Jesus is the Prince of War?

Jesus makes an incredible statement, “I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword or division” (Luke 12:49-59, Matthew 10:32-39). So, is Jesus the Prince of War?

Introduction and Opening Questions:

  1. What is the title for Jesus that has special meaning for you?
  2. What situation in your life highlighted that title for you?
  3. What emotions does this verse bring into your heart?
  4. How does the cost of following Jesus (Matthew 10:34-39, Luke 12:49-53) reflect what you have experienced in life?
  5. How do you reconcile the two views of Jesus (peace-giver, conflict-starter)?
  6. What has Christ cost you in terms of relationships? Including family, friends, co-workers.

Conflicted Mission? (John 3:16-17)

  1. What was Jesus’ mission all about? His mission was not of condemnation but of salvation. Without salvation, mankind is at war with God, whether we are aware of it or not.
  2. There is a difference between his mission and the effects of his mission: making peace with God can still bring a kind of war in our lives.
  3. Violence is often the by-product of someone who attempts to bring peace.
    1. MLK – peace and equality, but an act of violence ended his life.
    2. Gandhi – non-violence and peace, yet met an assassin’s bullet at age 79.
    3. John Lennon – wrote “give peace a chance” yet killed with a gunshot.

What about YOU?

  1. When you came to faith in Christ, was there a prying loose with any family or friends?
  2. When you connect with Jesus, you must connect with his mission. What stirs us? Are you filled with a sense of purpose?
  3. When you walk with Jesus, you have to be prepared to let some things go: attitude, potty mouth, vengeance, hating enemies, old habits, maybe your girlfriend.

Matthew 10:34–36 describes Jesus telling the disciples that He came not to bring peace to the world, but a sword. Jesus’ sword was never a literal one. In fact, when Peter took up a sword to defend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked him and told him to put away his sword, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Why then, did Jesus say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” What kind of sword did Jesus come to bring?

Among the names of Jesus Christ is that of Prince of Peace. Verses like Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:14 and John 14:27 make it clear that Jesus came to bring peace, but that peace is between the man and God. Those who reject God and the only way of salvation through Jesus (John 4:6) will find themselves perpetually at war with God. But those who come to Him in repentance will find themselves at peace with God. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are restored to a relationship of peace with God (Romans 5:1).

Still, it is inevitable that there will be conflict between good and evil, the Christ and the antichrist, the light and the darkness, the children of God (believers) and the children of the devil (those who refuse Christ).

  1. Conflict must arise between the two groups, and this can and does happen within a family in which some are believers and others are not.
  2. We should seek to be at peace with all men but should never forget that Jesus warned we will be hated for His sake. Because those who reject Him hate Him, they will hate His followers as well (John 15:18).

In Matthew 10:34–36, Jesus said He had come at this time not to bring peace to the earth, but a sword, a weapon which divides and severs. As a result of His visit to the earth, some children would be set against parents and a man’s enemies might be those within his own household (from Micah 7:6, which addresses the rebelliousness and strife characteristic of Israel during the time of Ahaz. Just as Israel’s history foreshadows Jesus’ history, its turmoil and strife foreshadow the strife that results from the coming of the Messiah, even to the division of families. Although coming to Christ brings peace to the heart (Matthew 11:29), embracing the gospel also makes life more difficult in some respects, because Jesus demands allegiance that takes priority over the natural ties of life (Matthew 10:37–39).

  1. This is because many who choose to follow Christ are hated by their family members. This may be part of the cost of discipleship, for love of family should not be greater than love for the Lord.
  2. A true disciple must take up his cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24). He must be willing to face not only family hatred, but also death, like a criminal carrying his cross to his own execution.
  3. True followers of Christ must be willing to give up, even to the point of “hating” all that is in our lives, even our own families, if we are to be worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37–39). In so doing, we find our lives in return for having given them up to Jesus Christ.
  4. Jesus is not denying the personal peace which comes to those who have received Christ (Romans 8:6). The history of Christianity has verified the claim of Jesus that men would be divided harshly, even within family units, over the gospel of Christ. No division is any more clearly drawn than that between holiness and sinfulness

John MacArthur says, “Though the ultimate end of the gospel is peace with God (John 14:27; Romans 8:6), the immediate result of the gospel is frequently conflict. Conversion to Christ can result in strained family relationships (Matthew 10:35, 36), persecution, and even martyrdom. Following Christ presupposes a willingness to endure such hardships (Matthew 10:32, 33, 37–39). Though He is called “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), Christ will have no one deluded into thinking that He calls believers to a life devoid of all conflict.”

You All Are Dogs

Here is another saying of Jesus that makes you do a double-take, “did he really just call her and her people dogs?”

