Mark 6:35-44 NET.

35 When it was already late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place and it is already very late. 36 Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “Should we go and buy bread for two hundred silver coins and give it to them to eat?” 38 He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five — and two fish.” 39 Then he directed them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to his disciples to serve the people, and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up the broken pieces and fish that were left over, twelve baskets full. 44 Now there were five thousand men who ate the bread.

The story of the feeding of the five thousand is a very familiar story to most of us. If you are like me, you heard this story many times as a child growing up. If I recall my Sunday School lessons correctly, the purpose for this story is to teach us to be like the little boy who surrendered his lunch to the disciples. It teaches generosity. I think there are a lot of lessons about generosity in Scripture.

But I want us to step back and take another look at this story today. We have been studying the commands of Christ in the Gospels, and our chronological study leads us to this text today. If we scan the words of today’s text as given to us by Mark, we find that the little boy is not even mentioned. Nothing Jesus says to the crowds is mentioned. The only conversation is between Jesus and his disciples. He has a lesson for them.

Now, Jesus had already taught his disciples the key elements of the gospel message. He had already also taught them how to preach the gospel and had sent them out on their own evangelistic campaigns. When he had sent them out, he empowered them to preach, heal the sick and deliver people from demons. Now he has returned to preaching and his disciples had returned to assisting him. In fact, what we see in today’s text came about because the disciples were seeking to assist Jesus in his ministry. Let’s walk through the story phase by phase and try to understand what Jesus is teaching his disciples through this event.

Phase 1 – the preacher runs a little late (35).

It appears that Jesus and his disciples were on a regular schedule for their ministry at this time. They would probably have regular times where Jesus would preach, then possible times for the disciples to go through the crowds talking and praying with the crowds, then if they found anyone needing healing, they could bring them to the Master. It appears that by late afternoon Jesus would wind things up with a final message for the day. Only, today Jesus’ final message just went on an on.

The book of Acts tells us that the Apostle Paul did that once. His final message of the day in Troas went until midnight. He probably would have kept on preaching, but a certain young man named Eutychus interrupted things by falling asleep and falling from the third loft, dead on arrival. Paul stopped preaching and gave the young man a hug, and he came to life again. We preachers tell these stories because chances are we are going to get long-winded someday, so we want you to know we are in good company.

Jesus was doing that. He was preaching late, and apparently had lost track of time. Sometimes we pray as if we are accusing Jesus of having lost track of time.

Phase 2 – The disciples say it’s quitting time (36).

 That’s what the disciples are doing. They are essentially saying Lord (points at watch). Now, to be fair, the disciples knew that Jesus had asked them to join him at that isolated place so that they could rest and regroup. Earlier in the chapter we read that “the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while” (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat). So, they went away by themselves in a boat to some remote place.” So, it makes sense that they would come to Jesus and remind him that they were running out of time to rest. Today was not supposed to be a typical day of ministry. They had gone to a remote spot for a retreat so they could talk over their experiences in their own evangelistic campaigns. But “many saw them leaving and recognized them, and they hurried on foot from all the towns and arrived there ahead of them.” When the disciples and Jesus arrived, they had found a huge crowd waiting with their Bibles and notebooks open, and ballpoint pens in hand. So, Jesus commenced to teach them many things.

But when it got late, the disciples said it’s time for us now. So, they reminded Jesus that it was getting dark, and the crowd had not come with enough provisions, so he should dismiss them so they could go where they could find food. It’s quitting time, Lord.

Phase 3 – “Y’all give them something to eat” (37a).

That’s a literal rendering of the Greek because unlike Yankee English, koine Greek has a second person plural pronoun. He told them “Y’all give them something to eat.”  This is the command. I think this command relates to all of us just as it did to those disciples that day. I think we are often too quick reduce our ministry to the things that we normally do for practical reasons. All the rest is off limits. We figure out our budget for the year, putting in all our pet projects and traditions. We set our calendar. We do what we have done. When we come across a need that we haven’t ever met, we pray about it, and leave it there. What Jesus was doing that day was challenging his disciples to go beyond their own limits. He told them to do something that they could not do. It was impossible.

Phase 4 – no money (37b).

