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Matthew 10:26-33 NET

26 “Do not be afraid of them, for nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. 31 So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.

When the Apostle Paul was saying goodbye to the elders of the churches in Ephesus, he told them that he had not held back from teaching them anything that would be helpful or from announcing to them the whole purpose of God. I want to be able to say that when it comes time for me to leave this place. I don’t want to be known as the preacher who only preached about one thing. But these last few Sundays, I have been focusing on evangelism. I’m not always going to preach about evangelism, but I did commit myself to teach all the commands of Jesus. It just so happens that Jesus commanded us to pray for more evangelists. It just so happens that Jesus commanded us to seek the lost sheep. It just so happens that Jesus told us that we would be opposed and attacked for preaching the gospel, but we should keep doing it anyway.

So, I find myself reading another text this morning in which our Lord told his followers to evangelize. I could read it some other way – many have. But I have a personal responsibility as a preacher of the word to say what it says. If this message was important enough for Jesus to teach to his apostles, it is important enough for me to share with you today. If it was important enough for the Holy Spirit to inspire Matthew to record it and for it to wind up in our Bibles, then it deserves our attention.

We have already seen that Jesus was sending his apostles out to do evangelistic work among the towns and cities of Galilee. He told them to preach the gospel, and he told them that some would accept what they had to say and some would not. Some would welcome them, and some would reject them. Some would praise them; others would curse them. In fact, Jesus told the apostles that the response they would receive would be like the response he received. Some people wanted to make him their king; others wanted to crucify him.

It is in that context that we come to today’s text because it deals with the natural reluctance all of us have to get dead. We don’t like to do things that put our lives in danger because we like being alive. We don’t want to do what is wrong, but if someone put a gun to our head, they could make us do something wrong. We believe we know the truth, but if someone threatened to kill us, we would be tempted to recant that truth.

What we are talking about today is the natural fear that keeps people from sharing the gospel. It’s fear of rejection – fear of suffering for our faith – fear of being called names – and in some cases, even fear for our lives. Jesus knows how we feel. He has personally experienced all those things – not just the fear of rejection, but rejection itself. He suffered for his faith. He was called ‘Beelzebul’ the prince of demons. In fact, he suffered the ultimate rejection of being crucified. The world got tired of his good news and decided to shut him up permanently. It didn’t last, but they did put him to death.

So, Jesus is perfectly qualified to talk to you and me about our fear. That’s what he does in today’s text. Notice that the words “do not be afraid” show up three times in this passage: verses 26, 28, and 31. Jesus is showing us that our commitment to sharing his word is going to be challenged in three different ways. To put it another way, we are going to be tempted to not share his word for three different reasons. Jesus wants us to overcome each of those temptations and to continue to share the gospel.

What we need to do today is to recognize what we are doing that is wrong because that is the only way we are going to be able to correct our behavior. So, we need to understand the temptations that keep us from sharing Jesus to our friends and relatives. Today’s text can help us to do that.

The first temptation that Jesus identifies is the temptation to stay friends with everybody by keeping our mouths shut. Nobody is going to have a problem with us if we just simply stay silent about our beliefs. They will believe that we believe just what they believe. They will think that we doubt just what they doubt. There is safety in silence. But Jesus tells us to…

Evangelize boldly because of future revelation (26-27).

Jesus had been teaching and training his apostles in their own little private sessions. Now he tells them to go and share those lessons in public. Christians learn a lot about God, human nature, sin, Christ, salvation, and future things. Most of those things we learn in private sessions or through the private study of the Bible. They come to us in the dark. But then we are challenged to share these things in the light. We first hear them by a whisper in our ear. Then we are challenged to proclaim those things from the roof of our houses.

But we are reluctant to do that. We don’t want to disturb anyone with our views because we are afraid of what they might think about us. We don’t want to make ourselves targets of other people’s displeasure.

But Jesus is telling us that we do not have the right to remain silent because there will come a day in which everything we believe privately is going to be exposed and made known publicly. On that day, the people we are afraid of now are going to be weeping and gnashing their teeth. They are going to face the judge without the forgiveness of God’s grace.

God told his prophets to proclaim his word to warn sinful people. He also told them that if they refused to say what he wanted to be said, he would hold them responsible for those sins. It is a transgression to remain silent when God tells us to say something. One of those prophets was Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah said, Nah, I’ll just keep silent and go on vacation in Tarshish instead. Jonah never made it to Tarshish. He got a ride in a fish because God wanted the Ninevites to know what Jonah knew.

