Like Master, Like Servant
Matthew 10: 24 — 33
Our Lord has inducted his chosen twelve disciples and authorized them as his apostles, his ambassadors who will be empowered to deliver his message wherever they are dispatched. Our reading opens during a briefing from Jesus that they had better get used to the idea that all is not going to be a bed of roses.
Some Notes On Our Text
Verses 24 and 25
Jesus opens with some common and appealing logic based on one of his favourite Jewish proverbs:
Everyone agrees that the learner is a lesser scholar than his teacher, just as a servant has less authority than his employer or owner. Therefore, implies Jesus, his followers cannot expect to be exempt from the persecution and disrespect which he receives.
In this way our Lord prepares his devotees for possibly the most difficult charge any follower of his will face.
Beelzebul (from Baalzebul, the dung god) was, among other distasteful things, the Lord of Idolatry: the worst devil, and the worst thing imaginable. They called him the prince of devils because idolatry is the prince (or chief) of wickedness.
By implication, Jesus was seen as a kind of whore of religion, the chief promoter of apostate religion, of utterly decadent idolatry. His disciples were therefore in for a rough time, as they would be seen as freely choosing to follow the devil incarnate.
Modern Christians need not be too hasty to condemn the Pharisees. A large number of Christian bodies frequently, and just as viciously, ascribe certain Christian Churches with the same odious titles.
"So do not be afraid of them", says Jesus, in another of his favorite sayings. "The truth will eventually emerge for all to see even though now that may seem impossible. You may think your teaching is so hidden and unnoticed that it will have no impact, but if you persevere, the Gospel will shine forth," explains Jesus. "So you do not need to have any fear about your effectiveness".
In a traditional rabbinic mode of expression, our Lord explains that his private teaching to his close disciples is to be proclaimed openly, taking advantage of whatever means are available in any time or place.
Now Jesus gives his second reason for not fearing what men can do to one's witness. The worst they can do, explains Jesus, does not match the worst God can do. "You should be more afraid to disobey God who through me is commanding you to preach the Gospel, than to be put to death by persecutors".
Verses 29 — 31
Yet again Jesus reinforces his teaching that they are not to be afraid.
"Is not God's providence so all-encompassing that just as not a single sparrow falls to the ground without God allowing it, so nothing will happen to you unless God approves it! So, do not be afraid. Each little sparrow is very valuable in God's eyes, and you are even more valuable".
Our Lord has been dealing with three ever-present sources of fear his apostles must be ready to encounter. Each of these could cause them to hesitate to acknowledge him "before men". Now he declares his ultimate reason for them to proceed with confidence and composure in the face of any opposition:
What greater honour could they hope to receive! The warning, which follows, is not so much a threat as a rabbinic way of highlighting the special honour reserved for those who choose to be faithful to the commission God gives them.
Three times Jesus tells his 12 chosen apostles "Do not be afraid." The language towards the end of this passage suggests he is widening that promise to those whom the apostles, in turn, send forth, and so on. We, therefore, who are committed members of his Church, and who earnestly seek to respond to his call and try to witness in a worthy way in our own time and space, can duly count on sharing in the blessing our Lord has for his loyal disciples. We will certainly need it, to keep on keeping on in a rapidly disintegrating culture. Our Lord has provided for every need and we can share in the confidence he imparts to those who enlist in his service.
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