“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
What!? This is one of those verses that I don’t ever remember seeing in the Bible until now. What happened to “peace on earth, goodwill to men”? Talk about a paradox in Christianity!
To help me understand the paradox, I looked up the word “sword” in Hebrew. I know that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, but the ancient Hebrew still holds meaning for understanding English words.
“Sword” in Hebrew is written like this:
and pronounced like”zayin”
The letter characters are from right to left, since Hebrew reads right to left: “zayin”(yes, the letter that starts the word has the same name as the word), “yod,” and “nun.” These are similar to our letters in the English alphabet for “z” “y” and “n.” Here are the ancient Hebrew pictograms of these letters, again from right to left:
(mattock, an agricultural tool, for zayin)
(arm, for yod)
(sprouting seed, for nun)
So those pictograms represent these ideas:
(cut ground/nourish = mattock/zayin)
(work/throw/worship = arm/yod)
(heir = sprouting seed/nun)
How fitting that Jesus called himself a sword before he gave the parable of the sower and the seed that follows Matthew 10 a few chapters later in Matthew 13. He is truly the one who cuts the ground or soil of our minds, to plant or pierce the soil of our minds with truth, that we might work with him and be joint heirs with Him of the Father’s kingdom.
Here are the verses that follow the above statement from Jesus:
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:35-38)
So in other words, Jesus comes to separate us, with the sharpness and strength of a sword, from anything that keeps us from God, even if it is a mother, father, or child. Here’s what Elder D. Todd Christofferson has to say about this:
“I’m confident that a number of you have been rejected and ostracized by father and mother, brothers and sisters as you accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and entered into His covenant. In one way or another, your superior love of Christ has required the sacrifice of relationships that were dear to you, and you have shed many tears. Yet with your own love undiminished, you hold steady under this cross, showing yourself unashamed of the Son of God” (“Finding Your Life,” Ensign, Mar. 2016, 28).
I haven’t ever had to do this but I applaud any of you who have. Jesus will richly reward you.