A Man Against His Father
Text: Matthew 10:34-42
Proper 8, A
This world is a mess and getting messier by the minute. The prospect of peace and reconciliation seem like a dream from ages long past. The more people seek to redress the perceived harms of this day and age, the less peaceful everything seems to get. Everything is systemically racist, but don’t you dare ask how ... because that only proves you are a racist who deserves to be attacked. Autonomous zones are popping up all over North America, including Toronto, in protest of violence and oppression. But these bastions of freedom and peace are filled with more crime and violence and oppression than the supposedly racist systems they seek to replace.
Double standards abound and history is being pulled down one statue at a time. The sins of the fathers are being purged from the lives of the sons and daughters. And that purge is coming for you and me. Some prominent “peace activists” have even begun shouting for pulling down of any Jesus statue that looks too white, or stained glass of any kind in churches. Beware the false prophets proclaiming “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
It is what Jeremiah warned of when calling out the false prophet Hananiah in the Old Testament reading. He had said that everything was going to be OK. Trust him and his progressive message of peace, not Jeremiah and his like that preached their tired old messages of hate and division. Jeremiah responded: 8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
The implication of the prophet’s words here is pretty straightforward: Genuine peace is not of human origin, nor can it ever truly be. But it is, rather, God’s gift through Jesus Christ! Peace is not something we can create, force or sweet-talk out of others. Peace can only be received. It is not an earthly quality – not since the day we fell into sin and Adam blamed Eve for his troubles. You cannot expunge the sins of your father Adam no matter how opposed to him you think you are. You are simply too much your earthly father’s son or daughter. Peace must come from our heavenly Father and God or it simply will not come at all.
But even that knowledge is enough to cause division and more trouble in our broken world. Even within families! 34[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For 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. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37Whoever 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. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Following the Lord and standing in the Truth will automatically put one at odds with those who prefer the devil’s lie. Following Jesus in the way of life makes us enemies of our culture of death. And that should make us afraid, but it doesn’t. And why not?
Because the irony of Jesus words is that the division they describe is the very heart of the true and eternal peace He comes to bring! On the cross, the God-man Jesus discovered that among His foes were not merely the disciple who betrayed Him and the disciple who denied Him. Among His foes were not merely the churchmen, Annas and Caiaphas, who had conspired against Him. Among His foes were not merely the Roman governor who sentenced Him and the centurion who officiated at His execution. Among His foes were not merely the soldiers who flogged Him and gambled for His clothing. No, among Jesus’ foes were “those of his own household” More specifically, the God-man found Himself “a man against his father” In short, God the Father forsook Jesus on that cross.
Why this variance between Father and Son? Not because the Father was fickle. Not because the Son had sinned. But because the Son bore our sins. Jesus in love had assumed those sins, and God in holiness deserted – damned – Jesus for those sins. In other words Our sins set Father and Son at variance with (against) each other. That variance is more commonly called hell.
And because the Heavenly Father and the dutiful Son were at odds on that cross, we are now sons of God who will never find ourselves “at variance against [our heavenly] Father.” And while this will not immediately erase all the troubles we have inherited in this world, our mess of sin has been cleaned up and true and lasting peace has been paid for in Christ’s precious blood. A peace that truly passes all human understanding. A peace that will guard our hearts and minds until that glorious day when the Father welcomes us home forever!