"I've not come to bring shalom, but a sword."
Ordinary 3 An Exposition of Matthew 10:24-39
Yahshua chose 12 compassionate and fearless missionaries, giving them power to teach, preach and heal with authority, and sending them out two-by-two to fulfill their mission throughout the villages of Israel. They were not to take any provisions, only the clothing on their back. They were to go into each village, find someone righteous there with whom to stay, and reproduce themselves, teaching the Law correctly, preaching the Gospel of Kingdom Come and proving the truth of it all through signs and wonders.
In today’s follow-up passage, Yahshua warns them that the going will not be easy. And he knows, because he’s already been down that road for a year. He admonishes:
Yahshua is saying that since certain powerful people have been maligning him, then it’s a surety that they will do the same to his students, and even more voraciously. There is a play on words here, Beelzebul means "Master" or "Lord of the Household," referring generally to the devil. If they considered Yahshua to be the "Lord of the household " (Beelzebul), then they will consider his household to be devilish too.
Woe to Firestone Tires these days. In the public eye, Firestone is responsible for many deaths due to their defective tires. Firestone employees, who are good and honest people, bear the brunt of bad publicity. "Oh, you work for Firestone, huh?" Notice that, to save face, the Ford Motor Company has been very vocal against their former tire supplier and publicly severed their business relationship. And the public (‘us’) is so caught up in it that we overlook the fact that the victims didn’t purchase Firestone tires in the first place - we purchased Ford Explorers. This illustrates that whoever cries out the loudest will be heard. That is why Yahshua instructs his disciples in the next breath:
(Boldly Go Forth)
27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light! What you hear in the ear, proclaim on the housetops.
In other words, "Boldly go forth in your ministry: te teaching I gave you in Sabbath School, publish loudly wherever you go. Know right doctrine then set doctrine aright! Proclaim my mission powerfully: the Kingdom of Yahweh is here! What you have seen me do, boldly imitate! Heal and cast out demons! Come on, y'all! Don’t be afraid!"
Fear is the biggest hindrance to us fulfilling our ministry - two kinds of it: fear that we don’t have anything to give and fear that others will think we are foolish. But Yahshua’s advice to his former-day disciples is just as pertinent for his latter day disciples:
The disciples were considered by the police to be dangerous heretics and lawbreakers. They were being constantly watched, and were certainly on the crucifixion waiting list. Being insecure about their abilities or whether they would be considered foolish or not were the least of their worries -- they could be arrested, condemned and hanging on a tree in one afternoon! Yet they were still insecure about the least of things . . .
Yahshua says it would be best not to fear at all. You see, the disciples knew exactly what they were about to do and could have gone on home to mother at any time. We know that some of the disciples were fishermen. But did you know that one of them may have been a hired killer (Judas the Assassin) and another, what we would today call a terrorist (Simon the Zealot)? Such persons were nearly fearless -- such heinous crimes had they committed that they were well past the point of fearing anything. But if they chose to fear something, they ought to choose something really, really fearful.
Some English translations have Yahshua saying, "fear him who can destroy you in hell." The word mistranslated "hell" is Gehenna, which is not ‘hell’ at all, but a huge, deep ditch that surrounds the south side of Jerusalem. In years past, children had been burned alive in sacrifice to the god Moloch in Gehenna. In Yahshua’ day, Gehenna was the Jerusalem dump where all the trash was taken to be burned. In this context, Yahshua is coining a phrase used all the time today: "fear the one who can trash you"! Yes, "fear the one who can destroy you soul and body in the burning trash heap." In that day, everyone knew the Jerusalem trash heap, since there
Yahshua the Intermediary
It is on this note that Yahshua tempers his harshness with enduring words of comfort.
For some of us, numbering our hairs wouldn’t be that hard.
The meaning is that Father is intimately involved in the workings of his creation, and everyone is significant, has an important role to play, and a vital ministry to fulfill, in the completion of the overall plan of ages. The Creator of the Universe - as high and mighty a one as this - knows you, knows your name, knows your circumstances, and knows what you are supposed to do with your life, because he assigned your life to you. And he knows that you know what you are supposed to be doing for the universe.