The disciple pulled their pockets inside out. They said, “Should we go and buy bread for two hundred silver coins and give it to them to eat?” Now the silver coin they were talking about was a denarius. A denarius was a day’s wage for a hired worker.  The disciples had done the math. They figured that to feed that crowd of five thousand men, they would have to have worked over half a year – two hundred days. They did not have that kind of money. The disciples were pointing out that what Jesus had called them to do was not practical because they did not have the resources. We should not be too hard on the disciples for coming to this conclusion. Jesus didn’t berate them for what they said. He knew they would come to that conclusion. That just set them up for the next lesson.

Phase 5 – check your supplies (38).

Jesus told his disciples to make an inventory of their lunch boxes. This is where the little boy in the crowd comes in. The first miracle was not the feeding of the five thousand. The first miracle was that of all the crowds that gathered, only this little boy had thought to pack a lunch. So, this is what they had. Five biscuits and two fish. They might could have stretched those rations to feed one family, but it was way too little to feed a crowd of thousands.

Here is where the disciples would be thinking “See what we mean?” Jesus, you need to let these people go get some food elsewhere, because we don’t have enough.

This is where the miracle begins to happen, because Jesus intentionally let the situation get to this point. He is teaching his disciples that when it comes to ministry to others, he is ready to step in with his miraculous power, but he will often allow us to get to the point where we cannot do what we need to do. Remember, the command was “Y’all give them something to eat.” Their excuse was “We don’t have enough.” But Jesus did not command them to first check and see if they had enough. He wanted them to take what little they could scrounge up and start to feed the crowd.

He told them to check for what they had, not to determine whether they had enough. They all knew already that they did not have enough. The question for the disciples was whether they were willing to start something that they knew only Jesus could finish.

Phase 6 – the miracle happens (39-42).

Jesus “directed them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to his disciples to serve the people, and he divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied.” Jesus did what only Jesus could do but the disciples did the rest. He literally did not feed a single person that day. He only blessed the meal and distributed it to his disciples. They passed out the bread and fish to all the groups of hundreds and fifties. When a disciple emptied one basket, he would go back for more where that came from. Their resources had given out for a very long time, but Jesus’ resources kept coming.

Phase 7 – leftovers (43).

In fact, Jesus kept giving long after all the people were satisfied. By the time everybody put their napkins over their plates and said “no more” each disciple was left with a basket full for himself. The final lesson the disciples learned that day was that God has power to do all that needs to be done, and more. The Apostle Paul said that God “is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think.” But he also said the power available for such miracles is “the power that is working within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

I want us to think about how we as a congregation can apply the lessons that the disciples learned that day. One way we can do that is to look around us and discover needs within our community that are not being met by anyone else. Then let’s brainstorm. We should not ask ourselves whether we have the practical resources to meet all those needs in our budget. No, we should ask this question: “Do we have the resources and personnel to start this ministry and the faith to let Jesus finish it?”

Jesus performed his miracles as demonstration to prove the truthfulness of his proclamation. He still wants to do that. He has called us to be his witnesses and has empowered us with his Holy Spirit to share his gospel. The disciples learned to demonstrate their care for others and in so doing they proved the power of Jesus Christ. There is a community outside these walls, and it is waiting to see us prove that Jesus is who we say he is. Let’s get our baskets ready!



Psalm 20:1-9 NET.

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in trouble; may the God of Jacob make you secure! 2 May he send you help from his temple; from Zion may he give you support! 3 May he take notice of your offerings; may he accept your burnt sacrifice! (Selah) 4 May he grant your heart’s desire; may he bring all your plans to pass! 5 Then we will shout for joy over your victory; we will rejoice in the name of our God! May the LORD grant all your requests! 6 Now I am sure that the LORD will deliver his chosen king; he will intervene for him from his holy heavenly temple, and display his mighty ability to deliver. 7 Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we depend on the LORD our God. 8 They will fall down, but we will stand firm. 9 The LORD will deliver the king; he will answer us when we call to him for help!

On this wonderful Easter morning, I have chosen for us to meditate on the words of an ancient prayer. Psalm 20 is a prayer for the Messiah. It was written during the time of king David, and successive generations prayed this prayer for his descendants when they came to the throne. As each new leader took charge, the people prayed these words for him. It was understood that from David’s line the Messiah would emerge. So, the people prayed these words in expectation that the king they were praying for might just be the one.

