Prince of Peace
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
The most common question about this verse which I as a preacher receive usually goes something like this: “How can Jesus say this when he is the Prince of Peace and the angels were talking about peace on earth the night he was born?”
Good question, and the biblical answer revolves around context (as is usually the case with most questions about what the Bible says.) Yes, Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s messianic prophecy about the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). Yes, Jesus and his apostles promoted peace in their teachings (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 14:19; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 2:14-17; 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:13; 2 Tim. 2:22). So why does Jesus seemingly contradict himself by saying, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth”?
This verse comes in the middle of a discourse in which Christ is sending his twelve apostles throughout Israel to preach the gospel of the kingdom and is telling them what to expect (Matt. 10:1ff). He warned them that they will suffer severe persecution due to preaching his message…but to not fear because God is with them (vs. 16-33). It is in that context – the context of warning them about how sinful men will react to God’s message that they preach – that he tells them that he has come to bring a sword rather than peace to the earth. Immediately after making that statement, he alluded to how even families will be divided because some will heed his message while others will not (vs. 35-39). Thus, the lack of peace comes not directly because of Jesus, but because sinful men reject his teachings of peace.
What was true then is true today. I just read of a Christian missionary who was hacked to death by a husband simply for baptizing his wife. Faithful Christians have always been disowned, ostracized, fired, spit upon, bullied, beaten, or killed for simply following the teachings of Jesus Christ, teachings which promote love, peace, unity, harmony, and good will towards all…yet also have the nerve to say that some actions and attitudes of men are wrong and will lead to hell. Sinful people don’t like to be told that they’re wrong, and will react in non-peaceful ways to those who tell them so, no matter how lovingly and peacefully. That’s why following and proclaiming the teachings of Jesus will bring a sword rather than peace. It’s not Jesus’ fault that happens. It’s ours.
How do you react to the teachings of Christ…especially when they step on your toes?