Matthew 10:16-25 – The Place of Trouble

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
 
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
 
“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! (New International Version)
 
Take a moment to let this statement from Jesus sink-in: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”… 
 
To name the obvious: A pack of wolves will attack a flock of sheep because a wolf is a hunter, and a sheep is the prey. In short, wolves eat sheep.
 
So, when Jesus said this to a group of guys who are familiar with rural metaphors, they clearly got the message: The Lord is putting us in a place of danger. We are at risk. We could lose our lives.
 
From the mere human perspective, Christ’s words to his disciples are outlandish. Here we have a group of people who are following Jesus. But they likely didn’t sign-up for this! Perhaps they began to think their Lord was a bit off his rocker. Maybe he ate a piece of moldy bread or a leftover fish that didn’t agree with him.
 
Sometimes, followers of Jesus Christ completely lose sight that he was a troublemaker and warned us about trouble in the world. 
 
It’s not that Jesus was intentionally pressing everyone’s buttons; he was just being himself, and that sent a whole lot of people, at the worst, gnashing their teeth and caballing to kill him; and, at the least, causing them to question why they are even paying attention to him. 
 
Then, when you throw into the mix that Jesus also tended to get all up into people’s grill and confront them with bold assertions that they can only be rightly related to God through himself, on his terms, there ends up being a large chunk of folks who simply walk away, believing Christian discipleship isn’t for them.
 
Yet, Jesus wasn’t presenting something brand new. He was lifting up a truth which has been with God’s people throughout the ages: God never promises to keep us from trouble.
 
In fact, the Lord does just the opposite: He promises we will face a great deal of trouble because of our spiritual commitments. However, there is a further promise: God will be with us through the trouble, and not apart from it. We don’t even need to worry about what to say because God’s very Spirit will speak for us.
 
This is one reason why Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep. Yes, Jesus is sending out his disciples like vulnerable sheep among ravenous wolves. However, he forever stands as the divine sentinel, watching over the flock, keeping them safe, going after the strays, and challenging the predators.
 
We may be in a difficult place of trouble, yet Jesus is present with us by means of the Holy Spirit. We do not fear and instead live with confidence in the middle of hard circumstances because God is with us. And if God is with us and God loves us, nothing can separate us from our Lord – no matter how cunning and intimidating that big old wolf is.
 
Therefore, we should expect opposition and trouble. There are going to be times that we unintentionally disrupt and upset our families, our co-workers, and those around us. 
 
It’s not that we are trying to be obnoxious or malicious; it’s just that by simply loving Jesus and seeking to follow him, we are going to upset some people – and, as Christians, we need to be okay with that reality. 
 
Facing trouble is really not the worst thing to be experienced; to be separated from God is the most terrible thing that could ever happen to us.
 
My friends, it is okay to rock the boat, shake the tree, upset the fruit basket, stir the pot, and make waves if you are doing it because you are committed to God’s will and you are truly living into the words and ways of Jesus. 
 
Because Jesus faced a great deal of trouble, opposition, and suffering, he is able to help us through our own overwhelming stuff.
 
So, count the cost. Give your life away. In doing so, you will actually find it – and find that you are saved and safe.
 
Holy God, you are jealous for your Name to be honored and adored. My life is yours. Use it for your glory in this fallen world. If trouble and persecution occur, I’ll consider it a privilege to suffer for Jesus and an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to show up. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s