Christ's Messengers Sifted, Sustained, and Rewarded (Matthew Sermon 41 of 151)
December 08, 2002 | Andrew Davis
Royal Lineage of Christ and His Followers
We'll be looking this morning at Matthew 10: 34-39. There are some people in our midst and people that you know that give attention to questions of genealogy. They take it on as a hobby to try to figure out where they come from. With the internet resources that are available today, you can do this much better than they used to be able to do. But even so, even with those resources, most Americans could not trace their lineage back probably any more than four generations. Some Americans could, but most can't.
I know that my ancestors, my grandfather, when he came over from Scotland, they changed his name because they couldn't pronounce it. That happened to a lot of people who're streaming into the country through Ellis Island. Their names were changed, and it was very difficult, therefore, to trace your lineage back. But how would it be for you if you traced your ancestry back five, six, seven, eight generations, and found that you were a son or a daughter of royalty? That there was royal blood cursing through your veins? Would it make a difference? Well you say, "Not really, we're Americans, we don't care about that kind of thing." But I think you would consider it noteworthy. You might even tell a friend or a co-worker, "Hey, you know what? My great-great-great-grandfather was the prince of Maldona," or something like that. It would be kind of exciting for you to find out that you are descended from royalty.
What's remarkable to me is that the Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy, and it's not just for generations, but 42 generations that it traces over. That's nothing compared to the genealogy in Luke which traces Jesus back physically to Adam —76 generations. incredible. The genaology in Matthew is a royal genealogy, it traces Jesus back through a royal lineage. It portrays Jesus Christ as descended from David ,noting that Jesus is the son of royalty. We know that and we celebrate that, that Jesus was born in the city of David and that He is the son of David. Matthew 1:1 says, "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Jesus was Jewish, a son of Abraham, but He's also a son of David, He was in fact royalty.
It's interesting that the son of David title was also applied to Joseph. As the angel comes to him and says, "Do not be afraid Joseph, son of David," Joseph would have had the right to sit on the throne. For that reason I believe parenthetically, that Joseph was probably dead by the time that Jesus was old enough to take His rightful place on the throne, had it been offered to Him. Jesus was of royal lineage, of royal descent.
What I want to say to you is that you are also of royal descent if you are a child of God. You are a son or daughter of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. You're a part of an incredible family. We've been looking in Matthew 10, and as we've been looking at some of these martyr stories, some of the accounts of your brothers and your sisters in Christ, and the regal way that they carried themselves in incredible distress. You should realize these are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Spiritually speaking, that same blood or that same living sap, if you would, from the vine and the branches, is flowing through you as well. You are a child of the King, and you're called to act like it. You're called to walk with a regal bearing through this world, and to have courage, no matter what comes your way, to carry yourself like a child of the King.
I've been so encouraged by the devotional I've been reading from Voice of the Martyrs, and realizing what kind of regal blood spiritually was flowing through the veins of a man, for example, named Pallas. I read his story, in the days when Russia was called the Soviet Union, and when there were consistent crackdowns on the church. Pallas was arrested for being a Christian. After much severe torture and distress, he was brought before the captain who was in charge of his torture, and the captain said, "Well, you seem to be holding out all right, but I want you to know that we have plans to send you to Siberia where it's winter all the time. It's a place of misery and suffering, you'll fit in well there, you and your family." Pallas looked at him and smiled, and said, "Wherever I go on the surface of this earth, I'm in my Father's world, He owns it all. You can't send me anywhere that my Father didn't create and doesn't own." The captain said, "Fine then, we'll strip you of all of your possessions, take everything away from you." He said, "You'll need a tall ladder because my possessions are stored up in Heaven, and you can't reach them." At this point this man is getting very angry, very frustrated. He said, "We'll put a bullet between your eyes." Pallas said, "That's fine. I'll begin my life of true joy and peace and happiness away from this stinking prison, and I'll be in the presence of Jesus Christ." At this point he took him and grabbed him and shook him and said, "Fine. We won't kill you then, we know how you Christians are, we'll put you in solitary confinement. And no one will be able to visit you, you'll be cut off from all contact." He said, "That's impossible, because I have a friend who can walk right through walls, and there's no way you can keep Him out, because wherever I am, Jesus Christ is with me."
You know what? You are brother or sister to Pallas. He's one of your brothers in Christ. Hebrews 11 calls people like that “men of whom the world was not worthy.” What I want to say to you is, that's exactly what Christ is calling you to do as well. I don't know what kind of circumstances you're going yo find yourself in, but He's not calling you, in Matthew 10, to a comfortable life as a witness for Christ, He's calling on you to be willing to suffer, perhaps even to die for Christ.
