Matthew 10 and life in a hostile world
Jesus instructed The Twelve to be his Apostles, that is, messengers, to a hostile world. Matthew 10 is the record of those important lessons. That he was sending them to the people group most antagonistic to the Good News of the kingdom is clear in the specific directions he included in his charge. He said---
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles
and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the
house of Israel.
Matthew 10:5-6, ESV
In that day and since then millions of Gentiles and neighboring Samaritans has affirmed the truth of Jesus' identity and the orthodoxy of the Christian faith. As he taught them he knew they would face the greatest opposition in the hostile world of hyper-orthodox first century Judaism. He was preparing them to stand strong in that hostile world.
Matthew 10 may be the forgotten playbook from which contemporary Christians learn the fine balance of living in such an environment. Today we're big on loving our neighbor, praying for our enemies, going the second mile, turning our cheeks, and approaching the world system without critique or judgment. In this culture ours is a passive voice, already diminished by decreasing numbers and further silenced by worldviews that have screamed us out of the public discourse. Yes, God is in control, we're not to fight fire with fire, and Scripture admonishes us to desist playing by the worlds rules. Then, there's Matthew 10. Here Jesus produced in no uncertain terms our engagement with a world that doesn't want to hear our message or permit our religious freedom. It's a good reminder of that balance we're too bring to our ambassadorship. Here are a few conclusions from Matthew 10---
1. Jesus was motivated by a loving spirit. Matthew 9:36 indicates his compassion for the multitudes of people he saw. This tender spirit characterized the teaching he passed to The Twelve. He promised blessings to anyone who would even give a cup of cold water to his disciples in that hard world.
2. Jesus knew that genuine love wasn't mere softness. In Matthew 10: 34-39 he reminded them that the Gospel would always be divisive, separating families, a sword among men rather than peace. It was the note that real biblical love takes hard stances and does difficult tasks in the lives of the people we love.
3. Jesus told them they would always be outnumbered. Up front (Matthew 9:37) he reminded them that the harvest was great but the workers are few. He prayed that the Father would send workers into the fields of harvest.
4. Jesus emphasized the persecution they should expect. He told them he was sending them out as sheep among wolves, a bloody picture, and that they would be taken before synagogue officials, government authority, that families would be divided at every level, and that they would be hated. Persecution was the order of the day.
5. Jesus told them to be bold. He said that the message entrusted to them should be proclaimed from the housetops and that they should not be silenced by the world around them, the comparison of light and dark. (see Matthew 10:27).
6. Jesus told them to gather with people of like mind. They would need the personal encouragement and strength of being with people who shared their vision and message (see Matthew 10:11).
7. Jesus warned them about the allure of false teaching. He told them to shake the dust off their feet at the houses where their message was not graciously received (see Matthew 10: 14).
8. Jesus told them not to be afraid. In four instances he told them not to fear or be anxious about the opposition or persecution they would face (see Matthew 10:19; 26; 28; 31).
9. Jesus told them they were valued by God. He wanted them to be assured of their value in the kingdom economy and that even the hairs on their heads were numbered by God (see Matthew 10:29-31).
10. Jesus promised them they would be remembered before the Father. They would be tempted toward silence. But, he promised that if they acknowledged him before men, he would acknowledge them before his Father in heaven (see Matthew 10:32).
As mentioned yesterday, the world certainly has a playbook. It propels them forward in loud, obnoxious, forceful, and attention getting ways. Part of that system is designed to deny and denigrate truth, and to silence those who would announce it. And, in many ways it's working. It's partly because God's people have not understood how we are to live in a hostile world. It's not as passive and gentle as we've allowed it to be modified by those who own the media and have re-shaped the religious freedom that marks our great nation.
He trained them for this kind of world, and has sent us into it two thousand years later.