You may say you don't know what you are to do; but the fact is, you really do know. It's the fear that tells you that you don't. But if he has to spell it out for you, he does in verse 32.
Then and now, Yahshua is the intermediary between the Father and creation. He makes intercession for us; that is, he is a go-between, bridging the gap between our frail humanity and his Father who inhabits Space; and he does so on account of his mercy and compassion for us, having loved us enough to endure Gehenna and death for us.
But Yahshua also tells his Father the truth -- though he is merciful, he will not lie for you. He will not exaggerate your willingness to fulfill your calling; he will not report your good intentions only. He will die for you but he will not lie for you. He made his disciples own up to the responsibility for their work, just like any good ‘boss’ would. And before I am finished, he will make his report on me, because this is the word he gave me to tell you, and I am responsible for it. And I am responsible for telling you that you, too, are responsible for your own work. Yahshua will help you any way he can, but ultimately, it is up to you to fulfill your ministry - his grace does not extend as far as our laziness.
So though there is nothing more to fear, we might as well repent and realize that the work here-to-for is not a lazy woman's job, or a slothful man's. No, it’s not going to be easy. Life isn't easy. The responsibilities of life cannot help but draw judgment, and we want to be found accountable.
Because Yahshua brings a sword:
34 Do not think that I came to send shalom upon h’eretz. I did not come to send shalom, but a chereb.
This verse in itself has justified the violent overthrow that's taught by liberation theology - any means to liberation is justified, including violent overthrow of all powers. Using this verse to characterize Yahshua's message isn't entirely fair. Reading this verse without harmonizing it with other passages leads one to judge Yahshua as a violent political zealot. Interpreting this verse out of the context has justified wicked acts in his name. I could remind you of other "peace passages" in which Yahshua gives us the direction of peace without the sword, and you already know many of those. Yahshua was first and foremost a man of peaceful means; we call him the "Prince of Peace." So what does he mean when he says he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword?
The Theocratic System
Consider history. Yahshua’s people didn’t live in a secular democratic republic nor did his kind have either the liberties or goods that we have. However, they did have a successful, long-term system for self-preservation. Not even Romans could change the system. Serious Nazarenes then and now retain a theocracy; a style of government in which Yahweh rules in accordance with the laws of the Torah or Bible. Palestine was a very small place - smaller than the panhandle of Florida. Everyone knew each other and everyone was related. Kind of like Yourtown. The heart of the society was the extended family; and many folks could trace their roots clear back to Adam and Eve. Obviously, there were kinfolk living about everywhere in the country.
Above all, families were religious. The father was the priest of the home; the mother was the queen. Sons in their youth learned the family trade, which had been passed down for generations. They would marry and remain in the family home, raising their own families within, building additions when the need arose. Daughters were married young to the sons of relatives, who went to live in their husband’s home, and they became queens like their mothers. Life revolved entirely around Torah and family.
Adultery, divorce and homosexuality were very rare. Such weren't tolerated. The penalty for adultery and perversion could be as serious as death; for divorce was the ban. Families were very close and family members were expected to love and respect each other and live in community. Families took care of their own infirm, and their care extended out to beggars, foreigners, orphans & widows. There is provision in the Law of Yahweh for all who would keep it, and there wasn’t much room for nonconformity.
And everyone strictly kept Sabbath - Friday sundown until Saturday sundown - devoting that time to worship and rest. It was a wholesome and edifying privilege to rest and to worship; not some kind of drudgery. This arrangement may seem to us to be rigid and confining. It may seem to others like a wonderful way to live. Yahweh’s law held his people together to the extent that today many of the faithful may likewise trace their families clear back to Adam and Eve.
