Rabbi Daniel Asor accuses Jesus of coming to sow hatred and cause war and division in the world. The rabbi says: “Even according to his own words, Jesus didn’t come to bring peace… but the sword. “Don’t think that I have come to bring peace to the world, but a sword…” Jesus didn’t come to give love to the world; he came to rob it.”
Let’s look at what Rabbi Asor’s accusation, at the context in which Jesus said those words, and what he really meant when he said them.
Here’s another quote:
“And he said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’”
Did you think this was also from the New Testament? No, these are the words of Moses at Mt. Sinai. It’s very easy to take verses out of their context like Rabbi Asor does so well, but the challenge is to understand the context in which the things were said.
There is no doubt that Jesus’ words, as well as those of Moses, sound harsh. They appear to go against everything Jesus preached in regard to love, forgiveness, grace and compassion so many times and in so many ways throughout the New Testament. Rabbi Asor didn’t bother to note that the section he quoted is from chapter 10 in the Gospel of Matthew. What was Jesus really speaking about in that chapter?
A Choice Between Following God or the Traditions of Men
The question of whether we should betray our traditions for Jesus is not an easy question, but it’s a simple question. You can choose to follow the traditions, which the rabbis invented, or you can choose to follow the Messiah – to follow God. When we have to choose between loyalty to our families’ traditions and loyalty to God, we should choose to be loyal first and foremost to God, and this is what Jesus spoke about when he said he came to cause division. For many at that time, choosing to follow him meant that their family would reject them, just as it is still happening today, to Messianic Jews who declare their faith in Jesus. Very often, the family will threaten them with denial, separation, and even with cutting them off from the family, unless they deny their faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus the Messiah separates between those who are really willing to give it all and to follow God with all their heart, their soul and their might, from those who rather follow the religious traditions of men; to follow the rabbis.
In chapter 10 in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns those who chose to follow him: “for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you…” (Matt. 10:17)
“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.. they will persecute you…” (Matt. 10:21-23)
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known… And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matt. 10:26-28)
Now we will continue and quote Jesus’ words again, as they were quoted by Rabbi Asor, but this time within their context:
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:32-39)
Jesus requires following God with all our heart, our soul and our might. If we truly love our ancestors and our heritage, we need to honor it by being loyal to God and His Messiah. If you are yelling now that you will not leave the traditions of your ancestors, we want to remind you that this is exactly what Abraham did, he left his home and the traditions of his family in order to follow God.
The prophets in the Old Testament were not always loved by the people of Israel, and especially not by the religious leaders. Often they were not properly understood and even their friends and family members rejected them. An example of this can be found in Jeremiah 12, we read that because of Jeremiah’s decision to follow God, his brothers and family betrayed him and raised a loud shout and cry over him. In other words, Jeremiah’s family rejected him because they understood his dedication to God as a betrayal to their family traditions. And today, whom among the prophets do we respect and consider a true prophets? The prophets who were liked by the people, by their families and by the religious leaders? Or the prophets who convicted the people of their sins?
For those who prefer to follow the majority, we would remind you of Moses in Exodus 32; While he was alone on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law from God, the people of Israel preferred to make themselves a golden calf. As a result, Moses spoke the verses we quoted at the beginning. He demanded that all those who participated in the construction of the golden calf should be destroyed:
“And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”” (Exod. 32:28-29)
Moses declared that God blesses those who choose to follow Him over their families. So if we apply Rabbi Daniel Asor’s words to Moses, in his opinion it seems that Moses also came ‘not to bring peace but a sword’, and not to give love to the world but to rob it for himself.
And what about Rabbi Asor? After all, the tradition says that a Jew must “honor his rabbi more than his father”… Apparently, Rabbi Asor too, as a rabbi, came to rob love for himself and to divide between father and son…
Both Jesus and Moses insist on complete, uncompromised dedication and loyalty in our walk with God. Today, the traditions of the people of Israel are no longer based on the Old Testament, but on keeping the commandments and the traditions which the rabbis invented and still inventing. They are not loyal to the God of Israel, since they reject and don’t accept the Messiah whom He sent, Jesus.
Let’s be realistic, after you die, you will stand alone before God. The rabbis won’t be there to hold your hand, and neither will your aunt or your teacher, Mrs. Smith. You will need to give account to God on every choice you’ve made, including, why you preferred to follow the traditions of men and not follow Him.
About 100 years ago, when Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl envisioned the establishment of the Jewish State and started the “World Zionist Organization”, his ideas were immediately rejected by the chief rabbis of Judaism. But Herzl didn’t give in to the rabbis and thanks to his efforts, fifty years later the State of Israel was born.
When a young Jewish boy from Poland by the name of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda came to the conclusion that the Hebrew language should be fluently spoken among all Jews, his family threw him out of the house. The rabbis of his time resisted the idea that secular Jews would speak Hebrew. What language would we be speaking today if Eliezer Ben-Yehuda had given in to the rabbis? And in what country we would we be living today if Herzl had given in to the rabbis?
Don’t count on the rabbis and don’t allow them to think for you. Don’t let pressure from your family or fear of what others might think prevent you from following the truth – from following God. And that is exactly what Jesus was talking about.
The Hanukkah story tells of a dark time in the second century