Following Jesus in Suffering
Matthew 10:34–32 // Jeremiah 28:5–9
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text today begins with Jesus at the start of Matthew 10, These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today we finish the little commission of Jesus in Matthew 10, which looks a lot like the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28. The Little Commission is 42 verses of instructions and warnings and encouragement. The Great Commission is just a command and a promise: “Go and make disciples baptizing them and teaching them.” And “I will be with you always to the very end of the age.” In the little commission, he sends out a few. In the Great Commission, he sends out his whole church. In the little commission, he sends them out to the lost sheep of Israel. In the Great Commission, he sends us to out all nations. In the little commission, he sends them out for a time. In the Great Commission, he sends us out until he comes back to make all things right.
Today, in this last portion of Jesus’s speech, we consider the effect of Jesus’s words. We consider what Jesus says will happen when the disciples proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand and when they heal the sick and raise the dead and cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.
Two groups that will be affected by this proclamation. Two ways in which they will be affected.
Group number one that Jesus describes is Those who hear the word.
Group number two is Those who speak the word.
First, the effect of Jesus’s words on group number one, on those who hear the word. When the lost sheep of Israel hear what Jesus sends the apostles to say, then “Do not think that I have come to bring peace. I have not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Wait, what? Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, the disciples are supposed to let their peace rest of the homes where they stay, Jesus in John 16 says, I say these things so that in me you may have peace. Jesus says in Matthew 5, blessed are the peacemakers. So, what does he mean here?
He’s speaking about a paradox. The Gospel of peace will cause division. The Gospel of love will cause hatred. The Gospel of joy will cause sorrow. It’s a paradox. But why does that happen?
Here’s how the Gospel of John says it, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” And again in John 3, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
There’s a paradox, a push and a pull between darkness and light. Jeremiah 28 captures this very well. Jeremiah is in a knock-down drag-out fight with a false prophet Hananiah, who’s been telling everyone what they want to hear and passing it off as the Word of the Lord. In this chapter, he says that all the vessels hauled away from the Temple were going to be returned in two years, and notice what Jeremiah says in return.
He says, “Ahhh, I wish I could believe that. I wish that it could be like that, but God didn’t call me to tell comforting lies. He called me to speak the truth in love.”
Here, in Matthew 10, Jesus says, my words are like light in the darkness. They will divide the seen from the unseen. He says, my Gospel—my love, my peace—divides the world like light cleaves the darkness.
And then he quotes Micah 7:6, “Brother will deliver brother, a father his child, children their parents.” When the light of his gospel shines, it will even divide families.
Why? Because here’s the deep truth of the Gospel: to say it a different way, what Jesus proclaims is a truth deeper than blood, deeper than family. What Jesus proclaims supercedes family; it does not abolish it; it fulfills. He unites us not by bloodline, not by color, not by culture, not by history but by baptism into the One Body of Christ. Then, Jesus goes one startling step further. What Jesus proclaims supercedes life. His Gospel word is more real than what we can see, what we can taste, what we can feel, what we can touch. His Gospel goes deeper than the life we live in this world, and because of that he can (and must) say, “Whoever finds his life will lose, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
So, if that’s true, if the Gospel is light shining in the darkness, like a truth that goes deeper than anything else, (and it is), I would ask you, have you been seeing the people in your life that way? As either a brother and sister in Christ? As a person for whom Christ died? Are you dividing your life by the love of Christ? Or by something else?
Group number one were those who heard Jesus’s words. Group number two are those who spoke Jesus’s words. The sent ones. The apostles. They are affected by the words they speak. And what Jesus says has everything to do with their reward.
If you treat a good person good you get a good reward. If you treat a righteous person righteously, you will get a righteous reward. But what is the action and what is the reward for the kingdom of heaven?
The action is this: If you give even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones. That means, even if you do the smallest of gestures to a little one, (and catch this next part) if you do this BECAUSE you are a disciple..... you will surely not lose your reward.
Essentially, he’s applying the same logic to the sent ones as he is to the ones who are hearing. He’s saying, you are rewarded based on the deepest possible identity you can have, as a child of God, as a disciple of Jesus Christ. You are rewarded when that identity flows out into everything that you do, when it is the dividing line in your life, when all in your life gets meaning from what he has done.
If you do these deeds because you are a disciple. If your actions flow from your identity deeper than blood. If your deeds flow because you are learning at the feet of Jesus, you will surely not lose your reward.
So, if that’s true, if the sole motivation of your actions big or small is because you are a disciple, what do your activities look like if you put “Because I am a disciple” before them?
Because I am a disciple, I can give a cup of cold water to one of these little ones. Because I am a disciple, I can keep my cool when I drive on the road. Because I am a disciple, I can suffer what I need to suffer. Because I am a disciple, I will love my children. I know I should love my children anyways, but as a Christian, I love them for the love of Christ. Because I am a disciple, I will lay down my life for my wife.
The kingdom of heaven is like a community of disciples, always learning from their master. In a world divided, they find they are united by the love of Christ. They connect their faith to their life, knowing that as Jesus sent the apostles that one day, so he is sending them into every circle of their life. They are working with his energy. And they are finding their rest in him.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters