Think, Don't Think
This text begins as everyone but the NIV insert translates, "Don't think." I have always said that while Jesus praises childlike faith, He does not praise childlike understanding. So what's with not thinking? Well as Proverbs can say answer a fool and don't answer a fool, I say think, don't think.
Don't think on Jesus' words, "I did not come to bring peace to the earth but a sword" because if you think, you'll stumble. Modern commentators in order not to stumble water the words down. Most say something like "Jesus didn't only come to bring peace but a sword as well." Early commentators don't tend to do that. Chrysostom says a diseased body can only be at peace when the cancer is removed and that takes the cutting of a sword (Ancient Christian Commentaries, NT, Ia, 210). Another place he says that peace is established by cutting off rebels (Ibid.). Jerome says that it is a godly conflict that breaks an evil peace (Ibid. 211).
But most of us can't think that way, so I say don't think. I hear "a man's enemies will be the members of his own household," and I shudder. Don't you? Think what that means? Gone are Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings; Ozzie and Harriet and the Beaver is left way, way behind. It's Homer Simpson choking Bart. It's Archie Bunker calling his son-in-law meathead. It's a Picasso impressionist painting where everyone is distorted and in pain.
As much as I don't like to think of what Jesus says He brings to my life, home, and family, that's not the worst of it. Don't think about what Jesus says about you. Jesus doesn't just say don't love your father, mother, son or daughter more than Me. He says don't love yourself more. So much for the 21st century mark of mental health: self-esteem. You think you love your family a lot? Not one of us loves them more than we do ourselves. We saw that in the Bible class on Job, didn't we? The Devil was right; it wasn't the loss of his children or property that really got to Job. It was skin for skin. "Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life," the Devil said, and he was right.
So, I say, don't think about this text, though if you did think about it people do have this sort of intensity, this sort of passion about other things in their life. Don't you know that some families are bitterly divided over politics? Being a Republican or a Democrat is not a matter of going to heaven or hell. It is not life or death, but some families live that way. A man is against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and for what? For politics?
If you really stop and think about it more than just politics divide families. Something as frivolous, as earthly, as passing away as sports do! People who say they bleed burnt orange or maroon are taken seriously, even respected as devoted fans, but the fact that Scripture says you can sin against the Blood of Jesus in Communion, well that's over the top, that's too serious. You can be as passionate as you want about sports. You can have an entire room decked out with your team's colors, logos, and memorabilia, but when Jesus calls for a passionate following of Him, well that's just fanatical.
If you think about it the world says, "Let's not be divided by religion, but it's okay, understandable, and defensible to be divided by politics and sports." And, if you think about it, the world also says it is okay to lose your life in hobbies but not in Jesus. I can't tell you how many people over the decades have expressed their passion, their dedication, their seriousness about their hobby. They have read every book and know every detail about it. They know of no limits of time, talent, or treasure in the pursuit of their hobby. Yet these people don't come to Bible classes; only come to church irregularly, and probably couldn't tell you whether Abraham came before Noah or how many letters Paul wrote to the Ephesians.
If you think about it people all around you are as devoted, as serious, as passionate about something as Jesus calls for us to be about Him. But don't think about it. Don't think, listen. Listen to what Jesus says and does. Our text is the last part of Jesus commissioning the apostles on their first missionary journey. He is sending them out as prophets to tell the world what it needs to know to be saved from the coming destruction.
As hard as this is for some of you to hear, it's not the end of the world if there is no NFL season and the Longhorns tank again this year. It's not the end of the world if Obama keeps the White House. It's not the end of the world if your spoon collection is stolen. It is the end of the world if you don't heed the Words of the Judge of the living and the dead through the mouths of His apostles and prophets. It is the end of the world if you put the words of your parents, kids, friends, or family above their words. The Church that the gates of hell cannot prevail against is not built on love or peace but on the words of the apostles and prophets.