Every day you and I face the same challenge that Jonah did. He may not call us to go to far-off Nineveh but he is challenging us to evangelize our friends and neighbors. Being silent is not an option because one day all our knowledge will be exposed for all to see. But if we wait until judgment day to let our neighbors know what we believe, it will be too late to do them any good.

The second temptation that Jesus identifies has to do with the urge we have to keep ourselves alive. We know that everybody dies but we are not too keen to speed up the process by saying something that dangerous people don’t want to hear. Jesus would tell his apostles in this same sermon that “whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me … and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.”[1] Those disciples were not stupid. They knew what a cross was for. They had seen criminals take up their crosses and carry them to the sight where they would be executed. They knew that Jesus was challenging them to stay committed to him even if it led to their deaths.

Jesus spoke to that need for self-preservation when he told them to …

Evangelize boldly because of future annihilation (28).

He told them that they would have enemies and that those enemies would be perfectly capable of killing them. But he challenged them to look past that reality in the present, no matter how painful and unpleasant that reality is. He told them there was a fate worse than death. Death is the destruction of a body that is not intended to last forever anyway. When we stand before Jesus on judgment day, it will be in our resurrected bodies. But after that, those who did not come to Christ in this age will be condemned to a second death – a death from which there is no resurrection.

Peter called that second death ἀπώλεια – a Greek word meaning destruction.[2] Paul called it ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον – a phrase that means permanent destruction.[3] John saw this destruction taking place in a vision. He saw a lake of fire and people being thrown into it. He said that this lake of fire is the second death.[4] Where did all of these apostles in the Bible get their understanding of the fate of the lost? I’ll tell you where. Peter did not invent the word ἀπώλεια. Jesus used it in Matthew 7:13 when he said that “the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to” ἀπώλεια – destruction. He used the verb form of the word in today’s text when he says that God “is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This hell is Gehenna – not the fairy tale hell that people say bad people go to when they die. Gehenna is the second death the unbelievers will experience after judgment day. There is no coming back from that permanent destruction. That is why Jesus mentions it here. He is telling his apostles that they should not fear those who can just kill them. They should fear the one who can destroy their body and soul in hell.

The final temptation that Jesus addresses is the temptation to doubt our own value. We are reluctant to evangelize because we doubt that anyone would care about what we would have to say. That is why Jesus starts talking about sparrows and the hairs on our heads being numbered. What Jesus is saying is that we are valuable in God’s sight. He even cares about the birds, but we are more valuable than them. Everything about us that makes us unique is recorded in the mind of God – down to the number of hairs on our heads. On resurrection day, he’s going to give us life again – a life that we can never lose. And…

Evangelize boldly because of future vindication (29-33).

On that day when we are all brought back to life and made to stand before the throne of judgment, do you think it is going to matter what other people thought of you? The only opinion that is going to matter is the opinion of the judge. On that day the books are going to be opened, and there will be a column on the pages of those books that reads: ACKNOWLEDGED CHRIST BEFORE PEOPLE. There are going to be some names listed in that column. If a person’s name does not appear in that column, then Jesus says that he will not acknowledge them before his Father. That is why our commitment to sharing the gospel with others is so important.

William Barclay wrote, “Even when the Christian is involved in suffering and sacrifice and even martyrdom for his faith, he must remember that the day will come when things will be seen as they really are; and then the power of the persecutor and the heroism of the Christian witness will be seen at their true value, and each will have its true reward.”[5]

The gospel we preach is our testimony that Jesus is real and what he wants matters. That truth that we know makes us valuable because the world needs that truth more than anything else.

[1] Matthew 10:38-39.

[2] 2 Peter 2:1.

[3] 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

[4] Revelation 21:8.

[5] Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew. vol. 1., 1958. p. 396.


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Matthew 10:16-25 NET

16 “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of people, because they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 And you will be brought before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them and the Gentiles. 19 Whenever they hand you over for trial, do not worry about how to speak or what to say, for what you should say will be given to you at that time. 20      For it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 22 And you will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 Whenever they persecute you in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not greater than his teacher, nor a slave greater than his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more will they defame the members of his household!

