Several times this weekend I read and heard the following verse Jesus spoke in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus did not come to bring the kind of peace that glosses over deep differences just for the sake of superficial harmony. Conflict and disagreement will arise between those who choose to follow Christ and those who don’t.

Jesus Christ was clear in how we can enter a sonship with our heavenly Father. Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:5-6)

The disciples of Jesus, like their Jewish contemporaries, believed that when the Messiah came, he would come as the “Prince of Peace,” bringing political freedom and material prosperity (Isa. 9:6–7; Zech. 9:10). Moreover, Jesus taught them that peacemakers were indeed blessed (Matt. 5:9) and told them to offer greetings of peace as they entered a home (Matt. 10:12–13). Perhaps some were even aware that He was to bring “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Yet, Jesus also said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Let’s look at the context of the passage.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come 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.’

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:32-40)

Jesus did not deny that peace would result from His work. He inaugurated the rule and reign of the kingdom of God; it is characterized by lasting peace, resulting in the destruction of God’s enemies, eradication of sin and its effects, and the presence of the salvation of God. But the road to this peace is not marked with tranquility.

Instead, it is filled with division and conflict. This is what is meant by the term “sword.” Luke’s account makes this even more explicit as “sword” is replaced with “division” (Luke 12:51). Division is inevitable because Jesus and His kingdom message demand a response. While some welcome Jesus, many reject Him and His message, sometimes passionately. Conflict is expected because with Jesus comes a new kingdom. Christian commitment may separate friends and loved ones. Christ calls us to a higher mission than to find comfort and tranquility in this life. Meanwhile, the prince of this world does not sit idly by.

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:9-14)

Jesus explained the severity of this conflict with a reference to Micah 7:6, “For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” One sign of sinfulness in the time of King Ahaz was that the people of Israel no longer trusted one another, even their own families. The situation in Micah pointed to Jesus’ own day when families were strained to the breaking point by Jesus and His message. We see this even today as many face separation and division from family because of their faith in Jesus.

Yet Jesus calls upon His disciples to persevere. He prepared them for inevitable rejection and hostility. “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) The response of the world to Jesus and His message of peace was anything but peaceful, and we who are His disciples today should not expect anything different. While the way of the cross is far from easy or worry-free, Jesus reminds His disciples that by losing they gain, and by dying they will live.