There's also a story of Salima and Rahila. Salima was a Christian in Pakistan. I've been to Pakistan, it's a Muslim dominated land. I feel it's important for me to keep the true nature of Islam in front of you, lest you be deceived by the things we hear from American media, but it's illegal on punishment of death to convert a Muslim to Christianity in Pakistan. Salima was raised Muslim but she came to faith in Christ and she, just a teenage girl, led Rahila, her friend, to faith in Christ. Rahila's family found out about it and wanted Salima to be arrested, and she was arrested. She was beaten for her faith. But she sang hymns, praise songs to Jesus Christ, because she was hoping that her captors would hear those songs and come to faith in Christ. Meanwhile Rahila’s family, hunted her down and offered her a simple choice. This is the way it is in Islam, "Convert or die. Come back to your Islamic roots or we will kill you." She decided to stay with Christ, she trusted in Him, she couldn't turn her back, and they had her put to death. She is your sister in Christ, if you're a child of God.
Jesus Comes to Bring a Sword
As I look at Matthew chapter 10, I see that God, that Jesus Christ, is calling us to this kind of a life. He's calling on us to be, as it says in 1 Peter 2:9, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood.” Do you hear that? Royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. My sermon can be boiled down to one concept: Jesus Christ has ordained that His kingdom advance only through suffering. He did not come to bring us an easy, comfortable life. He did not come to bring peace to the earth, that's what He says. But he came to bring a sword. Only through the contrast of how Christians behave in this kind of intense suffering and persecution does the Gospel advance to the glory of God.
All of this is not some accident, but it is God's intention and His purpose that He might glorify Himself through people like you and me. That's my main idea. Let's look at how it works out in detail. Look at verse 34-36. Jesus says there, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, I have not come to bring peace, but a sword, for I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies will be the members of his own household."
Misunderstandings about Jesus
Jesus begins in verse 34 with the phrase. "Do not suppose." In effect He's saying, "Do not misunderstand my mission." Christ, I believe, is the most misunderstood man in the history of the human race. We don't understand Him, we don't understand His mission, and He wants to clear away misunderstandings. There are constant misunderstandings about Christ. For example, in the 19th century, liberal German theologians began a quest for the historical Jesus. They were looking for the true Christ, the Christ of history, not the Christ of faith in the Bible. So they swept away the Scriptures and said, "We can't trust these, we’ve got to find the historical Jesus." Some said that the German liberal theologians were gazing down through the corridors of time as looking down a deep well. What they saw at the bottom was a reflective puddle and they saw their own face in the reflection. Jesus ended up constructed in their image and in their likeness as what they thought the perfect man should be like. Are post-moderns any different? We're the same. “I like to think of Jesus as meek and mild, and gentle and accepting of all people. That's the Jesus that I worship.” Well, it may be the Jesus you worship, but it's not the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus is frequently misunderstood, but you know it happening in His day as well.
The Jews thought that Jesus was a Samaritan born of fornication, and was demon-possessed. Now, that's a misunderstanding of who Jesus was. Jesus was the perfect pure incarnate Son of God. We celebrate at Christmas time the virgin birth. They couldn't have been more wrong. So Jesus' person was misunderstood. Jesus' words were misunderstood, weren't they? How many times did Jesus teach something and people just had no idea what he was talking about? Remember Nicodemus when Jesus said “You must be born again” and Nicodemus answered, “How can a man crawl into his mother's womb again and be born?” He could not understand. Time and time again it happens, but it wasn't just people like Nicodemus, it was His own disciples who after three years did not understand His words or His teachings. Jesus said to them when the time came for the foot-washing, "You do not understand what I'm doing, but later you'll understand." Jesus is constantly misunderstood.
Misunderstanding Jesus’ Mission: His Purpose, the Sword not Peace
So what we have to do is clear away the misunderstandings. What misunderstanding are we clearing away here? Let's look in verse 34, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword." He's saying "Don't misunderstand my mission." Now, this is puzzling, isn't it? It needs some clarification, doesn't it? What do you mean, "I didn't come to bring peace, I did come to bring a sword."? What Jesus means, I believe, is, "I did not come to bring immediate harmony between everyone that's around me. I didn't come so that we would all just get along, so that as a result of my ministry everybody was hugging and smiling and patting backs and having barbecue together and enjoying good fellowship. That's not what I came to do. I did not come to bring immediate instant happiness and harmony between all people." A corollary of this works like this, "If anyone should come preaching the Word of God, teaching the Word of God, and as a result of that, there are divisions and strife and controversy, he cannot be a messenger of Christ.” That is false. The fact of the matter is, Jesus said, "I didn't come so that everybody would get along right away." The issue is “right away”. Christ's life was filled with division and opposition, wasn't it? Look at John's Gospel, time and again. In John 7:43, it says, "Thus the people were divided because of Jesus." John 9:16, it says, "So they were divided." John 10-19 says, "At these words, the Jews are again divided." Everywhere Jesus went there would be division — believers, unbelievers. In Hebrews 12:3, "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you do not grow weary or lose heart." Jesus was constantly opposed.
