34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came 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 MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS 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 has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
Some of you may already be thinking what I have thought so many times when reading this passage, “what about John 3:17?”
17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
This is a very good and appropriate question. How does what we are reading in Matthew reconcile with the rest of the bible? We know that when Jesus returns, He will judge the world, yet we also learn by reading John 12 that Jesus acts as Judge but we are judged by the glory of the Father:
46 “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47 “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 “I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
Are you confused yet? Do you keep looking through these verses and then back to Matthew 10 trying to figure out why they sound so different? The issue here is context. What Jesus is talking about in Matthew is spiritual and what we see in John is physical. Before you scoff at what I am saying, stay with me and hopefully we can understand it together. The part of Matthew that we find ourselves in is Jesus explaining to His newly appointed disciples the gravity of following Him. He is explaining that we must abandon everything to be His follower and He will accept no less than 100% commitment. We must obey Him. We must follow His example. We must submit to His authority. It is the only way we will be able to completely trust Him and learn from Him. If you have read any part of Jesus’ lessons, you can admit that His teachings are very difficult to put into practice.
In other translations, this passage says, “He who does not hate His mother and father is not worthy of Me.” That seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? It is meant to be ridiculous. We need to be ridiculously sold out to Christ, so much that in comparison to the love we have for others, our love for Jesus makes it seem as though we hate our own family. Jesus needs to be the first priority in everything we do. Be careful to not misinterpret what He is saying. He isn’t giving us license to be mean, rude, or downright neglectful of those we love. He is saying He wants all of us and without giving over to Him all of our being, we might as well not even put forth the effort because it will be a waste.
Jesus’ sword is His Word. In the image of the returning Christ, John annotates in Revelation that His tongue is like a double-edged sword. God’s Word not only pierces our hearts, it also pierces our idolatry. Whether it is money, food, sex, or even our relationships with others, His Truth reigns and reveals to us when we are putting other things in higher importance than He. We must die to ourselves, kill off whatever we think we know, surrender to His will, and then we will begin to understand what is the life that He created us to live. Only then will we be able to fully understand what Jesus meant when He said in John 10:10
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.