So do not fear… - Vs 31 (NASB)
This is a pretty intense chapter. As I read it, I kept trying to get in the sandals of the disciples and imagine what they were feeling as Jesus gave them this little "pep talk." He is getting ready to sent them out on their own for the first time as His apostles or literally His "ambassadors." But rather than give them words of encouragement, it seems as if He is trying to scare them. He starts out pretty positive, telling them that they are to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They are to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. But even those instructions could be a little intimidating to a group of rag-tag fishermen and tax collectors. But then Jesus starts to turn up the heat. He starts intimating that they will face rejection. Not everyone is going to accept what they have to say. They won't necessarily be celebrities everywhere they go. And Jesus makes this very clear in His instructions. Just take a look at some of His words of warning:
I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. – Vs 16 (NASB)
…beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues. – Vs 17 (NASB)
…you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. – Vs 18 (NLT)
Brother will betray brother to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will rise against their parents and cause them to be killed. – Vs 21 (NLT)
And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me. – Vs 22 (NLT)
When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. – Vs 23 (NLT)
Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. – Vs 34 (NLT)
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. Your enemies will be right in your own household! – Vs 35-36 (NLT)
If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. – Vs 38 (NLT)
This is scary stuff. If I'm one of the disciples, I'm thinking, "What have I signed up for?" Jesus' speech isn't exactly what I would expect if He's trying to send these guys out enthusiastically. But right in the middle of all the doom and gloom, Jesus three different times, "Do not fear!" He reminds them that God is watching over them. They will have divine protection.
Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows. – Vs 29-31 (NLT)
Not all that Jesus says in this chapter was going to take place in the time the disciples were on this little expedition. There are some forewarnings included that deal with the time after Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. There are also some events that have to do with the Tribulation period. All of these men would have been long dead by the time this future event takes place. So some of what Jesus is talking about has to do with His followers in general. So this message has immediate application to the twelve, but also to us. These are going to be difficult days. Jesus is not promising His followers a rose garden. This is not going to be an easy path to follow. We will face persecution. We will face difficulties. Our message will not always be accepted. Even among our own family members. Jesus' message is controversial and divisive. The gospel divides. That's why He says, "Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword." Listen to how The Message paraphrases that verse: "Don't think I've come to make life cozy. I've come to cut – make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law -- cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God." I think that really does sum up what Jesus is trying to say to these men as He sends them out. While this trip would prove to be fairly non-eventful, the day was coming when they would experience much of these things in full. After Jesus resurrection, the disciples would go through extreme difficulty and persecution. They would find themselves under tremendous persecution. But Jesus wants them to remember that they have no reason to fear. So He tells them three times, "Do not fear." Better yet, He warns them to fear God, but not man.
Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life--body and soul--in his hands. – Vs 28 (The Message)
We have been sent out into the world. A lot of what Jesus warned the disciples about, we face. These are difficult days. The message we have to share is not a popular one. It is divisive and controversial. It is exclusive and not politically correct. But we need to go out fearlessly, knowing that we have the power of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit (Vs 20). We do not need to fear men. But we DO need to fear God. We are His ambassadors, His representatives. He is expecting us to be aware of the difficulties. He doesn't want us to be uninformed or ignorant of the realities we face. We are sheep in the midst of wolves. But we can be bold, because we serve a powerful God who loves us and knows us so intimately, that He knows exactly how many hairs we have on our heads! So do not fear.
Father, thank You for reminding me of the mission on which You have placed me. I am not here for my comfort or convenience. I am on mission. You did not promise me an easy road or path to follow. You have warned me that it would be difficult. Your own Son was murdered because of His message. Why do I think it will be any different for me? Give me the strength to be bold. To not fear. But keep me fearful of You, because You are worthy of my fear. You hold my life in Your hands. You purchased My life with the blood of Your own Son. I owe You my allegiance and faithful service.. Amen