Scripture: Matthew 10:24-39 CEB
Today’s gospel reading continues on from last Sunday where Jesus calls and prepares His disciples for their great mission. In our passage today, Jesus gives some final instructions before sending them out.
He includes an honest assessment of the hardships they will face as they obey the call of Christ. They are to expect persecution and loss as well.
There is a lot of good advice in this passage, but one verse caught my attention this week.
In verse 28 Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (v.26-28).
In other words, because the twelve went out as Jesus’ disciples who would follow in His footsteps, there were going to face both positive and negative consequences. Jesus’ words are for us too.
On the one hand, there will be hardships as we follow Christ, but on the other, we always go with the assurance of God’s love and support.
These days Christians are being given many opportunities to take a stand with Jesus and proclaim His ways. We shouldn’t be surprised when doing so causes a negative reaction from those who reject the principles and objectives of Jesus.
It happened with everyone who helped on the end of slavery and fighting for equality like, Abraham Lincoln, Howard Thurman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and other committed disciples who have taken risks for Christ.
Those who have decided to help the poor and the needy, by providing food, clothing, shelter, and money, demonstrate personal support for Christ and His Church. Nowadays others may serve as encouragers, promoters of racial equality, justice, and reconciliation among their challengers.
In our passage, Jesus explains that we are all in a spiritual battle and that those who stand on the front lines are in a war against the darkness of Satan and his minions.
But, lest we think that we have to face such enemies on our own, Jesus assures us of God’s love in Vv. 29-31.
He says, don’t be afraid, you are more important than the sparrows, all your hairs are counted.
Jesus also tells us not to worry about what others think of us or what they say about us for taking His name and for proclaiming the Gospel.
In fact, we should care more about what God thinks of us than what other humans think.
We should live out our lives in kindness, welcoming, and encouraging others.
As Christians, we are to promote the values of God’s kingdom. This means that we are to respect everyone’s dignity, work for justice, and do all in our power to transform our community into God’s kingdom.
This is God’s will, so we can be assured that it will happen.
We know that taking risks and going out of our comfort zones isn’t easy. We do not like to be criticized, and neither do other people.
But in this lesson, Jesus is challenging the perception that being a Christian means a life of warmth and comfort. We will face conflict and have to have many hard conversations.
In Vv. 34-39, Jesus warns that he has not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Jesus also warns that “Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me.
Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them”
It takes real courage to take up the cross of Jesus, but we can be confident that if we decide to take it up, God will provide us the courage that we need when we need it.
My beloved brothers and sisters, we need to reckon with the consequences of what it means to be a real disciple of Jesus. The rewards are great.
In v. 32, Jesus says that “everyone who acknowledges Me before people, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven.”
But, Jesus also goes on to say in v. 33 that “everyone who denies me before people, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
These are difficult and sobering words, but they are meant for our encouragement.
They help us take our call seriously.
Eternal life and eternal damnation are at stake.
For all who are committed to be disciples of Jesus, suffering, hardship, persecution, and loss will come, but that is by no means the end of the story.
Jesus promises that our Heavenly Father will give all of His followers the power to witness to His love and the support to live out our faith in daily life.
He promises to the faithful every blessing. He will give every blessing, even the blessing of eternal life.
Let’s recommit our lives to be stronger disciples of Jesus in this world, and pray to our Father for wisdom and strength.