How about Christ's apostles? What kind of lives did they live? Were they well-received and welcomed? We've already covered in Matthew 10 that they would not be, but how did it actually work out? It actually worked out just like it did for Jesus. Everywhere they went, there were troubles, problems, and division. It says in Acts 17:6 in the RSV, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also." There's just trouble everywhere they go. Wherever the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, there's going to be trouble, division, disagreements, and disharmony. Jesus said it right from the start here, "Don't suppose that I came to bring peace to the earth, I didn't come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword."
Now, misunderstanding number two. It is that this division is an accidental regrettable by-product that Christ had nothing to do with, and would do everything He could to stop if He could. That is false. The fact is, He said He came to bring the division. "Do not suppose that I came to bring peace." He said He came to bring a sword. “For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies will be the members of his own house." This is not an accidental by-product, this is part of God's divine plan. It's not an accident. It is wrong to suppose that Jesus is going to bring instant harmony between all people, even within families. It's not just some accident, it's the very thing Christ came to provoke and to orchestrate.
Misunderstanding number three: It not as popular these days, but it's still out there. That the sword that's mentioned in this passage is wielded by Christians. It is not Christians who wield the sword. "Do not suppose that I come to bring peace. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Alright, there's a sword. In the past some Christians have behaved as Islam truly is, the “convert-or-die” religion. Christianity is not that way, not at all. We believe ultimately it's convert or die [John 3:16 was that we will not perish but have eternal life]. So ultimately convert or die eternally. We believe that, but not in this world and not with the physical sword as Islam has done, but Christians didn't understand that. In the middle ages, some princes and kings wedded Christ 's Gospel message together with the sword, and said “convert or die.” The Crusades are a great example of this. The Crusades are a great example of how we would get together for a mass evangelism campaign in Jerusalem. We're going to sweep in there and we're going to convert all those Muslims. Is this Christ's way? This is not Christ's way.
So another misunderstanding is that the sword is wielded by Christians. No, not at all, the sword is wielded against Christians. It's wielded against Christians. The standard principle is that the Kingdom of Heaven advances not by causing or inflicting suffering, but by receiving it, by receiving it the way Jesus did. What does it mean, “sword”? What is this sword? I think it's metaphorical in one sense. "I came to bring divisions and trouble between people." Disharmony would happen when the Gospel is preached. There's going to be problems, trouble ahead and it actually extends from that point out to even physical death. Martyrdom. I came to bring this, not peace. We have to understand this properly. Ultimately down the road, in the next age, the Age to Come, Christ will be the perfect Prince of Peace. He did come to bring peace here and now between us and God through faith in Christ. It says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The sword of wrath is thrown away. There is no condemnation for you in Christ Jesus, if you've come to faith in Christ. There is no sword between you and God. In the past, it was God wielding the sword. Remember the story of the sword flashing back and forth in the garden of Eden? You couldn't get back in. Who set the sword there? It was God who set it there. But the sword is gone now, through Christ, through faith in Christ. It says in Isaiah 53:5, speaking of Jesus, "He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." So through the cross of Jesus Christ the sword of wrath is removed from the hand of God. And He's at peace with you. You have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, how valuable is it that God is at peace with you through Christ.
The sword is removed, and we go out to proclaim a message of peace. Isaiah 52:7 says, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.” Who bring good tidings," —that's the Gospel — "who proclaim salvation, and who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" We go out as messengers of a Gospel of peace, all of that is true. But has peace come? Look around the world, are nations still at war with one another? Yes, they are, and they will be right to the end. Nation will rise up against nation, kingdom will rise up against kingdom. It's not until the Age to Come that we're going to see it. In Isaiah 9:6-7, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Listen to the next part, "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." It says of that time in the future, Isaiah 2:4, "He will judge between the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Amen. Just not yet. Now is the time of the sword. We are not the ones that wield it, we are the ones that receive it. The question is, why? Why did you do it, Jesus? Why did you come not to bring peace but a sword? Why did you come to set a father against his son, son against his father, a mother against the daughter, daughter against the mother? Why is it the case that a man's enemies will be the members of his own household? Think about the alternative. What will the alternative be?