We have been studying the commands of Jesus for some time now, and our study has now taken us to a series of commands that have to do with evangelism. First, we saw that Jesus told the twelve apostles that the harvest was plentiful but the workers in the harvest are few. So, he instructed them to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers.

We are always in need of more people to do the work of evangelism. The metaphor that Jesus used – that of a field ready for harvest – is quite appropriate. When you first look at a field ready for harvesting, it can be quite daunting. It’s hard to imagine getting the job done in time. You feel better about the task if you look around and see a large group of people ready and willing to share the task.

Yet, in this context, Jesus only chose to send his twelve apostles to canvass the entire Galilean region. Why did he chose just them for that task? I can only surmise that he wanted their small number to be a visual aid so that they never forgot the need to obey that command – to pray for more workers.

The next command Jesus gave about evangelism was his instruction for the twelve to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus himself had reached out to Gentiles and Samaritans in his own ministry. So, his purpose was not to exclude anyone from salvation. But he wanted his apostles to focus their ministry on people like them for this particular campaign. I mentioned last week that we should learn from that fact that we need to be sensitive to where Jesus is particularly sending us to evangelize. We should be doing more “rifle evangelism” than “shotgun evangelism.” We see examples of this in the book of Acts. The apostles went where the Lord sent them, targeting the people he sent them to.

Let’s take a look at today’s text to see what we can learn about evangelism as it related to the sending of the twelve – and how it relates to the evangelistic work that the Lord is sending us to do.

Jesus sent the twelve out (“I am sending you out” 16a).

There are all kinds of motives that people can have for doing the things that they do. Even evangelism can be done with the wrong motives. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote that some people he knew were “preaching Christ from envy and rivalry.” They were evangelizing “from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for (him) in (his) imprisonment.” But Paul rejoiced because they were preaching Christ and some people were getting saved anyway. [1]

But for you and me, the most important thing for us to know about our evangelistic work is that Jesus himself has sent us to do it. We have a personal relationship with Christ, and we want others to know that same blessing. But when it comes to the work we are doing, we have to understand who the boss is. If we think the people we are trying to reach are the boss, we are going to have problems. We share Christ out of our love and respect for Christ. We love others – not because we a loving bunch of people. We love others because God first loved us, and we want to share his love.

I have worked for a lot of different bosses in my time, but I can tell you this: I always worked harder for the bosses that I respected and appreciated. If there is one principle that is going to carry us through the difficulties of evangelistic work, it is this: Jesus is sending us out. We are not doing it for our church. We are not doing it for our families. Even our love for the lost will have to take second place. We seek the lost sheep because that is what the good shepherd wants us to do.

In fact, Jesus is the only reason any of us can reach the lost. Remember what our Lord told Peter and his brother Andrew? He said, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”[2] Okay, the metaphor was different, but the subject is still the same. Evangelism happens when the followers of Jesus follow Jesus. He does not first call us to evangelize. He first calls us to believe in him and follow him. As we learn to obey those commands, the ability to obey the evangelism commands grows naturally within us.

Jesus warned the twelve that they would be opposed (“like sheep surrounded by wolves” 16b).

He told his apostles to expect opposition because it is going to happen. He didn’t say it might happen. He didn’t say if we are doing evangelism wrong it would happen. He says that we can be doing everything right and we will still be opposed, attacked, persecuted – even some of us will be killed.

Some people say that living by faith means that we must search through the Bible for all the promises that are there, and then claim each promise and we will succeed. Well, the problem with that approach is that in some places – like today’s text – the promise is that sometimes you will not succeed. Sometimes the bad guys are going to win.

Let me change the metaphor again. Jesus is telling his apostles that they are going to play a game of cards and they will never know whether the hand that they are playing is going to be a winning hand or a losing hand. He’s sending them out like sheep – but not in a comfortable safe pasture. He’s sending them out like sheep among wolves. They are being challenged to do evangelism among the very beasts that want to tear them to shreds and devour them.

Note from today’s text what could happen in those villages, towns and cities of Galilee where the twelve are being sent.