This prayer was particularly important when the king faced opposition or was in battle against his enemies. The people recognized how important it was for them to intercede for their king because they knew that God alone held his future and their future in his hands. Praying for the king was a tremendous responsibility.

Praying for the king was also an opportunity for the people to express their faith. This psalm is roughly split into two parts. One part intercedes for the king, the other part expresses confidence that God will answer the prayer, preserve the king and give victory.

Just like Psalm 118 that we looked at last week, this psalm is also prophetic because it always had the Messiah in mind ultimately. That is why it is appropriate for us to look at this psalm as we remember the events that we celebrate on Easter. The conflict that Jesus endured on Holy Week, his trials, crucifixion, death and resurrection, they are all foreshadowed by this ancient prayer.

When the people of God prayed for their king:

They were confident that God would answer his prayers and theirs (1a,9).

Our Lord went to a garden called Gethsemane. He told his disciples that he was deeply disturbed, even to the point of death. He asked them to stay with and pray with him. He knew what he was going to face that day. He prayed to his Father that somehow, he would be spared from this ordeal. But he knew that he would have to face it. He came into the world for this battle, and he would do battle.

He came back to his disciples and found them sleeping. He was disturbed by their indifference. He urged them to stay awake. For generations, the people of God had been praying for their king and this was the very event that the prayer of Psalm 20 predicted.

Jesus prayed alone. He found solace in this one thought. “Not what I want, but what the Father wants.” “My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done.” Jesus got his answer. His battle was not to keep him from the cross. His battle was for the courage to endure the cross.

Ultimately, you and I are the winners. By taking up his cross, Jesus answered our prayers. None of the blessings of God are available apart from that sacrifice. The LORD will answer us when we call to him for help because his Son became the bridge. Between us and our Holy God, there was a deep chasm, an expanse wider than the sky. Our sins kept us from reaching Almighty God. But Jesus bridged the gap. Now when we call on God, he will answer.

They were confident that God would protect him from his enemies (1b, 4).

The Davidic king would have enemies, foreign and domestic. He would have foreign kings who opposed his dominion, and local enemies who wanted to take his throne. The people prayed for God to make the king secure.

Jesus had enemies in Caesar’s palace, in Herod’s palace, among the council of elders, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. He even had an enemy among his own disciples. He was the rightful ruler of all, and yet he faced opposition. During the week of that final Passover, the opposition gained ground. It was only a few days between the shouts of Hosanna and his triumphal entry and the shouts of “Crucify him” at his trial.

God had protected his Son all the years of his life. He protected him from being put to death by Herod the Great’s slaughter of the children. He protected him from being killed by the inhabitants of his own hometown when they turned against him. Jesus knew that none of his enemies would keep him from accomplishing his Father’s will.

They were confident that God would send him help and support him (2, 6, 7).

The people prayed for God to send the king help from his temple, the earthly symbol of his divine presence. They were confident that God would intervene for him from his holy heavenly temple – and display his mighty ability to deliver.

During his earthly life, angels attended Jesus and were always available to him. Jesus felt that support all during his life, but he appeared to question it as he was dying on the cross. People overheard his praying to his Father and saying “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” He was quoting from another psalm – Psalm 22. That psalm ends like this one – on a note of confidence in God’s accomplishment. When Jesus said “it is finished” it was not a declaration of his defeat. It was a victory cry because God had accomplished on the cross what none of us could ever do. He paid the price to redeem us from our sins. Jesus saw ahead into the empty cross, the empty tomb, and all of the empty tombs and graves to come.

They were confident that the king’s ordeal would end in victory and joy (5).

They prayed “we will shout for joy over your victory; we will rejoice in the name of our God!” The had looked ahead to the Messiah’s coming, the Messiah’s battles, and they saw the Messiah’s victory. They heard shouts that were even more glorious than the shouts of Hosannah. They heard the shouts of victory over death.

Listen to these words of the Apostle Paul: “Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

On Easter, we celebrate our Lord’s victory over death. He came out of that tomb after three days’ rest never to sleep again. He conquered that which was unconquerable. He didn’t survive death. He overcame it. And because he lives, we also will live.