Imagine, if you would a beautiful clipper ship with sails billowing and absolute glassy seas, smooth as silk, and a westerly Zephyr just blowing the church through the ages of history. That's the alternative, smooth sailing. Never is heard a discouraging word. Everywhere you go, you preach the Gospel, you are well received and welcomed, and the Gospel is believed. Let me ask you a question, what use would you have for Romans 8? “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” What mountain ranges would there be to travel, what persecution, what nobility would be put on display, what courage, what glory for God? Answer: None. No conflict, no trouble, no distress, nothing but ease and comfort as the Gospel just goes from one success to the next, as everyone who hears it receives it and everyone gets saved. It was not His way. He chose rather a campaign of war in which there would be valor and courage and martyrs and witness, and you're included. It's hard to go across the hall or across the street and witness to your neighbor but when you do it, you bring glory to God. Those were the two alternatives before Christ, and He chose the path of glory where God could be glorified as a result.
Christ’s Reason: Servants Worthy of the Lamb
I think there are three great reasons that He came not to bring peace but the sword. First is proof of faith; second, purification of faith; and third, a platform for faith's proclamation. What do I mean by proof of faith? First of all, your faith must be tested in order to be proved genuine. Do you realize that? We've got to see whether it's the real deal or not? In 1 Peter 1:7 it says trials have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes, even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine, and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Your faith has to be proved to be the genuine article. Without the fire of persecution, without opposition, without distress, the smooth sailing clipper ship, hot knife through butter, you can't test that kind of faith. It costs you nothing. It's easy, it's comfortable, there's nothing, there's no challenge. God wants a test of your loyalty. In effect, He brings you to a fork in the road and says, "Do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than your mother, more than your father, more than your best friend? Do you love me more than your job? Do you love me more than your life itself?" Look at verse 37, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Rahila, the Pakistani girl, was brought to a fork in the road, wasn't she? God brought her there. Jesus Christ was going one way, and her Islamic family was going the other. She had to choose, her faith was put to the test, she chose Christ. Her faith was proved genuine as a result of that fiery trial. Jesus said in effect, "If you're not willing to make that choice, you're not worthy of me."
Realize how astonishing, how shocking this statement is. Who is this Nazarene, who is this carpenter to come and say, "Loyalty to me must take priority over every other thing in your life."? “Over anything, over even your mother and father, over your husband or your wife, over your child, over any earthly thing to you, I must come first." Who is He to ask that of us? He's God in the flesh, He's your creator, He knit you together in your mother's womb, He died on the cross, He shed His blood, He has the right to claim this kind of loyalty, that you would put Him first above all things.
One of the most moving stories I read in that Voice of the Martyrs testimony came right to this issue. It was in communist Romania. Pastor Florescu had been beaten, he'd been in prison, they brought in ravenous rats into his prison cell so that he would not be able to sleep, he had to fend them off all night long and all day long. After two weeks of this, he was obviously in great pain, but he did not buckle. What they wanted from him was a list of the names of the members of his underground church so that they could bring them in as well. He wouldn't say a thing. But then they struck at a weak point. They brought in his 14-year-old son Alexander, and they proceeded to beat him in front of Pastor Florescu. It was clear they meant to kill him. There's no doubt about it.
And any of you that have children, you realize how you'd be willing to die, but to stand there and watch your own son beaten to death, and all you need to do is say something. He crumbled and he said, "Stop, stop. I can't take it anymore. I'll tell you what you want to know." At that point, Alexander lifted up his bloody face and said, "Father, don't do it. Don't bring me the shame of being the son of a traitor. If they kill me, I will die with the word Jesus on my lips." At that point, the captors were enraged and they killed him. Alexander died with his faith in Christ intact, and his father's faith in Christ intact as well. The appeal is to the logic of this passage. Your loyalty to me should not be greater than your loyalty to Christ. Let me die. That's what Christ asks of us. I must be number one in your life, there is no earthly relationship higher than me.