  • We have already seen from last week’s text that there would be some households and some towns that would not welcome them. When they encountered this kind of opposition, Jesus instructed them to shake the dust off their shoes and go on to the next house or town.
  • Some of the town councils will have them arrested and publicly flogged in the synagogues (verse 17). This is more than just rejection. It is public humiliation. It is being branded a criminal or cult member, and suffering the shame of experiencing the punishment for those crimes.
  • Jesus tells the twelve that this kind of thing is only going to escalate when they keep evangelizing. Someday, they will not only be tried by the local council and punished by flogging. Someday, they will be tried before governors and kings. Herod had John the Baptist beheaded. Caesar had Paul beheaded, and Peter crucified. Jesus was telling the twelve that evangelism is not for the timid. It is a dangerous activity that can get a person killed. Jesus elaborates on this later in this chapter, when he says “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (verse 34). And “whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (verses 38-39).
  • Jesus also tells his apostles that evangelism is not going to heal every family. It is going to divide some families. He says “Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death” (verse 21). Jesus warns them again about this reality later in chapter 10, when he says “I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (verses 35-37). I have known people who had to make the choice to follow Christ knowing that it was a choice to reject their family. We should be grateful that not all of us are called to reject our family in order to follow him. But we need to be aware that for some of the people we are trying to reach – they will have to go against their family’s wishes to embrace their Savior.

Jesus told them to “be wise as serpents” (16c).

The kind of wisdom he is challenging his apostles to use is the wisdom to do the right thing in the right way, and to avoid conflict when they can. A snake can attack, but usually it runs away – thank God. I think Jesus’ point is that there will often be ways that we can evangelize without ending up flogged or beheaded.

Jesus told them to be “innocent as doves” (16d).

Here, I think he was warning against those who might go looking for trouble. Opposition happens, but we do not have to ask for it. All we have to do is represent Jesus, and everyone who hates Jesus in their heart will hate us. But sometimes the attitude of the evangelist is the problem. In last Sunday night’s seminar, I quoted Rebekah Manley Pippert, who said, “I remember once encountering a zealous Christian. His brow was furrowed, he seemed anxious and impatient, and he sounded angry. Then he told me God loved me. I couldn’t help noticing the difference between his message and his style.”

There is going to be opposition when we share the gospel. We don’t need to prime the pump. If someone does reject Christ when we share him, let it be because they reject Christ, not because we have turned them away from him by our bad behavior.

[1] Philippians 1:1-18.

[2] Matthew 4:19.


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20230305 Seek His Lost Sheep

Matthew 10:5-15, 40 NET

5 Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Do not take gold, silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for the journey, or an extra tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions. 11 Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, give it greetings. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town! 40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

Jesus has prepared the twelve to preach the gospel that he preached, and to back up the claims of the gospel with demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power like he did. In today’s text, we see Jesus sending out the twelve with a specific evangelistic goal. They were sent out into their home region – Galilee. They were to preach the gospel to people like them. Jesus did not accompany them on this evangelistic tour. He sent them out to represent him, to reach who they could reach, and then to return and report to him.

He told them to seek his lost sheep. What did he mean by that? I think that command is instructive for us today as we attempt to evangelize those around us. We believe – as the apostle Paul believed – that we have no reason to be ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to save the lost sheep around us. We believe that Jesus promised us the same Holy Spirit that he gave to the apostles, and that the Holy Spirit will empower us to witness in Delco, in Dallas, in Detroit and in Delhi and Dubai.

So today we are looking at this passage to see what Jesus was telling his disciples when he commanded them to seek his lost sheep. We want to know how these instructions can help us fulfill our role in evangelizing the lost.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to do it on his terms (5-6).

For this evangelistic campaign, Jesus specifically told his disciples to avoid Gentiles and Samaritans, and only target the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He wanted them to seek other Galilean Jews like them, and to focus their evangelistic efforts on that people group.

In our missions literature, we are learning about our churches in Tanzania, who have established a link with an unreached people group called the Hadzabe tribe. These brothers are going on evangelistic trips to teach and preach Christ to this tribe who have no access to the gospel except through them. They are targeting the Hadzabe because they believe Jesus has specifically called them to that area to reach those people with the gospel.

Now, for us here in Delco, we should be in prayer to find out just who he is specifically calling us to reach. It is okay to contribute to the Penny Crusade for World Missions, but that is not all that Jesus wants for us to do. He wants us to evangelize the people in our own neighborhoods and towns. He might want us as a church to seek out a specific group of people who are not being reached by other churches. We will not know who he wants us to reach until we dare to ask him.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to preach his message (7).