Yahshua’ Family Life
Yahshua was in conflict with this system to some extent. I don’t think he enjoyed the conflict or was haughty or flippant or wanted to make waves. Conflict is the natural consequence of any mission, and his was to "preach the kingdom come" in himself. Yahshua kept the Torah of Yahweh perfectly unto the fulfilling of it, which means he established the Torah for all generations. Since sin is lawlessness, when we say that Yahshua was a man but did not sin, we are saying that he obeyed every jot and tittle of the Torah, including in his family life.
So we would think that Yahshua’ family life was about perfect, since he was blameless and his mother and father knew his origin and mission. Actually, just the opposite was true. Yahshua didn’t ‘come out’ as the Son of Man until he was at the the age of eldership. As he became known, the rumors surrounding his unusual birth, which had circulated before in whispers, were now voiced openly. Since he criticized the religious leaders of getting rich by burdening the common people with their own man-made rules and taxes, he was accused openly by these same leaders of being the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. Rumors and lies turned his entire home town against him. The people in his home church tried to kill him. According to witnesses, his mother thought he was mentally ill while his brothers were jealous and tried to goad him into committing illegal activities.
When his family came to one of his meetings to take him away, Yahshua said to his followers, "Who is my family? Those who do my Father’s will are my family" (Matthew 12:50). He may have been disowned by his family - now they wanted to put him away. He shook the dust of Nazareth from his feet and left to become a traveling missionary. As such, he never married, and some folks spread rumors that he was perverse (this according to some texts Secret Mark). He was surely reconciled with his mother before or at the time of his death. But he wasn't reconciled with one of his brothers until after his brother was visited after the resurrection.
So for Yahshua's foes - especially for the powerful leaders of status quo religion - it was easy to infer that the devil had moved right into Yahshua's family household. So they publicly proclaimed him to be Beelzebul, for ever since Yahshua took up the call of Yahweh to reform the theocratic system, his family had been violently divided. Beelzebul has several meanings, but in this context it means "Lord of the Household," a Philistine god worshiped at Ekron. But what they meant was "Devil of the Household."
We get the idea that if we are good Christians Torah Observers or religious hobbyists, we should inherently have peace in our families, households and properties. But it appears likely that though Yahshua was certainly "a good Christian," he had a lousy home life, and undoubtedly suffered greatly under the burden of broken relationships because of who he was and what he came to do. If that was the plight of the Master, how much moreso of the non-compromising disciple!
Master of the Household
We might be surprised to learn, in fact, that the unpleasantness of family division and the stirring up of hostility against the disciple - that is, brining a sword into the house, was an essential piece of Yahshua's divine mission:
(The Greek is intact to demonstrated the rhythm & rhyme.)
And listen to this:
37 The one who loves av or em more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves ben or bat more than me is not worthy of me.
What does that mean?
In itself Yahshua's statement disqualifies a whole bunch of us from 'worthiness.' Indeed, there is great stress among believers today on the home front. I've heard tell of messages in which the preacher tells men of the congregation that, "Unless you get your family under control, you can’t work for the god," or "If your family ‘ain’t saved,’ you’ve got no business trying to save others." And to women who are called to do the work of the lazy man, the advice often is, "You get your husband coming through the door, then come talk me." We know many of the righteous women in our assemblies who have caught fire, but whose devilish husbands would no longer allow them to study with others or even attend worship. And we know decent and studious men whose wives and children become devilish every Sabbath a half hour before the set-apart convocation begins.
Like Yahshua’s kin, some family members aren’t going to be reconciled to your discipleship until you’re hanging on the Torture Stake. They may even cry then. Like Yahshua's brother Ya'aqov, some family members aren’t going to accept the truth you have learned until they see you resurrected from the dead. But they may believe then. When Yahshua said he came to bring a sword and to turn family members against each other, he didn’t want this to be the case. He is not pleased about it. But he won’t lie about it to his ministers, either.
