In Matthew 10, Jesus has a really special heart-to-heart with the disciples where He begins to tell them what they can expect in the future. Â He specifically predicts trouble for them, but He also prescribes counsel and comfort in reference to the trouble they should expect. Although this might scare some folks away from following Him, this was a really cool thing for Jesus to do. Since they knew they were going to suffer for His Name, it wouldn’t be a surprise, after He was gone, when some big-time suffering began. Instead of being a shock to their faith, it would be confirmation of their faith: “Jesus said this was gonna happen, brothers, and here it is.”
Not only did He tell them they were going to suffer, but He got pretty specific about what this would look like.
- They should expect to be hated.
- They should expect to be apprehended and arraigned like criminals.
- They should expect to be put to death because of their faith.
- They should expect to be called awful things.
Interesting side note on that point: (thanks to Matthew Henry) Satan’s sworn enemies are often represented as his friends, ie., the apostles were tearing down Satan’s kingdom, but they were called servants of Satan. At the same time, Satan’s sworn servants would be thought to be his enemies, while they are actually some of his best workers. Often those who paint him on other’s clothes have him reigning in their own hearts. Feels like a history lesson. At any rate, I found it an interesting observation.
- There will be division because of their faith.
What does all this mean? A few things come to mind: first, if you’re following Jesus, you are like a sheep among wolves. Jesus told you that already. Wicked men are like wolves, devouring and destroying is in their nature. God’s people are of a contrary nature and disposition, but they are exposed to the world, and easy prey. Jesus sends His children out into this world, but He will protect them, and bear them out, because He is the Good Shepherd over His flock.
Here comes the challenge. A lot of us — I might say especially in western society — are a lot like the disciples. The disciples thought Jesus was going to be kicking off a new kingdom on the earth, and that all his followers would be given wealth and power. Very appealing. They were expecting to be made princes in His kingdom, but Jesus was telling them they would be made prisoners. Â Jesus said, (v. 34) “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” This sword imagery is prevalent throughout Scripture — He brings His followers His Word — the Sword of the Spirit spoken of in Ephesians 6, the only offensive weapon mentioned in our spiritual armor. We have this sword, this truth, to fight against the lies of this world, as Jesus fought against Satan with it (Luke 4:1-13) We fight the lies the enemies whispers to us with it…we use it to discern what’s really in the heart of a man (Heb 4:12).
Now, there’s not really a sword fight if there’s only one sword. The sword fighting against the children of God, is what Jesus spoke of here, the sword of persecution. Â Those who don’t believe God’s word are cut to the heart by it (Acts 7:54) — they are tormented by the testimony of Christ’s witness (Rev 11:10). When two people are given the same information, and one believes and the other doesn’t, the faith of the one who believes and trusts condemns the one that doesn’t. There is no enmity like that of the persecutor, no resolve like that of the persecuted.
What’s the point of all this, Caroline? Jesus has warned us of the persecution we are very likely to receive if we follow Him. My concern is that many of us, in western society, are sharing a message of the Gospel that says God’s full intention, if you follow Him, is to make your health perfect, your life pretty, your bank account in top-shape, and maybe, if you’re extra blessed, you’ll even get a new car every year or two. If you do have those ‘blessings’, great…maybe. They might be the very thing that distracts you from truly following Jesus. And the pursuit of more of them — whether you have them or not — can be an even bigger distraction.
The question: Are we following Jesus so that He can make our lives super-duper happy clappy, or are we following Him because we believe He’s the Son of God, and we’re willing to fellowship in His sufferings in this world, walk through the challenge of persecution, and stand firm no matter what the consequences. I am sometimes afraid to speak to the people around me about Jesus because I don’t want to be persecuted for my faith. But God has given us a spirit of power, of love, of a sound mind, and an incredible weapon (which we need to sharpen) in order to live the kind of life Jesus came to show us. Praise the Lord for His mercy: we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Praise the Lord for His power: we can move forward, and look more like Jesus with the fresh opportunity that every day brings. So let’s step out of our box, get our eyes off our worries and our checkbooks, and trust the God who created us to supply our every need, while we follow after Him!
“The good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” 2 Timothy 1:14