On Christmas, we celebrate a promise fulfilled – when Christ came for the first time. On Easter, we celebrate another promise fulfilled – Christ’s victory over death. We also celebrate a promise yet to be fulfilled when Christ will come a second time – in victory. His empty tomb is a symbol of that unfulfilled promise.

Why should we expect Jesus to come back and give us eternal life? We should expect it because Jesus has always set his heart to doing one thing: his Father’s will. He said “Now this is the will of the one who sent me — that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father — for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:39-40). He went to the cross and died because it was his Father’s will. He is coming back to raise the dead and give them eternal life because it is his Father’s will.

Imagine the joy that the disciples had when they saw their risen Master, heard his voice again, and realized that he who had been dead was now alive. Now, imagine the joy that all of us will experience on that day when our Master returns to complete the next phase in his Father’s will. He said, “a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out — the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Everyone will be raised and judged. Some will be forgiven and experience eternal life. Others will be condemned and face the second death. Some will experience victory and joy; others will face defeat and permanent death.

That means that Easter is either a promise or a threat. God’s will is going to be accomplished. The man who came out of that tomb is coming back to bring us out of our graves. He is doing that because God is going to make everything new. For the king’s enemies, that means that they will be defeated and die forever. For the king’s loyal subjects, that means that they will be granted new life forever.

You and I can take part in our Lord’s victory over death. He has given us a choice. He has invited us into his eternal kingdom. If we are wise, we will accept his invitation. It is an invitation to eternal joy. It is an invitation to join him in his victory party. Those who refuse his invitation are unwise.


Photo by Pixabay on


Psalm 118:19-29 NET.

19 Open for me the gates of the just king’s temple! I will enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the LORD’s gate — the godly enter through it. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me, and have become my deliverer. 22 The stone which the builders discarded has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s work. We consider it amazing! 24 This is the day the LORD has brought about. We will be happy and rejoice in it. 25 Please LORD, deliver! Please LORD, grant us success! 26 May the one who comes in the name of the LORD be blessed! We will pronounce blessings on you in the LORD’s temple. 27 The LORD is God and he has delivered us. Tie the offering with ropes to the horns of the altar! 28 You are my God and I will give you thanks! You are my God and I will praise you! 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good and his loyal love endures!

Today is Palm Sunday – that special day each year when we look back and reflect on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem for what we now call Holy Week – the week of his death and resurrection.

I wanted to spend some time in today’s passage because it was a Messianic Psalm. In fact, it appears to be the Messianic Psalm that also served as a prophecy of a special time that was going to come in history, the day the Messiah would come to Jerusalem.

People memorized this song, sang it and chanted it as a reminder that someday God would send his own king to deliver his people. When Jesus prepared to arrive in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, the people broke palm branches and spread their clothing on the ground. They were giving him what we now call the red-carpet treatment.

Listen, and you will hear them singing and shouting. Do you know what they are shouting? They were shouting Hosannah! Do you know where that word comes from? Let me share it in Hebrew: ANA YAHVEH HOSHIYAH NA ANA YAHVEH HATSLIYCHAH NA!

For those who don’t know Hebrew, I was just quoting Psalm 118:25. “Please LORD, deliver! Please, LORD, grant us success!” The psalm had become a prophecy and a way of pleading for God to send his Messiah to deliver his people and give them success.

Today I want to share seven elements of the prophecy of this psalm that are found in today’s text. I want to share what this prophecy meant to the people who had been singing it for generations before Jesus came. I also want to share how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy of the day of his triumphal entry, and how he will fulfill it completely at his second coming.

You also might need a little help understanding what is going on in the psalm because it tends to jump around between the three main characters. The three main characters are the LORD (Hebrew Yahveh) who is God. The second character is the coming Messiah. The third character is the people of God who are waiting for the Messiah to come to Jerusalem.

The first prophetic element in today’s text is…

The LORD’s gate (19-21)

At some time in history, the Jews expected the LORD to open the gate to his temple and his Messiah would enter it and take up his place as king. They would sing and chant these words on momentous occasions. They would dream of the day when wrongs would be righted, debts paid, and sins cleansed. This psalm had become associated with Passover because just as the LORD delivered the believing Israelites from the destroying angel in Egypt, they believed that the coming Messiah would enter their city and bring new life with him.