Who do you think the devil will use to get at you when you decide to come out of your sloth and do what Yahshua has bid you to do? The devil probably won’t use some stranger; he’ll use your household. He’ll infiltrate the ones you love. He’ll pervert your spouse. Then he’ll use some devilish, ignorant preacher to tell you to get your the g-dless husband in the door before you can serve Yahshua.
Why is it so important for disciples to know about the sword? Because we could lose our own justification for Kingdom living and end up on the Gehenna Trash Heap by being more accountable to the devil in your house then the Savior in your heart; for:
The Family Sword
38 The one who does not take a stake and follow after me is not worthy of me. 39 The one who finds chaim will lose it and the one who loses chaim for my sake will find it.
Here Yahshua makes the connection between the stake and the sword. The stake is the public identifier of the one called to follow Yahshua closely. Your soul is no longer yours - it is torn from the dungeons of Satan and given to the Almighty Yahweh - and this action becomes very public as every move you make is questioned by the modern-day Pharisee.
However, the private symbol corresponding to the stake is the sword. It is private because it is in your home; chances are no one else will see it but you, even though all are affected by it; all are sliced up by it. Simply taking up residence on the Way of the Righteous will quite often slice your family up into small groups either for you or against you. It is then that you carefully ply the sword as you single out those who are for you and give them a chance to take up their own stake and follow you. You must let the others go until they either see your good works and finally glorify your Father in the Sky, feel your pain standing beneath the stake upon which you are impaled, meet you in the resurrection, or be destroyed on the burning trash heap of Gehenna.
Wielding the sword of division in your family is not without its victories and rewards. As time passes, you may see large numbers of the people you love the most begin to walk in the Way. Once of the greatest satisfactions I have is to look back on 50 years of the family. And in that time, a believer or two who carried the sword into the house has turned into whole families becoming believers, with many of which having endured severe family persecution to bring forth huge victories for Our Side. As the deadness is cut away from the family, new life begins to get some air and nutrition, grow and blossom, and bring forth great and bountiful fruit, which cuts away even more of the dead. Sometimes it all happens fast, like dominoes dropping. Other times, you must be consistent for years without either losing zeal or patience.
The family sword has destroyed many would-be giants of the faith even before they took their first steps. To have your family against you in your quest for following the Savior is not a sign of inferiority or unworthiness -- it is just part of the consequences of making a commitment. Any real commitment, any real mission, any important change requires that a price be paid. Yahshua says to rejoice about it when you are persecuted by those closest to you -- great is your reward! I have been greatly blessed to have seen the reward with my eyes, and can report it to you as a primary witness. Loved ones - even those you think most resistant - come in if you are consistent and patient.
Is the Sword Loosed?
Is the sword loose in your household? Then you are surely bearing a private stake as well as a public one. But if you will bear up under it, pick yourself up and keep on stumbling down that bloody road, the day will come when that sword will be turned upon the Beelzebul in your household and destroy it.
What is important now is to get started. I have heard some say that they were called to great works and were just waiting until the right time to get started on them. In one situation, the 'gifted' individual had been waiting forty years for greatness. This certainly should not be so. There is no grace in waiting to get started, and no excuse other than to stammer that you laid yours up in a napkin. Get going right now. The wait is over. You are going to lose your life one way or the other; best to decide on losing it to find the true life.
By the way, about the burning trash heap called Gehenna I spoke of. Yes, it's a real place, "the valley of the son of hinnom" is no longer that smoking, stinking heap as it was in the days of Yahshua's earthly ministry. It's covered with thick grass and flowers - as though Hell was patched up with a piece of heaven.
Photos of Gehenna today:
Beelzebul from Hebrew zebûl found inin the phrase bêt-zebûl 'lofty house' and used in Rabbinical writings to mean 'house' or 'temple.'
 eved, evedim = slave, slaves.
 Assarion = 1/10 of a Greek drachma,; a drachma was the “day’s wage.”
 shalom, ahava = peace, love.
 chereb = a messenger angel with a sword, or just the sword.
 Micah 7:6.
 chaim = life.
Jackson Snyder September 9, 1996