Let’s face it, Jesus was not a peace activist. On the contrary, he brought division and conflict. This was not his intention, but it was inevitable. In Matthew 10:34 he said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
He didn’t mean he came to cause war, though many have fought them mistakenly in the name of Christ. Clearly, Jesus spoke metaphorically in the verse above. The very nature of his person and his PURPOSE in coming, is what would cut and divide, like a sword. His words were often sharp, and they cut to the heart, bringing pain and exposing the deeper issues of life. That is how truth is, is it not? As the saying goes, “The truth hurts.” Sometimes it cuts when we are trying to avoid it. But the truth about Jesus hurts even more, because it cuts in order to confront the problem of mankind, a problem most would rather pretend is not there. That problem is our sin and unwillingness to be accountable to God for our lives. Now, if my mentioning the word ‘sin’ has jolted you, then I rest my case. The truth hurts, and it even cuts.
What you think of Jesus will most definitely cut like a sword. Either it will cut you off from him, or it will cut you off from those who reject him. Make no mistake about it, the sword will cut and divide. The subject of Jesus simply arouses deep emotions in people. Even if you try to avoid the issue, you can’t. There is no ‘neutral’ ground. You either acknowledge who Jesus is and what he has done, or you don’t. To have no opinion at all about Jesus really is still an opinion. In essence it says, “I don’t think Jesus is important enough to warrant my time or energy to investigate.” Perhaps your view says that what one believes in life really doesn’t matter, as long as one is sincere. I’d like to talk about that view in future posts, and most certainly will bring it up. But for now, let’s get back to the words of Jesus.
In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked a question to his disciples, “Who do people say that I, the son of man, am? To paraphrase, what are people saying about me? Who do they think I am? Do any have it right, that I am the promised messiah?
The disciples’ response in Matthew 16:14 is very interesting and revealing, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.” First, notice how there were various views about Jesus. At that time, much like today, peoples’ opinions were at conflict with one another. And certainly they all could not have been true. On the contrary, according to Jesus (who had every right to correct false ideas pertaining to himself), all three of these particular ‘ideas’ were wrong. How do we know this? Well, the first obvious reason is that his name was not John or Elijah, but Jesus. And we also know that Jesus did not acknowledge the view that he was just another prophet. But the biggest clue comes to us from Jesus, who asked yet one more question in the next verse, Matthew 16:15, “But who do you say that I am?”
Do you notice how Jesus now makes the question very personal to the disciples? It was not enough to let others have opinions while they carried on with indifference. Settling for the fact that people are divided over the person of Jesus never relinquishes anyone from the need to take a position about him. The disciples had to make a decision for themselves. What did they think of Jesus?
Friend, this is the question we all need to answer. You don’t have to agree with my view, or anyone else’s for that matter, but you do have to agree with your own. What I mean here is that you owe it to yourself to at least have a view. One that is based on fact, and has been formed after careful, personal investigation. If what Jesus said and did is true, then he is the messiah and you need to make a decision as to what you will do with that information. If Jesus was a phony, or a loony, then none of it matters and you can just continue with life as before. But certainly, Jesus made some radical claims, into which we must at the very least investigate.
Notice how the apostle Peter answered the question in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ.” With this, Jesus rejoiced. He said in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Did you notice that Jesus acknowledged Peter’s answer, as accurate? Therefore, Jesus claims to be the Christ, or messiah. In future posts, I’ll be sharing more about the messiahship of Jesus. In the mean time, think about and try to answer the question that Jesus asked. Answer it honestly. In spite of what others might be saying, who do you say Jesus is?
Though Jesus mentions the sword in the opening verse of this post, he also spoke of peace and promised it to his followers. But this peace had nothing to do with world peace from military ceasefires and everything to do with mankind and his creator. It is inherently dependent on one’s view of Jesus, for one must come to him for it.