Jesus did come for the purpose of bringing deliverance that day, but the deliverance he brought would cost him his life. On that day when he rode into Jerusalem, Jesus said that the time had come for him to be glorified. They didn’t understand what he was talking about. So he told them that a grain of wheat has to die and be buried in the ground before it can produce a crop. He was predicting his death and resurrection, but he was also predicting ours. That is why he said if anyone wanted to serve him, he must follow him. Christ is going through the gates of the old Jerusalem to die. We will follow him through those gates. But we will also follow him into the new Jerusalem when he returns – to live again and never die again.

The second element in this prophecy is…

The LORD’s cornerstone (22)

The image of the prophecy is the building of the new temple. Jesus was the stone that the builders discarded which has become the cornerstone. Nobody expected such a rough character as this man from Nazareth. He wasn’t even from Judea. He was a Galilean. For a while, some listened to his words, and some were amazed at his miracles. But when it came to a vote, they voted now on Jesus.

But the song the people had been singing said that God was going to do something in spite of what the world wanted to do. Isaac wanted Esau, but God wanted Jacob. The Israelites wanted Saul, but God wanted David. The crowd shouted for Barabbas, but God wanted Jesus. When the dust is settled, and the world looks upon the mighty monument of the new eternal temple where God resides forever, they will see this Jesus, discarded by the builders but used by God. He is the building block that was rejected, and he is the cornerstone of a whole new world.

The third element of this passage’s prophecy is …

The LORD’s work (23)

The people singing and chanting Hosannah that day were expecting a great work of God. They were looking for a miracle. They had been singing about that great miraculous time for generations. They said “This is the LORD’s work. We consider it amazing!” But what was the work that the king came to do in Jerusalem that week? He cursed a fig tree. He cleared the marketers out of the temple. He pronounced woes against his enemies. He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem. He was betrayed by Judas. He was arrested and tried, and crucified. But wait. There’s one more thing. We cannot afford to miss the most amazing thing that Jesus did. He rose from the grave. “This is the LORD’s work. We consider it amazing!”

When our Lord returns to completely fulfill the prophecy of today’s text, he’s going to open our graves. He’s going to fulfill his promise to give us a life that will not end. Amazing!

The fourth element of this passage’s prophecy is …

The LORD’s day (24)

It bothers me somewhat that was are always singing about the day that the Lord has made but we sing it out of context. The day that the worshipers in Jerusalem sang it, it was clear what day they were singing about. One day you and I will sing those words again and the day we will be singing about will not be an ordinary day. It will be the day our king returns to take up his throne and restore the world he created. That will be the day!

The fifth element of this passage’s prophecy is …

The LORD’s king (26)

The psalmist predicted a coming king. The people waving Palm branches were welcoming that king. One day the same king is going to break through the clouds for you and me. Be ready brother. Be prepared sister. Get your Palm branch ready to wave. Welcome the LORD’s king as your king. Oh, but understand. If you cannot welcome him into your life today, he will not welcome you into his eternal life then.

The sixth element of this passage’s prophecy is …

The LORD’s offering (27)

They sang “The LORD is God and he has delivered us. Tie the offering with ropes to the horns of the altar!” They knew all about bringing offerings to the LORD, but they sang about God delivering them with his offering. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy because he is God’s own Son, and he was offered as a sacrifice to redeem us from sin.

And, finally, the seventh element of this passage’s prophecy is …

The LORD’s love (29)

This is CHESED — God’s loyal, covenant love. His faithfulness to his own word, to his covenant. God promised a king would ride into Jerusalem on a colt. That promise was fulfilled that day. But his entry into Jerusalem was itself a prophecy. The Gospel tells us that the king is coming again. The same God who brought Jesus back to life is going to restore the whole universe when the king goes through the gates again.

Do you know this God? He knows you. He knows you are a sinner, but he still sent his Son to die for you. He knows you often fail him, but he has a plan for you to succeed forever. He knows you have nothing to offer him, so he has already provided the perfect offering. He knows you have bad days when all you can do is complain but he is preparing a day in which you can only be happy and rejoice.


Photo by Sharefaith on


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.


Photo Muyuan-ma on Unsplash


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.