting the family dynamics to be faithful to Christ?


Here is what Jesus warns.

Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

The word love here is phileo, which carries the idea of being friends with, or friendly.

When you combine it with the words ‘more than’, Jesus seems to be saying, if you are more concerned with the relationship between your parents or your child than your relationship with Jesus, you are unworthy of bearing his name as a Christian.


Now, we have to stop here and take a breath.

Because if we are honest, we all have moments where we lapse, moments where we choose something or someone over Jesus, moments we don’t speak when we should, when we go along to get along, moments where we fail to follow Jesus in the way we should because we choose lesser things. Does that mean we are unworthy of being called a Christian? If so, what does that mean for us? Our salvation?


First, let me assure you from scripture that making mistakes does not disqualify you from following Jesus.

Take Peter, Peter, after swearing to go to the grave with Jesus, loved his safety, loved his life more than he loved Jesus, and he denied him three times.

Take Timothy, Paul’s protege, left to oversee Ephesus and help appoint Elders there to care for the church. Paul had to encourage him to stop being ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment, to stand firm and faithfully, implying that at least Timothy had been wavering.

Or to bring up poor Peter again, when he loved his religion and Jewish friends more than he loved following Christ in his freedom and Paul had to rebuke him in front of the church.

If these giants of faith can falter, then friend, be encouraged that we can and will too.


Second, let me ask you, when you do make mistakes, what does it do to your heart?

Peter wept upon denying Jesus. It broke his heart that he had chosen something else over his Lord.

A lifetime of obedience marked by occasional acts of disobedience is a lot different from a lifetime of doing what you want and what makes you happy marked by occasional acts of obedience to Christ.


A lifetime of obedience marked by occasional acts of disobedience is a lot different from a lifetime of doing what you want and what makes you happy marked by occasional acts of obedience to Christ.

Jesus unapologetically and unreservedly demands your highest allegiance, loyalty, and love.

Which for anyone else would be inappropriate. A politician that demands your highest allegiance is a dictator, a religious leader that demands your highest affections is a cult leader, a family member that demands your highest loyalty above all else is at best an egotistical narcissist and at worst, abusive. But when Jesus says it, it is right and good and true. Because he is God and as God, the creator and sustainer of life, he deserves our highest allegiance, our highest loyalty, and our highest love.


Furthermore, we are his, not only in creation, but in recreation, bought by his precious blood.

If you cannot or will not accept that, then it is not too much of a stretch to see why Jesus says you are not worthy of Him.

If you consistently place other relationships over him then you need to seriously ask yourself if he is your Lord and Savior or if you have made an empty profession.


What this is not is an excuse to not love your neighbor, not to love your children, and not to love your parents.

We are commanded to love and to love well. To obey our parents, to sacrificially love our spouses, and to love and nurture our children. But in comparison to our love for Jesus, in our seeking his will and good for our lives, every other relationship, no matter how deeply our love, must pale in comparison.


But friends, Jesus doesn’t stop there. Not with our relationships, he goes further, to our very life.

8 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

At this point, in the disciples' minds, taking up the cross referred to being executed.

(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) “Taking up the cross” probably refers to the moment, after the trial and the beatings, when a victim actually shouldered the instrument of his execution. He faced a howling, bloodthirsty mob as a nonperson, a dead man, without legal rights, so that anyone could do as he pleased to him. Only the worst and most powerless criminal bore a cross, to die in prolonged agony.


We of course know that within three years of saying this, Jesus took up his own cross and went to calvary. So to take up your cross and follow him took on a whole new meaning.


To take up a cross is to by necessity, lay down everything else. It is to willingly embrace being put to death.

It is to choose to follow Jesus in his self-emptying, humble, obedient march to Calvary. It is to love God more than anything else and to be willing to lose everything else, even your own life if necessary.

To take up a cross is to by necessity, lay down everything else.

Which to our American comforted sensibilities seems absolutely absurd.

