This lesson from
Matthew is a difficult word. Jesus has been instructing His disciples – the
Twelve – and notes that there will be coming persecutions for these disciples
who also have a mission to accomplish. Jesus also encourages them to have no
fear. We will carefully examine the lesson’s portion concerning the cost of
In verses 34-36, Jesus interprets Micah 7:6, which reads: “For the son
treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your
society’s collapse at the advent of the end-times. Jesus also suggests that
the “good news” may have distressing side-effects. The gospel’s good news creates
division even within families. Some will accept the message of Jesus and its
demands, while others resist Jesus’ gospel way. Those who follow Jesus must
put loyalty to Christ above even their own family loyalties.
involves the risk of death and Jesus states that those who do “not take up the
cross and follow me are not worthy of me.” Finally, Jesus provides a paradox
that teaches: If people’s aim is to preserve their earthly life, they will lose
everything, but those willing to die for Jesus will find eternal life.
It is puzzling to most of us, however, that Jesus would say things like
“I have come to set a man against his father,” “one’s foes will be members of
one’s own household” and “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not
worthy of me.” Is this the same Jesus who tells us to love one another? One
of the law’s cardinal values is to “honor father and mother.” Jesus even chastised
the Pharisees and scribes in Mark about this very thing (see: Mark 7:9-13).
This is a puzzle,
but a perspective on “the final days” offers the clue to the puzzle. Jesus
believes in family ties, but he also recognizes that, at times, family ties
hinder our ties to God’s family. Jesus suggests that it is all a matter of
perspective and priority.
indicates that an old recipe for rabbit stew begins with this injunction: “First
catch the rabbit.” Says Robinson: “The writer of the recipe knew how to put
first things first. That’s what we do when we establish priorities – we put
the things that should be in first place in their proper order.”
Several summers ago I read three books by a father and son named Jeff
and Michael Shaara. The three books were Gods
and Generals, The Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure. After reading about
1100 pages of the trilogy, I came to the conclusion that the North nearly lost
the War Between the States because of the pride and vanity of the Northern military
leaders. The North had more food, ammunition, and clothing. The North had a
better communication system and better transport of its war materials. The North
had the manufacturing strength to continue to out-equip its enemy’s army. Yet,
despite the overwhelming odds in its favor, the North narrowly escaped defeat
simply because of its commander’s pride. Most of the Northern senior officers
spent their time playing to the press and fixing blame on others for their own
failures. This blaming among Federal troop leaders allowed the Southern States
to remain in the war much longer than they would have otherwise.
My guess is that most church fights, most family fights, and most school
fights all boil down to the misplaced and presumptuous pride of the participants.
If people could put their need for acclaim and their pride aside for the greater
good, then many excellent tasks could be accomplished. However, individual
pride often keeps us from doing what is frequently in the best interests of
In part, this is why Jesus wants people to put discipleship before everything
else. If discipleship is first, then everything else falls in place. A father
or mother or son or daughter who has put God first will be better in their family
role – and most evidence confirms this principle of discipleship. The contemporary
Christian song, “Seek Ye First,” puts it nicely. “Seek ye first the kingdom
of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Too often we worry about how we will look or what the consequence of a certain
action will be for us-rather than for those in God’s Realm.
Jesus message is
simply this: “If we take care of our relationship with God, then we do not need
to worry about anything else.” Our relationship with God gives us all the perspective
we will ever need to be happy and blessed people.
Sermon brief provided by: David N. Mosser, Pastor of First United
Methodist Church in Arlington, TX.