To get started, in all the talk about Christian unity, what are things that still separate us?

  1. Different beliefs or practices.
  2. Worship style (regular, charismatic, liturgy, reading, silent).
  3. Usually we are a gathering of cliques, each devoted to its own members, race, style.

Remind yourself of the mission of the church.

  1. We are to continue the mission of Christ and spread his story.
  2. His last command should be our first concern (Matthew 28:19-20).
  3. He assumed his followers would be going… “as you are going,” make disciples. In the context of everyday life, how can we be involved in making disciples?

Did Jesus really just say that?

  1. None of us can imagine the amount of racial bias inside of ourselves: through ignorance, personal upbringing, experiences.
  2. Who were THOSE people in this story?
    1. They withdrew from Tyre and Sidon (two non-Jewish cities) which were symbols of OT paganism and godlessness (northwest Philistia).
    2. They were specifically condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel: these were poster children for God’s anger and righteous judgment.
    3. So, what is the typical Jewish opinion of non-Jews? Gentiles were synonymous with pagan and heathen, compared to God’s holy nation (Exodus 19:6). Even the Psalmist cursed the other nations (Ps 9, 59, 137).
    4. How did the disciples feel about being in this region?
  3. This woman represented the contempt the Jews felt about other people. The disciples clearly knew their national history.
    1. She knew all this as well, which tells us something about this woman who was willing to approach Jesus.
    2. She knew something about how to approach God (since she was familiar with Judaism): she used a very Jewish title for Jesus (Son of David).
    3. She not only had knowledge, but she had passion: she cried out in a loud voice. Implication is that she did it for a long time.
    4. She also was in desperate need: approaching the Jews with all their turned-up noses.
    5. She believed that Jesus could help: employing the classic attributes to secure a response from God, humility and faith.
  4. How did Jesus respond to her?
    1. First he ignored her, which suited the disciples just fine.
    2. They were uncomfortable not only because of the wailing, but she was a Gentile, unclean, a pagan.
    3. They urged Jesus to just send her away, “I came for the house of Israel.”
    4. She would not take “no” for an answer. “I can’t take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” Take the goodness reserved for the chosen people and give it to someone like you.
  5. What is it about dogs? They were not the pets we have today, but scavengers, filthy, and dangerous. It was a dramatic insult to her.
    1. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table.” I know you’re right, but take pity on a dog like me.
    2. Jesus liked her answer. What did her words reveal about her faith?

The key to understanding this event may lie in the story prior to this one: Jesus facing off with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-20).

  1. They criticized Jesus ministry, these disciples didn’t even wash their hands right.
    1. They knew nothing about purity, but Jesus defends them, their omission had nothing to do with real purity. Real purity is internal, not external.
    2. They got angry and walked away, and then Jesus explained further to his disciples, which they didn’t get. Purity is from the HEART. Not where you live or your ethnic background.
    3. On the heels of this conversation about purity, they withdraw to Tyre and Sidon.
  2. Now Jesus is able to flesh this teaching out with the disciples, to show them about purity in a real-life sort of way.
  3. What better place to teach about purity than in the most unclean place imaginable?
    1. How do you define purity?
    2. How do you differentiate between inner and outer purity?
    3. What is the most unclean place you know?
    4. This woman taught them about what being clean was all about.

In such a dirty place Jesus found something clean. What could be clean about her willingness to be called a dog? Her desperation. It is in desperation that people can see their need most clearly.

  1. She wasn’t thinking about how foolish she looked.
  2. She was not thinking about the judgmental glances.
  3. She had the purity of desperation, something the Pharisees and his own disciples lacked.

Jesus commends her faith! When we express our need for God, we say something about HIM.

  1. Are we conscious of our need?
  2. Are you comfortable talking to God about your needs, or are you fairly self-sufficient?

In keeping with a theme of the gospel going to the dogs, how about this: Don’t give what is holy to dogs and don’t cast pearls before swine… (Matthew 7:6)?

“Do not cast your pearls before swine” is a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and to understand its meaning, we have to understand its context and placement within the sermon.

  1. Christ had just finished instructing the crowd on judgment and reproof: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2), and “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
  2. Then in verse 6, Christ tempers these admonitions and shows us the difference between “judgment” and “discernment.”

The analogy of the dogs:

  1. The analogy actually comes from Proverbs: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
  2. Swine are also described in this way, as illustrated by Peter: “Of them [false prophets and teachers] the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’” (2 Peter 2:22).
  3. The dogs and swine here are representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the gospel once it has been given to them.
  4. We are not to put forth the gospel of Jesus Christ in the direction of someone who has no other purpose than to trample it and return to his own evil ways. We identify such people through discernment, which is given in some measure to all Christians (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).