By the way, when he said “lost sheep of the house of Israel” Jesus was referring to the whole house of Israel. He sent them into a particular territory, but to obey his command they had to go to every synagogue, speak to every family member, and explain the gospel to every soul. It was a call to bring the gospel to a particular area, but the gospel they preached was the same gospel that we are called to preach.

Jesus told them “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’” This is the message we are called on to preach as well. The kingdom is the kingdom of God. The king of this kingdom is Jesus Christ. We are called on to tell people who are presently living against that king that they need to renounce their opposition to him because he is coming back to earth to claim his rightful place as king of kings, lord of lords, president of presidents.

Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven, but most people misunderstand what he meant by that. A better translation of the phrase is “the kingdom from the sky.” The prophet Daniel saw a vision in which the Messiah was coming down from the sky to earth. That is the kingdom from the sky that Jesus is talking about.

Jesus was not talking about enrolling in the kingdom of heaven and then getting to go to that kingdom in heaven when you die. That is not the blessed hope of the believer. The blessed hope of the believer is the glorious appearing of the coming king – the king who is going to return to this earth from the sky, any day now.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to be open to his power (8).

Jesus told the twelve to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. He said, “Freely you received, freely give.” The power to do all these things was given to his disciples because Jesus wanted them equipped to do what was necessary to reach the lost sheep.

In the book of Acts, we find that all the believers were given the same commission to reach the lost sheep of all nations, and that the power of the Holy Spirit was available to enable them to do that.

Throughout history, many Christians have questioned whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available. Some have suggested that Jesus only intended the power of the Holy Spirit to manifest at the beginning of establishment of the church, and that the gifts are no longer available now. People saw a powerless church, and they concluded that the power was no longer available.

But this passage of Scripture tells us what is wrong with that kind of thinking. It tells us that the power is available to those who dare to stay true to the mission. Jesus has not promised to empower us if we refuse to evangelize. He has not promised to empower our church if our church has ceased to seek the lost sheep. The empowerment is always connected to the mission.

The good news for all of us is that we don’t have to earn God’s power by being better people or by giving more money or sacrificing something we want. God’s power is available for everyone who is doing what he has called us to do.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to leave the consequences to him (9-15, 40).

Jesus told his disciples that they were going to go in his power to do what he had called them to do, but even then there would be problems.

He tells his disciples not to hoard a bunch of resources for this mission. They were not to prepare for the mission by gathering supplies. God was going to take care of them by providing through those very people that he sent them to reach. God was going to provide for their needs through the converts that they win to Christ. This evangelistic tour was going to be a lesson in trusting God to give them what they need if they were focused on accomplishing his mission.

But Jesus also told them that there would be opposition and rejection. They would not be able to convert all the lost sheep. The book of Acts is the historical record that shows that this is the case for all evangelistic missions.

For this evangelistic mission, Jesus tells his twelve disciples that there would be some who welcome them, and others who did not welcome them. They would be welcome in some households but rejected by others. They would be welcome in some towns but rejected by other towns. Jesus recommends a little ritual for those twelve evangelists. He says if anyone will not welcome them or listen to their message, they should shake the dust off their feet as they leave that house or that town. We don’t know how many houses got the dust-off. We don’t know how many towns got the dust-off. But every time these evangelists did that, they were saying that they came with the good news, but the good news was rejected. So, now they are going to someplace else. Some of the lost sheep would remain lost. But it would not be for lack of trying by these disciples.

Jesus has some people that he wants you and me to bring the gospel to. Often we fail to even try to reach others because we are afraid of the consequences. Perhaps we think that if we knew for sure what the consequences would be, then we would gladly preach the gospel. But the twelve in this Galilean mission never knew what the consequences would be for them. One day they might have a good response, another day they might have to beat a hasty retreat to avoid getting stoned to death. We need to learn to leave the consequences up to Jesus and continue with the mission.

Jesus has given us a broader commission than that he gave to the twelve in today’s passage. He has not limited our commission to one nation. He has commissioned us to reach all nations. But the principles that we have seen in today’s text apply not our efforts at evangelizing as well. We need to follow our Lord’s lead. We need to preach his message. We need to be open to his power. We need to trust him no matter what consequences we experience. There are lost sheep that need us, and we must go to them.