Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:36 “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
Many go through all of life without facing this struggle. Others never face a day without it. The very place meant for peace, home itself, can erupt over Jesus.
For a believer, maybe no experience is bitterer than this. Thus, Jesus felt a need to warn of this possibility. He wanted us forearmed, for few things are more dangerous to Christian success than folks we interact with regularly. For instance, most extramarital affairs happen between people employed at the same place.
Even more pressure is brought to bear on us by those we live with daily. When they oppose our faith, the strain can be well nigh unbearable. We are ever in danger of making their opinions our standard, rather than God’s declared will.
We are social beings, as shown by the exploding proliferation of cell phones. We want to be in touch. We long for support outside ourselves, and crave approval from others, especially from people we work and live with. Thus, when they argue with us, the temptation is always real to renounce Christ for them, to crash “upon the perishing and treacherous pillar of human opinion” (Arnold).
The latter is not an acceptable option for a believer. Christ demands a better response of us. We cannot expect to enjoy the best benefits of Christ if we do not come up to His terms, to criteria presented loud and clear in these verses. If Jesus is worth anything, He is worth everything, and thus, all who follow Him must rise to the standard of loving Him more than anyone else, as Jesus will now point out.
Matt. 10:37a “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of
A story will help. Some three hundred years after Christ’s birth, a scholar named Jerome moved to Bethlehem. For the better part of twenty years, he meticulously and laboriously worked on a Bible translation in the cave that tradition claimed was the birthplace of Jesus. His translation, the Vulgate, was such a masterful triumph that it remained the standard Latin Bible for 1500 years.
Jerome’s tedious attention to Scripture caused his heart to glow with red hot passion for Jesus. Our text calls to mind one of his forceful claims. “If Jesus called me to come, although my father should lie in my way, and my mother hang about my neck to hinder me, I would go over my father, and shake off my mother.”
It can be difficult to keep the first and fifth commandments in order. The first command is, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (EX 20:3). The fifth command is, “Honor your father and your mother” (EX 20:12). Remember the order, command one comes before, and has priority over, command five.
Honoring parents is subordinate to honoring God. Maybe no truth more vexes a teenage or young adult believer who lives under the roof of, and is thus still under the authority of, an unbelieving parent antagonistic to Jesus. I have been in negotiations about young people who wanted to serve Christ, but parents forbade it. Pat answers don’t help in this excruciating situation. If this describes your condition, I urge you to stretch as far as you can in the direction of obeying your parents. Someday you will be living on your own, out from under parental authority. Until then, seek wise counsel from staff members and youth teachers.
Matt. 10:37b “And he that loveth son or daughter more than me. . .”
Again, a story may help. John Bunyan, an English Baptist pastor, is famous for having written Pilgrim’s Progress, a book translated into over 100 languages, and considered by some to be, next to the Bible, the most widely read book in history. It was written in Bedford jail, a small one-room building where Bunyan spent over twelve years due to his refusal to cease preaching without a license.
Each morning the jailer would unlock the door and say, “John, you are free to go if you won’t preach.” “If I go,” Bunyan would reply, “I will preach before I reach yon hill.” Bunyan’s decision to remain in jail left his wife and four children impoverished. He especially agonized over the plight of his blind daughter. In light of our text, I find extremely pertinent the words he wrote while in his cell.
“The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the flesh from my bones. . .not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I would have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, would I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I have besides. Oh, the thought of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under would break my heart to pieces . . . But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. Oh, I saw in this condition, I was a man pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet thought I, I must do it. I must do it.”
The number one role of a parent is to raise their children for Jesus, to guide them in the direction of becoming adults who serve Christ. As long as our children are under our roof, it is incorrigible to indulge them in sin rather than to rule them in righteousness. Eli, Samuel, and David indulged sinful sons, honored them above God, and thereby brought wrath down upon their own families.
Loving family is precious, but not as precious as loving God. His claim to our love is paramount. He is more excellent and worthy than our family. He has loved us longer, since before the foundation of the world. He has sacrificed more and done more for us, having borne our sins in His body. He set nothing above our salvation. We must set nothing above His love. Jesus has to come first.
In the sixteenth century, preacher John Clark of Melden, France, was arrested for his faith. His father opposed him, his mother supported him. After three days of whippings, Clark still refused to renounce Christ, and was brought to the place of execution. A heated iron was used to brand him on the forehead as a heretic. As his flesh was seared, a blood curdling scream silenced the crowd. The shriek came not from the martyr, but from his anguished mother, who was witnessing the dreadful sight. Torn by a violent struggle between love for God and love for her son, faith finally overcame maternal instinct as she shouted, “Blessed be Christ, and welcome be these insignia,” referring to the scars on her son. Her outburst, by law, required immediate punishment with the condemned, but not one of her enemies, reported the historian Beza, dared put forth his hand against her. A mother’s love for God above son struck powerless the hearts of priests and soldiers, and restrained the fury of monks and town sergeants. The crowd fell back, making a path for her as she stumbled with faltering step toward her home. The son died, but an invisible hand made the mother invincible.
You have heard from this pulpit, if we are to win the lost, we must love them beyond their ability to understand. Allow me to add, if we are to win them, we must love Him beyond their ability to understand. Our love for Jesus must be unmistakable, obvious to the point of being noticeable by those who know us.
A true disciple feels irresistible personal affection for the Master (McNeile). When traveling, I miss Ruth, but I don’t miss Jesus. He is present. Even when I “feel” distant from Jesus, He is still the One I talk to. When absent from Ruth, I think about her, but do not commune with her, except by telephone. For believers, life with Christ is ongoing communion. Kirk Talley’s song is true at all times,
He is here, hallelujah, He is here, Amen,
He is here, holy, holy, I will bless His Name again.
He is here, listen closely, hear Him calling out your name.
He is here, you can touch Him, you will never be the same!
We can love Jesus as did Jerome, Bunyan, John Clark and his mother. We love Him individually through the week and then assemble to express it as a body. One of the many blessings of corporate worship is, we can look around and see that the love for Jesus our hearts feel all week, others also sense wherever they go.
As God’s anointing descends on Joe, instruments, and choir, the crowd is pulled into a shared expression of holy love for Jesus. Individual, private events converge, rising to a crescendo of corporate, public testimony others can witness.