And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matt 10:34
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb 4:12 ESV
There are the official approved readings from the lectern every week, and then there are those bits that we leave out. This is one of the reasons I like our Good Friday Service so much. It is a communal reading of the entire passion narrative interspersed with some hymns for reflection and the gradual darkening. Once a year the congregation hears the story in its entrancing entirety. And hearing it out loud by your fellow congregants is meaningful in a way you might not expect. But if you don’t go to Good Friday, and you don’t read it yourself, you won’t find Luke 22:36. You will get those other verses I put up front once every three years. I’d suggest you take out you concordance and look at the word sword. See where else it is used and how it is used.
We like to preach on the love of God. We preach on the acceptance of God. We preach on the resurrection. We don’t spend much time on swords. And isn’t that exactly what our culture, encouraged by our prevailing church culture, leaves out? Even when your heart is pierced with a sword, God loves you. In fact those swords might be exactly the time you draw the closest to God. Christ came to bring a sword. He came to divide soul and spirit. He came that the thoughts of many hearts my be revealed. It is only in those times of the cross, when we are asked to carry the cross and follow our Lord, that we find the truth of faith. When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all our hope and stay.
If we are always running to the next promise of love or prosperity or whatever bit of magic is being pushed this month as the hallmark of a true Christian, we never draw near the heart of Christ. It is only in submission to the cross that we find ourselves with Christ. And I don’t want to take this is a masochistic direction. Lord, take this cup from me is a common prayer. And many do get taken. But some are not. Sometimes the prayer is simply your will be done. As Jesus told the disciples in that Garden – “rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation”. Your will be done…and deliver us from evil. Because we fall asleep too easily. We don’t like contemplating swords.