Third Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Matthew 10:5a–10:33
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 10:5a-21-33
Date: June 25th, 2017; Pentecost 3; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In his in augural address on March 4th, 1933, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Of course, the fact is that there would have been no reason for Roosevelt to assert that there was “nothing to fear” unless there actually was something to fear.
The country was in the throes of a staggering economic crisis, the Great Depression, sparking fears that were not “nameless” or “unjustified.”
Later in his speech, Roosevelt himself admitted: “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment”—dark realities that gave substance to people’s real and understandable fears.
In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples to “have no fear” - as he sends them out to proclaim the Good News to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6–7).
Yet Jesus knows and acknowledges that he is sending them out not just to his sheep but “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16).
His very words of admonition and encouragement, “Have no fear,” show that he knows well that there is much to fear - at least from a human point of view.
But, as we will see, Jesus promises that he is greater than our fears.
Jesus knows that those who follow him have a lot to fear in this life.
First he mentions rejection.
Most of us have probably experienced rejection in our lives to some degree and this can instil in us a deep fear of it.
Maybe you asked that pretty girl to the prom and you were told “not a chance!”
Or you worked hard for that promotion and didn't get it.
The disciples had to face the fear of rejection regularly and repeatedly (Matthew 10:14).
In fact, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus said that not only will they be rejected - but they will be hated for his name’s sake.
And still today, many reject not only the message of the Gospel but also those who proclaim it—which is why we can be a bit hesitant at times to boldly confess our faith.
Next, Jesus minces no words in our text as he describes the persecution that - not only might - but will be experienced by his disciples. (Matthew 10:21–22a).
And although Christians in our part of the world have largely been spared of this type of persecution up until now, we should not expect that this will always be the case.
In many countries there are stories of Christians suddenly losing their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods, and even their families because of their faith.
We may find ourselves enduring persecution for our faith sooner than we think.
Finally, Jesus clearly and explicitly warned the twelve disciples that they needed to be prepared to be “put to death” - and most of them eventually were.
Martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel has been a reality throughout the history of the Church, and it continues to be a reality still today in many parts of the world.
In fact, the past century has been referred to as one of the darkest periods of martyrdom since the birth of Christianity.
And this is understandable since approximately 45.5 million of the estimated 70 million Christians who have died for Christ - did so in the last century.
In our Gospel text, Jesus acknowledges that the disciples (from a human point of view) have much to fear. And this also applies to us.
Yet, in spite of this reality, Jesus repeatedly says in our text that those who follow him have absolutely nothing to fear.
Rejection, persecution, and even execution - Jesus knows those well.
And he does not ask us to follow where he has not first gone.
Because Jesus has faced every enemy that causes us fear, we can be sure that he understands our fears, he can sympathize with all of our temptations to be afraid, and he will provide mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
Jesus not only experienced the fears and hardships that we do - he overcame them.
And he promises that we will too.
He promises to be with us and care for us, in every fear-filled situation.
In fact, he says that he knows us so well, and cares for us so deeply that, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).
Fear will have its day and its say in our lives as we experience various threats and difficulties - but Jesus will have the last word.
He promises that “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).
And because of this, we can joyfully, boldly, fearlessly bear witness to Jesus until he comes again to deliver us from every form and cause of fear, proving once and for all that he is greater than our fears!
In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus said that those who seek to follow him have much to fear from a human point of view: rejection, intimidation, all kinds of opposition, even persecution that, in many cases throughout history, has led to martyrdom for Christ.
From God’s point of view, however, we have nothing to fear.
Because Jesus has promised to be present in our lives, and he has promised to provide all that we need to persevere, through his Word and Sacraments.
We have nothing to fear because Jesus endured rejection, persecution, suffering, and finally death on our behalf - and he rose victorious over all of it.
We have nothing to fear because Christ’s victory is our victory. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ” (Romans ) Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.