This does not mean we refrain from preaching the gospel. Jesus Himself ate with and taught sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 9:10).

  1. In essence, the instruction in Matthew 7:6 is the same that Jesus gave to His apostles when He said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:14).
  2. We are not to judge others, because we are guilty of the same things they are, but reserving judgment does not prevent us from discerning those who would accept, or at least respect, the gospel from those who would ridicule, mock, and trample it, and then turn on us and abuse us.
  3. Balancing judgment with discernment is the wisdom of serpents Jesus refers to in Matthew 10:16.

Give Up Everything?

This study is on the hard saying of Jesus about having to give up everything (Mark 10:17-31) Mark 10:21.

This is an amazing illustration of evangelism? Is this the Jesus method of evangelism?

  1. With what method are you most familiar?
  2. Which method appears to be most effective?
  3. What is the difference between sharing your story and sharing his story?

Imagine this evangelism encounter as a dream come true. The man point blank asks how to be saved!

  1. Jesus does not just hand him a tract and get him to pray the sinner’s prayer.
  2. Jesus does not correct the man’s theology, good works don’t save.
  3. This man had not come to Jesus to hear him say that keeping the commandments was the way to eternal life (Leviticus 18:5).

Why does Jesus tell him he can be saved by keeping the commandments?

  1. Jesus doesn’t mention belief or faith or grace, he says to keep the Law.
  2. Jesus seems to want to make it harder on the guy: he had not done enough.
  3. When was the last time you felt that there was always just one more thing that you need to do to be saved or please Jesus?
  4. In your theology, what is the relationship between what you believe and what you do?

Jesus said there was one more thing… but it was too hard for this guy to accept. (Read more about the Rich Young Ruler).

Why would the disciples be amazed at Jesus’ answer?

  1. The concept of God’s blessing: health, wealth, children, goats, all meant blessing.
  2. Those sick and poor, not so much.
  3. It would have made more sense for Jesus to say, “Blessed are the rich, blessed are the healthy, blessed are the comfortable.”
    • How do you define blessing? What about Jesus’ definition of blessing?
    • How does Christian persecution and martyrdom fit in to this definition?
    • How reliable is a world with a works/reward theology?

What must I DO to be saved? It is not about doing, it is about receiving. Trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Notice that Jesus loved him before he asked him to do anything (Mark 10:21).

  1. Do you sometimes feel that Jesus will only love you after you follow him?
  2. Do you feel he is judging your performance; he will love you more if you do better?
  3. When you are well connected to Jesus, how is the rest of your life affected?
  4. In what ways do you feel you must prove yourself to God? How does that reflect other relationships in your life? (do you have to continually prove yourself to your friends)?

Let’s check our identity.

  1. What three things do you generally tell others about yourself?
  2. How important is career development in your identity?
  3. How many of your friends really know you, not just facts about you?

The Point: who am I? What are the markers that define who I am?

  1. This is the question Jesus was trying to get this man to ask? Who am I?
  2. People identified him the same us we do… the rich, young, ruler, but is that who he really was?
  3. Jesus saw much more, his core. Selling all he had would have stripped him of his identity.
  4. Only by stripping these away could he identify himself the way Jesus did.
  5. This question can only be answered at the point of crisis. When something is attached to your core and is taken out (health, achievement, wealth, career, family, life)… Who are you when all these are threatened?

In a previous story (Mark 10:13) Jesus says that these nobodies had a quality that was kingdom-worthy, something that escaped the rich man and the prosperous members of society. This is what we know, NOBODIES…

  1. Don’t come to God and offer contributions.
  2. Don’t tell God who they are.
  3. Don’t have a claim to their lives.
  4. Don’t rely on trivial marks of identity.

Key truth:

  1. Paul tells us that giving all we have to the poor is of no use, if we don’t have love (1 Corinthians 13:3).
  2. Matthew 19:21, “if you wish to be complete…” Perhaps Jesus was testing the man’s devotion because Jesus did not ask all of his followers to do this.
  3. What could he have sold?
    • Sell your self-righteousness.
    • Sell your dreams of fame and fortune.
    • Sell your popularity.
    • Sell your efforts to secure a comfortable future for yourself.

Other passages to consider:

  1. Others left all and followed him (Luke 8:3) women who were not asked to make such a sacrifice.
  2. Zacchaeus apparently took his action on his own (Luke 19:8), the language means, giving is something he was already doing or that he would now start, either fits.
  3. Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves (Matthew 6:19-21), this is not to an individual but to his followers in general, we must have the right priorities.