It also purifies your faith, secondly, doesn't it? You know why? Because your faith is not pure. It's got all these alloying elements in it, and we're reaching out all the time for other things. Love for earthly things all the time. We need to be purified of that. He brings us through these kind of trials, not peace. He brings a sword so that we can, little by little, be stripped of all things but primary allegiance to Jesus Christ. In verse 39, Jesus says, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Every moment, you have an internal mechanism which causes you to look out for number one. If you're hot, you take off garments so that you're a little bit cooler or you adjust the air conditioning. You seek to adjust your circumstances so that you're comfortable. It's just internal. Jesus here tells you to stop looking out for number one if you are number one. Or better, “look out for number one, and I'm number one”. Don't love your life in this world so much that you're holding on to it, not willing to follow Christ no matter what He asks you to do. Jesus says you have to be willing to die to your earthly ambitions, your career, whatever it is you want to do; whatever your first and greatest desire is, and it gets very practical. On a Monday morning He wakes you up and you have your quiet time, He says, "I own today. I own your Monday. Follow me, and I will lead you." It's very, very intense, isn't it? He says, "If you love your life in this world, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it for eternity." So, lose yourself for Christ. That's what He's saying, a purification of faith.
Then finally, a platform for proclamation. In our darkened house this week, we had no lights because of the storm. Sun goes down around 5 o'clock, it gets really, really dark. We had this little hurricane lantern that we lit and put it on the floor, which was a bad move in two senses. One is, it is a burning fire and some of the children may kick it and spread oil. That did not happen, don't misunderstand me. But there it was. But there's another bad reason why you don't put it down the floor, it doesn't give light in the same way as when you lift it up and put it on the mantle. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. You're a city set on a hill." He said, "Nobody lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl. They put it up on a stand so that everybody can see it. It gives light to everyone in the house.” "In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." So what does that mean? He's going to put some of us on extreme display, it's called martyrdom. He's going to lift us up and put us on a platform, and He's going to pour us out to death so that the people standing around watching can be saved. Would He do that kind of thing? Would He actually take you, His precious, beloved, adopted son and daughter, and pour out your earthly life through physical torture and pain unto death? Did He not do that to His only begotten Son? Why would He not do it to you? Why could that not be the God you worship? Why would He not bring you through suffering? Why not? He brought His own Son through it. The fact of the matter is, you have everything you need. Corinthians says, "All things are yours.” Don't hold on to them, let them go. All things are yours, you've got eternity, you've got a martyr's welcome if He calls you to it. So live freely for Him. And when He puts you up on a stand, proclaim the Gospel boldly right before you die, proclaim it boldly.
If you're never called on to lay down your life physically, then live for Him in smaller ways that are just as costly in some cases. Sometimes it's harder to live for Christ than to die for Him. Day by day by day, be up on a platform so that you can proclaim the Gospel. The result of this is servants worthy of the lamb. Now, this is stunning, isn't it? He said, "If you love your father or mother more than me, you're not worthy of me." Let me ask you a question. Do you remember the scene in Revelation chapter 5, where there's One seated on a throne, and all of the 24 elders are around, and all the living creatures are there? It's the picture of God on His throne, and He's got a scroll with seven seals. Some people believe, I think it's true, that this is the title deed to the Earth, the ownership of the Earth. They looked and no one in Heaven or Earth or under the Earth was found who was worthy to take the scroll and open its seals and look inside it. Nobody could be found who was worthy of that; not you, not me, not Elijah, not Moses, not Job, not John the Baptist, none of them worthy to take that scroll and open it. John wept because nobody could be found who was worthy of that honor. The angel told him, "Do not weep. See, the root of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed. He's been victorious, He's overcome the cross and the grave, and He is worthy." Jesus came and took that scroll, and all the angels proclaimed, "Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive glory and honor and power and dominion, for He shed His blood so that people from every tribe and language and people and nation could be saved." He's worthy of it.
I think the passage here though isn't talking about the worthiness of Christ, it's talking about being worthy of Christ. John the Baptist said, "I am not worthy to untie His sandals. I'm not worthy to pick up His shoes." Was John right? Yes, he was. Angels knew. You're not worthy to pick up His shoes. Yet, the Bible says you can live a life worthy of the Lord. In Revelation 3:4, it says, "You have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, they will walk with me dressed in white, for they are worthy." As I look at this section of Scripture, I think to myself, God has called us to a difficult life, a challenging life. But this is true Christianity, folks. This is what God is calling us to. Matthew 10 is the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven. If we Americans want to be part of it, we have to embrace this kind of a life, we have to say goodbye to our life here on earth. You have to live as a dead man or a dead woman. Say my life is, it's forfeit for Christ, and every day I live for Him. If He tells me to go witness to this person or go to this country as a missionary or give up my career etcetera, that's His right. He bought me with a price. Are you willing to live a life worthy of the Lord? Are you willing to serve Him with every moment? Are you willing to even have division in your family because you're living for Christ? Are you willing to follow Christ?