Ps. 91; Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:5a, 21-33.
Slave, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above his master. That he be like his teacher is sufficient for his disciple, and the slave like his master. If they called the householder ‘Beelzebul,’ by much more the members of his household” (vv. 24, 25).
Jesus warns both Apostles and disciples to expect the same hatred and more than he was soon to experience; so, Jesus gives guidance for their respective missionary efforts; and yet each seems to contradict the other:
To his Apostles, they were to go first to Israel alone, and when faced with persecution in a place, “flee to the next [town]”. Israel’s national repentance was their primary and urgent preaching task while still time before the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation; indeed, they would not be able to complete their visitations before devastation would occur (Mt. 10:23);
But to his disciples, we are to go into all nations with the good news; yet in our endeavor expect a fate like Jesus, maligned and persecuted purveyors of his reign. Three times Jesus tells us, “not to fear”; but stand faithful before deniers and persecutors of the church’s witness (vv. 26, 28, 31).
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; nevertheless, many calling themselves “Christian” possess distinctly Jewish or Greek mentalities in opposing cross and resurrection.
Some dispensational “Christians” profess a form of pre-millennial expectation, that latter day Jews will construct a “third temple” on the temple mount (now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque) awaiting Messiah.
One can only gasp at the chutzpah; Jesus assures that God’s Temple has its new locus in his resurrection flesh (Jn. 2:19, 21; Rev. 21:22). When “Christians” adopt or associate with millennial notions of what the Lutheran Confessors condemned as “Jewish opinions” (AC. art. XVII) stemming from Jesus’ rejection, they become complicit enemies of the cross’ atonement (cp. Heb. 6:6).
By today’s Gospel, Jesus has come with a sword for judgment. God loved the world by the once for all sacrifice of his only Son (Jn. 3:16); but in faith we dare not consign Israel’s destruction of 70 AD. as unrelated to our own spiritual condition; rather that historic event is still a prophetic warning in these end times.
Execution of judgement on national Israel culminated with Rome’s sack of Jerusalem; a horror on order of magnitude, resulting in diaspora, loss of Land, temple and center of religion and festivals, presaging the still to come judgment on the Last Day for all who refuse God’s grace in Christ alone.
Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18) ruling and judging even now. Since the resurrection his rule is unabated; he always and daily comes to his church for comfort and blessing of word and sacrament (v. 20b) amid a world gone mad.
By his victory at the cross over principalities, powers, world rulers, and spiritual armies of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12), Jesus, as well, judges the world now and on the Last Day. Either grace or judgment responds to his question, “Who do you say [the Son of Man] is?” (Mt. 16:15).
Jesus daily and always judges belief and unbelief of God’s word. In this way, he brings sword and division by which brothers and families rise against each other in a civil war of faith (10:21, 22a). St. Paul sources familial division in the “scandal of the cross”, a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:18-23).
We do not fail to note the historic divisions within “Christendom”, violence among brothers and others; Crusades and Inquisitions, Protestants contesting the German Reformation’s restored gospel, a Roman Counter-Reformation doubling-down on its manifest errors, the religiously oriented 30 and 100 year wars, the ascendancy of European atheism and global pluralism, and an American religious pot-pourri of a “1,001 sects” rebranded as nominal “Christianity” in place of unity of belief and doxological practice.
When we drill down to the cause of offense about the cross; you will find at foundation the church’s resurrection sacraments, especially her Holy Eucharist. Christian faith for salvation is nothing more nor greater than: What Jesus says is true, embraced because Jesus said it; he is Lord and God (Jn. 20:28).
In Capernaum Jesus’ declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:53-56).
Either these and Jesus’ words of sacramental institution partake of his death for the life of the world in the church’s Eucharistic meal; or they are only metaphor signifying nothing. If the latter, then the gospel essence of God with us in the man Jesus Christ (Mt. 28:20) is denied; there is no middle ground!
Jesus always comes to judge faith, so that it is never safe for men to opt-for or condone generic “Christendom”; rather our commission is not to flee, rather to stand faithful in Jesus’ NT commands for the sake of faith in the world.
The church’s Eucharist is a scandal; not only to “reasonable” Greek minds, but to pharisaical hearts (Jn 6:60). Moses’ Torah expressly condemned consumption of blood for the blood is the life and the life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Deut. 12:23; Lev. 17:11, 12).
On the cross, Jesus’ death fulfilled all the Law, a kosher separation of his blood into the earth. Jesus crucified and risen is Torah’s final lesson. The Son of Man is God’s new Torah and its Teacher who is Lord. Jesus crucified for the forgiveness of sin, is God’s gift of Life through Christ in handing-over the HS in water and blood from the cross.
Jesus’ blood, poured-out from his flesh, mingles Eucharistically with the flesh and blood of the Baptized, an end to death by atoning forgiveness. By faith’s eating and drinking Jesus abides in us restored and gathered as one in his bread-Flesh and wine-Blood. This is the “reasonable” conclusion that God the Son took into himself our humanity.
The church comprehends herself the gathered Baptized in God’s presence by word, Baptism, and Eucharist for the new creation coming in Christ.
Jesus comes for “peace on those with whom God is well-pleased” (Lk. 2:14b). Who are these; those who are gathered to be “slaves of Righteousness” (Rom. 6:13); who faithfully, in the face of opposition, unit in God’s Temple, the crucified and risen Son of God and Son of Man in word and sacrament.
Still, under the shadow of the cross, divisions loom. Simeon in the old temple prophesied, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed… so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed; of who we say the Son of Man is. Are we scandalized or do we, without fear, praise God’s ways with men? Amen.