Matthew10:24to33: DON'T BE AFRAID

Introduction. Read Matthew10:24-33.

In this passage Jesus offers some advice to those active in his service. He tells his disciples to: (1) Expect the worst, (2) Evaluate their worth and (3) Endure the wait.

(1) Expect the worst.

Jesus told his disciples that they must expect the same sort of reaction as he received. He said: "If the Lord of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household."v24and25.

So it as well to remind ourselves of the negative reaction Jesus received. He was:

(a) Dismissed. Jesus' claim to be the Messiah was dismissed for a variety of reasons:

  • Ignorance. Jesus was associated with Nazareth and not Bethlehem. Remember what Nathanael said when Philip told him that they had found the one of whom the prophets had written, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph: "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Jn1v46. It seems likely that most people were in ignorance of Jesus' early history and his birth in Bethlehem. After Jesus taught at the Feast of Tabernacles there was a mixed reaction to him but some dismissed him with these words: "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived." Jn7v41and42.

  • Familiarity. Jesus status was dismissed in his home town of Nazareth because the inhabitants thought they knew all about him. They said, "We know his mother, his brothers and his sisters - since when did he become a prophet?" Jesus said, "Only in his home town and in his own house is a prophet without honour." Mt13v57.

  • Arrogance. The religious experts dismissed the teaching of Jesus becasuse he had not been schooled in the Law. He hadn't been through the system. He had never been a student at the University of Jerusalem. Jesus hadn't got any letters after his name. When the Jewish scholars said, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned," they were not being complementary. Rather they were questioning his qualifications to teach in the temple. See Jn7v15. See also my exposition on: John7v14to24.

The opinions of Christians are still dismissed - ignored or treated with contempt - for the same reasons:

  • Many people in Britain are woefully ignorant of what the Bible teaches. I have dealt in the Articles section of my web site with some topics Christians and non-Christians alike know little about. Why dismiss the Genesis flood as a fairy story when it turns out to be a remarkably accurate account of a large but local flood. There is endless confusion on what the Bible teaches about life after death and the fate of the wicked.

  • We might be dismissed as a Christian with something worth saying in the family, work place or local church because familiarity breeds contempt. Some of the churches of the association to which I belong will invite Creationists to address a special meeting - but they would never invite me!

  • Many think that no educated person could be a Christian because the Bible is unscientific. I can remember an encounter I had as an 18-year-old on a train taking me from Suffolk to Durham University. The man I shared a carriage with asked me where I was going. I told him, "For an interview at Durham University to study Chemistry." He replied, "I'm glad to hear it - better that than those fairy stories they study in the Department of Theology."

    Sadly, it is true of many Christian denominations - in spite of having the lay man Jesus as their head - that you are denied a voice unless you have the right academic qualifications. In the early church if a person was given the gift of prophecy by the Holy Spirit they were permitted to preach. Try telling that to the leadership in the Roman Catholic Church or even the Church of England. Some of the greatest preachers and teachers - like Jesus - had no formal education in Theology. Two very influential Christian teachers of the twentieth century were C.S. Lewis and Dr-Lloyd Jones - neither had any qualifications in Theology.

(b) Misrepresented. Jesus said, "If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!" v25.

John records many confrontations between Jesus and the Jewish establishment in his gospel. Jesus' opponents nearly always ended up accusing him of being devil possessed.

Throughout the history of the church Christians, along with their Master, have been slandered. During the time of the early church Christians were accused of participating in sexual orgies and cannibalism. This was because they held love feasts and feasted on Christ's body and blood at the Lord's Supper.

In 19th century China, Zhou Han, a mandarin at Changsha in Hunan, published hate literature against Christian missionaries. One tract featured foreign missionaries praying to crucified pigs, engaging in orgies following Sunday services; and removing the placentas, breasts and testicles from Chinese.

In modern Britain there is a tendency on the part of some to dismiss evangelical Christians as narrow-minded, homophobic bigots.

(c) Hated. Jesus said to his disciples, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." Jn15v18to20. Martin Luther said, "If they crowned Christ with thorns don't expect the world to crown you with roses."

There are many parts of the world where Christ and his followers are hated with a bitter hatred. Every month the Christian magazine I take, Evangelicals Now, has brief accounts of the persecution of Christians. Take, for example, the Christian politician, Dhanasekharan, who on October 2nd 2016 was at a church service in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu when a phone call lured him outside. Five men were waiting for him. The 34-year-old ran back into the church but was caught and killed. Other Christians attending the church at the time of the attack fled for their lives.

This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of Christians are persecuted each month.

In Britain there are many people who have a profound distaste for Jesus and those who believe in him. They are like Mr X. A few years ago I attended a reunion of staff from the Grammar school where I started my career. The organiser of the get together asked me to say Grace before the buffet meal. This incensed one of my former colleagues. Mr X said he had been invited to attend a staff reunion not a prayer meeting. He made it quite clear he would never attend another such gathering if it was going to involve petitioning a non-existent deity.

(2) Evaluate your worth. v29and30.

Jesus said: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father... So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

To what extent is this assertion of Jesus a comfort to his disciples? Jesus does not say that God stops the sparrow from falling. He does not intervene when a sparrow hawk swoops or a cat pounces.

The passage teaches:

(a) Our lives are not insignificant to God. If the life of a sparrow matters to God so does our life.

