Matt. 10:34, 35; Luke 12:51-53.
J. A. Trench.
Article 26 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
From the words of praise of the multitude of the heavenly host, the day that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as given in Luke 2:14, peace did certainly seem to have been presented to the earth in the Person of the Saviour. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill" (or good pleasure) "in men" — as the last clause must be read. And if the object of God in His coming into the world was that a testimony of peace on the part of God should go out to the guilty rebel children of men — as Peter tells us it was (Acts 10:36): "the word which He sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ" — could any embassy of peace have been more wonderfully devised, or better calculated to win men's hearts than that God should present Himself in Israel, as a babe, the perfect expression of human weakness; putting Himself, so to speak, completely within their power.
But what was the effect? The first three Gospels give us the history of the rejection of God come in such infinite grace in the midst of His own. As it is summarised in the fourth gospel, and characterises it from the start, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him and the world knew him not. He came unto his own" (that is, His special nation of Israel) "and his own received him not." But as I have said, we can trace the stages of His rejection in the earlier chapters of Matthew when first the call to repentance in view of the proclamation of the kingdom of heaven had gone out in the ministry of John the Baptist, and His own ministry. (Matt. 3, 4)
Then when great multitudes followed Him from all parts of the land, it became necessary that the true character of the kingdom He was prepared to set up, should come out. And the Lord unfolds the principles of it to His disciples in what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 5 - 7)
In Matthew 8 and 9 incidents in His life are grouped together in an order more perfect than the historic, to present to us the King Himself (chap. 8) in His tender heart, afflicted in the afflictions of His people, and in Matthew 9 in the principles of grace, in which He came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. At the close the Pharisees denounce Him as working by the power of the prince of the devils. In Matthew 10 on the occasion of the Apostles being appointed, the Lord first indicates plainly what would be the consequence to them of this rejection of the Messiah, at least from verse 16 of His instructions. He was sending them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; they were to beware of men; they would share the Master's portion fully.
This rejection of the Messiah accounts for what follows. How could peace be counted on any longer in the world to which it had been presented in the lowly coming of God in Christ into it, when His presence here only drew out the irreconcilable enmity of man's heart against God? Hence it is that in Luke 19 the disciples who greet the Lord on His entry into Jerusalem as her King, can only say "Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." The peace presented to the earth, in the Saviour (Luke 2) is not to be found upon earth, if He is rejected out of it. And in Luke 12, as well as the parallel passage quoted from Matthew 10, the worst state of things in Israel, as depicted in Micah 7:5, is referred to by the Lord, as the result of His having been among them. The powerful ties of family relationship will not be sufficient to hold together when Christ becomes the object of any in it. A man's foes shall be they of his own household. And this becomes the test of being wholly for Him.
Peace upon earth is postponed until He shall be manifested in glory. Meanwhile the ground of this peace is laid in divine righteousness, as also, for peace in heaven in the richest way, and where we needed it most — by the blood of the Cross. (Col. 1:19, 20)
Take the three passages of Luke referred to in Luke 2, Luke 12 and Luke 19, and they give us the history of peace as so far accomplished, in the most striking way. Observe, too, that there is no change as to Glory to God in the highest. That was made good in the fullest way, in the full revelation of God in goodness in Christ in all His path down here, and of what He is against sin in the cross. This has made way for the bringing out of how the good pleasure of God in men has taken effect according to His eternal counsels (see Eph. 1:3, 4), while the earth must wait for the long proffered peace, till it receives the Prince of Peace.