Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Devotional: Boldness in the Face of Opposition, Matthew 10:16-42

Outline: Matthew 10:1-42

  • Jesus sends out the 12 to represent him and minister like him with an expected result of rejection by the majority but acceptance by the righteous. 10.1-42
    • Jesus commissions and empowers his disciples to proclaim his kingdom message beginning in Israel. 10:1-15
    • Disciples should expect persecution wherever they proclaim Jesus as king, but that they should not be deterred because the mission will succeed. 10:16-25
    • Disciples should not fear the inevitable persecution because the Father guarantees protection and eternal life and reward. 10:26-42

Chapter 10 concludes Jesus’ instruction to his disciples for their first kingdom mission to the Jewish nation. But Matthew expands Jesus’ words to have great significance to anyone who will go out and represent Jesus until he comes again. Those who will represent Jesus should expect to be treated the way Jesus and his first disciples were treated. We should expect persecution and be willing to die, if necessary to accomplish the mission he has called us to do. We should expect some of those closest to us to misunderstand or reject us because of our kingdom priorities. However, we should also expect that God will use our faithful, bold response to persecution to draw people to him just as Jesus’ cross provided access to God for even those who denied and killed him. In the midst of it we can trust God to provide inspiration to convince those who oppose us, protection from and through the persecution, and a rich reward from God now and in eternity at the final judgment. Jesus’ point again is that when we fear God and follow Jesus we need to fear nothing else.

Jesus promises that times of persecution would come. (10:16-25) This first mission caused the disciples to experience the rejection of their peers. Post-resurrection ministry would bring pain (Paul received the 39 lashes in the synagogue 5 times) and cost most of them their lives. In every era of church history Jesus’ representatives somewhere are called to give their lives to complete his mission. But, in every place and at every time, if we are to take a stand for Jesus’ values and message it will cause some of those around us to respond with misunderstanding, rejection and opposition. In the midst of that, Jesus’ calls us to respond, not in kind, but with love and speak the truth without guile. He promises that God will give us the right words to say in the situation. Rather than fighting back Jesus calls us to flee when we can. This may cost us treasured relationships but Jesus also promises that he will always give better than we lose. History shows that our reaction to persecution may be just what is needed to bring the perpetrator into God’s kingdom.

Though we should expect persecution we do not have to fear it. (10:26-33) Persecution may take the form of shame and estrangement from friends, family and our culture, but Jesus promises honor from God and vindication in judgment. God’s care and presence will never leave us and we can entrust ourselves completely into his protection. Our loving Father values us and will bring his best for to us. Even if we are called to face death, God will work in that, as with Jesus, to bring victory, honor and eternal reward. This is not an easy thing that Jesus calls us to do here. It is not often emphasized in our churches. But Jesus promises kingdom blessing when our confession of Christ brings opposition. Do we believe it enough to take the same stand as Jesus and the disciples did?

Jesus closes with a warning that the kingdom of God requires us to give everything, including our life, for it. It must take priority over our families, our cultural obligations and our own well-being. (10:34-39) This will inevitably put people with other priorities at odds with us. It will cost us something. But Jesus promises that, not only will that commitment bring you future reward, but you will “find real life” now. Not only that, but Jesus will also bring others into your life who will receive you, support you and restore what was lost. Your commitment will become the vehicle for their finding life and eternal reward. (10:40-42)

We, as a church, need to take these instructions more seriously and get out of our comfortable church buildings and take Jesus' kingdom actions and message out to those who need it. The effectiveness of a church should be evaluated by how they serve the needy of their own community, share the good news about Jesus, and by how much of their resources go into sending missionaries out to make disciples of all nations. It may bring opposition and persecution, but God promises to use even that for our blessing and to accomplish his purpose to bless every nation.

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