Surely God wants me to be happy, successful, prosperous, surely God wants for me what I want for myself.

And yet, we are left with this statement of Jesus that says if we are not willing to follow him all the way, we are not worthy of Him.


Which is why we do a disservice to someone when we tell them God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life if they come to him.


Would we dare say that to the Muslim girl who would be put to death for converting to Christianity by her own father?

Would we dare say that to the young Hindu man who would be a social outcast and ostracized from his community for following Jesus?


Of course not! Then why do we feel so comfortable saying it to young men and women in our churches?

What is God's plan for their life is to pour out their life in seemingly fruitless and thankless labor only to face persecution and martyrdom?

What if God’s plan for their life doesn’t involve comfort at all, but hardships and difficulties?

Do we wonder why when things go bad people walk away from the faith? When a follower of Christ is faithful and they still lose their loved ones, they still face crippling diseases, they still experience financial hardships?


Jesus’ call to follow him is a call to take up a cross, to die to self daily, and follow him.

This is the warning he gives those that would follow him. Count the cost.


But in the midst of this heavy burden, Jesus lightens it in two ways.

One, he says follow me. He does not call us to where he has not already walked.

We have a savior that was willing to humble himself and enter into his created world as a helpless baby, to endure all the hardships of living, and then to willingly and boldly march to a rejection and violent death at the hands of the very ones he came to save.


Two, he tells us, that this is the way to true and everlasting life.

His counsel for all men and women that would follow him is this, if you lose your life this way, you will find it.

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The idea here is if you choose something over Jesus and you find your life apart from him, no matter how long you live it, no matter how big you build it, no matter how many awards, trophies, and bonuses you get, you will lose it.

The word life is the same word Jesus uses in Matthew 10:28 as soul.

Matthew 10:28 (ESV) 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Life here then is contrasted with the body, it is the center of who you are, it is your identity, it is who you are at the core of your being. If you have anything other than Christ at the center, you will ultimately lose it.


What earthly life could possibly be worth losing eternity? In Mark, we find similar words of Jesus as we have seen today, with one addition.

Mark 8:34-37 (ESV) 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?

What advantage is it if you gain the whole world, you win every tournament, you get every promotion, you have the nicest house and the fastest car, the biggest bank account, and the most prestigious awards and in the end, you lose your soul?


This is not a rhetorical question, but an actual one that Jesus counsels us to consider.

Yes, you may avoid suffering by loving others more than Jesus, yes you may avoid persecution and estrangement from family if you love them more than Jesus, but in the end you will lose something far more valuable.


If we are willing to lose everything for his sake, then we will find true and abiding life.

This was his counsel to his disciples, and this is his counsel to you today.


Conclusion:

Do you think that coming to Jesus will make your life better and you will not have any difficulties? Then may Jesus’ correction turn your heart this morning.

Do you think that you will be able to follow Jesus and keep all your relationships intact? Then may Jesus’ clarification help you to see that by following him you are an enemy of the world.

Do you think that you can love Jesus a little bit and everything will be okay? Then may Jesus’ caution cause you to think again this morning.

Do you think that you can follow Jesus and still live your life the way you want to? Then may Jesus’ counsel remind you of the cost of living for yourself rather than for him.


For some of you this morning, your heart is broken with the way you have been following Jesus. Friends, look up here. If that is you, then be encouraged. Your broken heart is God’s gracious intervention in your life telling you something is wrong. You can repent, you can like Peter be restored and live out your days in obedient love to our savior.


For some of you this morning, you realize that you did not know what you were signing up for when you accepted Jesus as your savior. Let me be blunt, if you are not willing to make him your Lord of your life, then you cannot claim him to be the savior of your life. Jesus will have all of you or none of you. You now know what he calls you to, if you would surrender then know that you can do that right now.


For all of us, after we pray we are going to stand and sing one more time, worthy you are worthy.

I pray that for each of you that name the name of Christ that this would be a time of worship and maybe for someone here today, the day that these words become a reality in their life.




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