THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE
DAY TEN MATTHEW TEN
Chapter ten is both exciting and somber. It is exciting because we see Jesus commissioning the twelve to go throughout the cities of Israel and preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is somber because Jesus also reveals in this chapter that His followers will suffer persecution for their faith. Even though the message of the gospel is “good news” that brings salvation, some will not receive the message. In fact, many will resent the message and the Savior who came to seek and save the lost.
History affirms the truth of Jesus’ prediction of suffering. The first Jewish believers suffered for their faith at the hands of their own countrymen (Acts 8). The books of James and I Peter were written to Christ’s followers who were suffering oppression due to their testimony for Jesus. The Roman Empire was notorious in its hatred for Christianity and many suffered cruel deaths in the Coliseum as entertainment for the mob. Every page of history is stained with the blood of martyrs. Although American Christians experience very little resistance, relatively speaking, there are places in the world where believers experience persecution even to the point of losing their lives for the cause of Christ.
There are some that see the prediction of persecution as eschatological, referring to the tribulation and the end times. But the message is just as relevant for today.
1. The Twelve Apostles (v.1-4)
This is the first time that the twelve disciples are called apostles and are listed. There are also lists of the apostles in Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16 and Acts 1:13. In each gospel list Peter is always first and Judas is always last. In the list in the book of Acts, Peter is first again but the twelfth position is left vacant. The vacancy was filled by the other eleven in the choosing of Mattias (Acts 1:26). Some, however, believe that Paul filled the spot as he refers to himself “as one born out of due time (I Corinthians 15:8). It should be noted that a biblical apostle had to be witness of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul fit that requirement when the risen, ascended Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.
2. The Commissioning of the Twelve (v. 5-15)
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus declared himself to have all-power. Those who witnessed His miracles could have little doubt of the truth of that statement, even further confirmed by His resurrection. But here, as He prepares to send the twelve to the cities of Israel, He delegates some of that power to them. “You will heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons (v. 8). Their message was to prepare for the kingdom. It would not be a physical kingdom, at least not at that time. It was an eternal, spiritual kingdom they were invited to join. They had received it freely and they were to present it to others as well.
But at this time their mission was limited to only the lost sheep of Israel. They were specifically prohibited from taking the message to Samaria or to the Gentiles. Paul explained that the gospel was first presented to the Jew and then later the Greeks (Gentiles) in Romans 1:16.
Later the gospel was opened to Samaria (which shared ethnicity with the Jews) in Acts 8 and the to the Gentiles (the whole world) in Acts 10. Recall, however, that Jesus did minister to those of Samaria (John 4) and Gentiles (the Centurion and his servant in Matthew 8:5-13).
This was to be a faith journey. He told them not to take money or even a change of clothing but to dwell in worthy homes (those who received the message). He also had a message for those who rejected the mission of the twelve. In the day of judgment, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who refused to hear what the disciples had to say. Personally, I think that will be true for the United States because we have had greater access to the Word of God that any other nation on earth.
3. Get ready for the Persecution (v. 16-26)
“Behold I send you out as sheep among wolves.” The sheep have no natural defense from the predator wolf. Therefore, the believer must be wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove. Jesus never raised His hand against a tormenter. Even when they came to arrest Him, He rebuked Peter in his effort to defend Him. It is not by our power or might that we find our strength. It is through God’s Spirit that lives in us. He tells the disciples, “It will be the Spirit that defends you. When they arrest you do not worry about what to say. The Spirit will give you the right words at that very moment.” We need to learn that when we come to the end of our strength, it is the Spirit that make us strong. Believers need to practice dependence on the Holy Spirit and allow God’s grace to be our sufficiency (II Corinthians 12:7-10).
“You will be hated for my name’s sake.” But the disciple is not above his master. They called Jesus a devil. How much more will they call the children of His household?
4. Fear God and not man (v. 27-31)
If you follow the progression of thought here, Jesus warns of the coming persecution. But He tells them (and us) don’t fear man. He can only kill your body. Rather fear the One who can both kill your body and destroy your soul in hell. Too often we fear the temporary at the expense of the eternal. Who knows what the future may hold for us. Whatever it may be, trust God and His grace will be sufficient. God attends the funerals of sparrows. Don’t you know that you are much more precious to Him than sparrows.
5. Stand up for Jesus (v. 32,33)
The old hymn says, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus ye soldiers of the cross…” That is exactly what Jesus is telling us to do here. Consider the gravity of the charge Jesus gives us. If we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father in heaven. If we confess Him before men, we will confess (own) us before our Father in heaven. So, stand up for Jesus every day! Share what you know about Him with others who need the message whether they know it know it or not.
6. Sometimes a relationship with Jesus will cause division in other relationships (v. 39-39)
I remember a conversation I had several years ago with the sister of a new convert to Christianity. “You have stolen my sister,” she said. “Since she has been a Christian, her life has been different. She does not do the things she used to do or go the places she used to go. It seems to me that Jesus is more important to her than her own family.”
Sometimes in order to serve Jesus, other relationships must be left behind. This may seem harsh and hard, but it is true. Family and friends can take the journey with you. But you cannot always continue to travel the same path they travel. It all depends on how serious you are about being His disciple.
6. Cups of Cold Water (40-42)
God is watching and Jesus knows all that is going on. Sometimes we may feel like God is distant and that He does not care what’s happening in our lives. Nothing is further from the truth. He takes note of our pain. He sees every tear we shed and one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and heal every pain in our hearts. Whatever we do, however insignificant it may seem to us, is seen by our Father I heaven. Even a cup of cool water given for the glory of the kingdom will receive a reward. Heaven awaits the faithful with a promise of the words, “Well done!”
I Corinthians 2:9 – “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”