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Bible: What Does Matthew 10:17-32 Teach Us About Persecution and True Discipleship?

Updated on September 15, 2016

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Matthew 10:17-32--"Field Preparedness"

Next, Christ sets forth what appears to be a prophetic blending of first-century and eschatological persecutions.

First, He warns His apostles to beware of “men”—Jewish leaders who will both interrogate and then flog them for their faith (v. 17).

Not only will the Jews harass them, but Gentile governors and kings will also examine them, giving them an opportunity to testify to Jesus (v. 18).

[Certainly, various incidents in the book of Acts provide ample evidence for the fulfillment of these prophecies (cf. Acts 4-5, 7, 17, 21-26).]

A familiar exhortation—“Do not worry”—quiets the apostles’ anxieties about testifying before nobility; the Lord assures them that “the Spirit of your Father” will not only give them the words, but will also speak in them (vv. 19-20; cf. Matt. 6: 25-34).

[The post-Penecostal eloquence of Peter, John, and Stephen speaks volumes here (Acts 4:8, 13;6:10).]

Jesus highlights another, even more disturbing, feature of future persecution—family members will betray each other to murderous authorities (v. 21; cf. Mic. 7:6).

Universal hatred for Jews who name Christ as their Lord and Savior will pervade the end-times’ society; only those who endure this hostility until the Son of Man comes will be saved, i.e., enter the kingdom (v. 22).

The way Jesus counsels that they survive is to flee from city to city in Israel(v. 23).

As Christ’s followers, the apostles should not expect any better treatment from the world than what He received.

It is logical to conclude that just as unbelievers have hated, opposed, and blasphemed against Him (the Teacher/Master), so will they behave toward them (the disciples/household slaves) [vv. 24-25].

Three times (vv. 26, 28, 31) Jesus exhorts His men “Do not fear”—another of His favorite commands—, and then offers three facts that should fortify their souls against their real-time, “felt anxiety” about the future and give them the strength to persevere:

(1) God will bring to light, condemn, and punish His enemy’s hidden deeds of darkness; therefore, the apostles should not hesitate to preach Christ’s word boldly, for God will not forget their sacrifice but mete out perfect justice (vv. 26-27).

(2) God can destroy people eternally; therefore, they should fear Him rather than human beings who can only kill the body, but not touch the soul (v. 28).

(3) God considers them to be of great value to Him; therefore, believers should not fear that He would abandon them (vv. 29-31).

In fact, if a believer declares his/her allegiance (“confesses”) to Christ in the presence of men, the Lord will stand as his advocate (“confess”) before the Father.

A denial of Christ, on the other hand, will elicit a different response from Jesus when the individual stands before God (vv. 32-33).

Jesus now corrects a misapprehension regarding the purpose of His first coming by setting up a contrast between what people think and what He means.

On the one hand, the Jews presume His message espouses “peace”: reconciliation among men resulting in the inauguration of the Messianic kingdom.

On the other hand, Jesus intends it to cause “alienation, separation” (v. 34).

He quotes Micah 7:6 to support the contention that He had come to separate the truly loyal from the unfaithful (vv. 35-36).

Christ considers two kinds of people to be “unworthy” of Him: those whose commitment to child or parent supersedes what they feel toward Him (v. 37), and those who are unwilling to die with Him (v. 38).

[If Jesus truly is Who He says He is, then He has the authority to demand total, unreserved allegiance from all people.]

In a paradoxical statement, the Lord asserts that the person who “finds” his life—elsewhere He says, “wishes to save “ or “loves” his life (cf. Matt. 16:25; John 12:25) presumably by renouncing Jesus’ claim on his life—will lose it

[Does He mean eternally, or merely its temporal usefulness?].

On the other hand, if the individual is willing to “lose” or actually “loses” his life for Christ’s sake, i.e., for His purposes or glory, then he will “find” a truly satisfying, life full of eternal worth (v. 39).

Those who “find” this “eternal life” in Christ are those who have “received’ Him.

[Elsewhere, “receiving” Christ is linked with “believing” on Him; one who trusts Jesus also trusts the Father (v. 40; cf. John1:12)].

Rewards also accrue both to those who “receive” true prophets and righteous men because of their stand for truth and goodness (v. 41), and to those who perform even small deeds to benefit the needy, the insignificant, and the helpless (v. 42).

[Jesus does not elaborate upon what these rewards are.]

Thus ends a lengthy discourse about field preparedness.

© 2013 glynch1

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