Frankly, I don't know why this so hard for us to understand and even take comfort in. When a large part of mainstream "Christianity" supports the murdering of babies in the womb, homosexuals in pulpit and marriage, and claims God's Word has errors, isn't it great to know that Jesus has not set us adrift on the seas of public opinion or popular thinking to be blown about by every wind of doctrine? No, He has given us a sure Word through the prophets and apostles that is able to deliver us from this present evil age.
Don't think; hear, listen, believe and be freed from the tossing seas of uncertainty that will surely make you seasick. Jesus sends out His prophetic and apostolic Word in the mouths of righteous men. This is important. For Scripture says, "No man living is righteous; no not one." Here Jesus says righteous men exist and the one who receives them receives the reward of a righteous man.
Since perfect Adam and Eve fell the only righteous man that has existed since is Jesus of Nazareth. Although He is true God, being born of the Virgin Mary He is also true Man and born under the Law. Being True God He was perfect at birth, but without using His divine powers as a man, Jesus stayed perfect. That unbelief that darkens your heart wasn't in His. That lust that pollutes your thoughts wasn't in His. That willingness to be more serious about the things of men than the things of God wasn't in Jesus.
Jesus was totally, completely, perfectly righteous, and yet God the Father took the Apple of His eye, His bright Morning Star, the Son He loved more than you love anyone else but yourself, and nailed Him without mercy, pity, or love to the cross. The righteous Jesus died the death of an unrighteous man, the death you and I so richly deserve. The innocent death of the righteous Jesus was a wrath removing sacrifice for the sins of the world. In Jesus God is appeased, not angry. In Jesus men, women and children are righteous. In Jesus, God doesn't see what we use to be; He sees Jesus.
This is what Jesus sends His prophetic and apostolic Word out in the world to do. To bring the righteousness of Jesus to sinners and it's only His Word that does this. It's not your opinion or my opinion. It's not how I feel or you feel. You and I have no freedom to give up one i dot or one t cross of that Word. That Word is foolishness, stinky, and death to those being lost but it is wisdom, perfume, and life to those being saved.
Don't think; receive. Jesus says you receive the faithful messengers of His Word and you receive Him and those who receive Him receive the "Big God." I say it this way to get across a point lost even on the apostles. Remember how they were plagued with needing to see the Father even after all through John's Gospel Jesus had told them He did and said what the Father does? They still thought there was another God behind Jesus. No, you have all of God in Jesus.
When you receive my ministry of Word and Sacraments you receive all of God. All of God is put on you in your Baptism; clothed in God you will be raised from death. All of God's forgiveness comes to you in the Absolution that comes into your ears from my lips. There is not one single sin of yours that it doesn't send away. And all of God is on our altar in the Communion. In the Bread we have the Body of our God; in the Wine we have the Blood of our God. Receive these you receive the Jesus who sent me and the One who sent Him.
Don't think, but if you must think, think small. You hear that people have trouble with their minds racing. We are told this is a modern problem. I think if you read the Psalms, you'll find it's not. In any event, if your mind races you can't stop thinking, if so think small. Right after 911 actor James Gandolfini, star of the hit TV show "The Sopranos" was at the height of his popularity. He toured Ground Zero and was asked what he thought. He said, "This is too big for me to comment on," and walked away. Be like him; be as this text calls the followers of Jesus, be a little one. Be like the Psalmist who doesn't think about things too wonderful for him. Be like the Psalmist who crawls up into his mother's lap like a contented child.
Little ones must be cared for, protected, provided for. We don't let our little ones go off by themselves even in a grocery store; let's not think our Lord lets His little ones go off by themselves in this fallen world. We don't make our little ones buy their own clothes, fix their own meals, provide their own shelter; let's not think the Lord does less than that for His little ones.
I don't relish the divisions I see and feel. I don't seek to make enemies. I'm a little one. Little ones don't cause divisions; little ones don't make enemies. No they suffer them. Little ones in divorce proceedings suffer the division in their family and the hostility that often follows. The difference with little ones of the Lord Jesus is He is divorcing us, separating us from what would harm us. O there's still suffering involved even in this dividing but it's temporal not eternal. Even then sometimes I don't think I can bear it, but Jesus thinks I can. What counts is what He thinks. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (20110724); Matthew 10: 34-42