(b) God knows about us in detail. Jesus said that God knows the number of the hairs on our head. So he will certainly know: how we struggle with sin; whenever we suffer for Christ's sake; of our very smallest acts of service. Jesus said that if we give someone who is thirsty a cup of cold water for his sake, we will be rewarded.

(c) God cares about us. If God cares about the fate of a solitary sparrow he will certainly care about the well being of his sons and daughters. We shouldn't think that when we suffer God is indifferent to our pain.

There are times God intervenes on behalf of his own. This is the story of Exodus. God did provide protection, guidance, food and water during the years Israel was in the wilderness. However, he did so without greatly restricting the freedom of others.

God does not always ride to the rescue of Christians. The sparrow hawk is often successful in ending the life of a sparrow. We have to remember that God cares for the hawk as much as he does the sparrow.

It might not even be in the best interests of sparrows for there to be no hawks. The Christian soldier who never encounters the foe is unlikely to be super-fit! Faith is like a muscle - it needs exercise to develop. A little sapling may be attached to a pole for support - but not too tightly as it needs to sway in the wind to stimulate root growth.

So God cannot always intervene when wicked men persecute Christians. Wicked men must be free to act the way they do. Other men - men committed to justice - should not expect God to do what they can do themselves. For example, the Indian state and not God should protect religious minorities.

It would not profit the church if Christians were always spared the nastiest illnesses. Before too long the churches would be full of fakes pretending to be disciples of Jesus just for the health benefits.

One of my readers might say at this stage that I haven't provided much tangible evidence of God acting on behalf of those he cares for. How does he alleviate our distresses? Perhaps, it will help to examine how God acted in love to support his Son in his hours of greatest need.

  • When Jesus prayed in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest Luke records: An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Lk22v43. Although we might not have a ministering angel to help us through an ordeal, God's Spirit may well reassure us of the Father's love.

  • When Jesus hung upon the cross one of the criminals crucified with him exercise faith in his redeeming power. This must have been a huge encouragement to Jesus. His suffering was redemptive and the dying thief was the first to find salvation at the cross.

    Our suffering can also be redemptive. It can provide many small opportunities for others to show compassion and to be like Jesus. I was talking to an old lady last week who has carers go in four times a day to help her. She said that one of those carers went the 'second mile' - she always put a hot water bottle in her bed.

  • God cut short Jesus' physical agony. He did not suffer on the cross as long as the two criminals. When Jesus knew his work was done - God had accepted the sacrifice he offered - he was able to dismiss his spirit. This shows, I hope, that God sets limits on how much those he loves have to suffer.

    When my friend and brother, Peter, was in a care home suffering from dementia and prostate cancer I prayed that God would give him a measure of peace and forshorten his misery. God did.

  • All was well in the end. Jesus completed his saving work. God accepted his saving work and raised the Son to life the third day. Jesus triumphed over all mankind's chief enemies - sin, death and destruction.

    However much Christians suffer they are assured that all will be well in he end. When my uncle David was nearing the end of his life due to motor neuron disease he managed to write me one last letter in which he quoted Julian of Norwich: 'All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.' He emphasised that all was well with him because he had Jesus.

            When peace, like a river attendeth my way,
            When sorrows like sea billows roll;
            Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
            It is well, it is well with my soul.

I have to say that as I review my life, God has looked out, and looked after me. He has provided for my daily needs, forgiven my many sins and spared me the worst temptations Satan could devise.

(3) Endure the wait.

It will help us to endure if we anticipate the end. We must endure to the end for:

(a) Vindication. When Jesus returns to this old earth in judgment those who believe in him will be vindicated. The truth will be disclosed: Jesus is God's Son, he did die to save us from our sins and he is the resurrection and the life. All the promises Jesus made to his disciples will come to pass, none more so than this: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." This being the case Jesus tells his followers: "What is whispered in your ear proclaim from the roofs."

(b) Identification. Jesus said: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven." v32.

At the judgment Jesus will identify before God all those who accepted him as their Saviour and made no secret of their allegiance. He will also indentify those who rejected him and said in their hearts, "We will not have this man to reign over us." Lk19v16. AV. He will identify for condemnation those who wanted no part of him on earth - who dismissed his claims - and despised the blood he shed for them.

(c) Deliverance. God will end the history of our universe by destroying some, both body and soul, in Gehenna.

There is a lot of confusion amongst Christians about the future of those who deliberately reject Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Gehenna was the Jerusalem rubbish dump. Anything that ended up there was destroyed by maggots, vermin or the fires that burned continuously. God will deal with the unsaved and unsavable, the lost and irretrievable, the proud and unashamedly unrepentant; all those unwilling and, indeed, incapable of rejoicing at Christ's appearing, by destroying them completely. They will be as though they had never been. God will expunge every trace of them from the record. He will empty his memory bank of all of them.

However, believers, like the Israelites of old who sheltered beneath the blood of the Passover lamb will escape the Second Death. They will enter the Promised Land - a new earth in a new universe over which Jesus will reign. Those who believe in him will be with him, be like him and be forever with the Lord. What a glorious prospect.

I will close with the beautiful words of Katherina A D Von Schlegel:

          Be still my soul, the hour is hastening on
          When we shall be for ever with the Lord,
          When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
          Sorrow forgot, loves purest joys restored.
          Be still my soul, when change and tears are past,
          All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.