Text: Matthew 10:24-39
I think it’s safe to say that for the disciples, being associated with Jesus is a dangerous thing.
Are you with me?
Week after week, As we’ve journeyed with the disciples through the readings we constantly hear Jesus warn them that following him will not be easy to say the least.
It will involve risk.
And not just little risks, but risks to their freedom, their personal safety, even the safety of their families and friends.
With every step, their very lives are on the line.
To us modern Christians, it might seem strange that the teachings of Jesus could be so dangerous.
It seems strange that lives marked by love, equality, forgiveness, and justice would be such threatening forces.
But it’s important for us to remember the context of Matthew’s gospel.
Remember the power of the day was the Roman Empire. And Rome crucified those who threatened its control over society. It’s how they maintained their control.
And any movement, regardless of how seemingly peacefully, would be perceived as a threat and dealt with severely.
This is the reality of empire.
Empire makes no room for co-existence.
Empire does not compromise.
Empire sets the rules and stomps down any resistance- any questions of or challenges to
And yet, in spite of all this, Jesus urged the brave disciples on.
Warning them of the risks but encouraging them of the rightness of the cause.
That serving the God of Creation is far more important than serving Empire.
But for many, it will challenge the usual way living.
Because God’s way doesn’t conform to the realities of the world.
In fact, it’s often the opposite of customary norms.
And with that comes great risk.
The way of Christ was a call to resist the norms of empire—
the oppression of the weak,
the hoarding of resources so few had much, and many had little.
a life lived under the shadow of fear
Jesus and his disciples resisted these norms, challenging them— speaking up for the oppressed and encouraging lives marked by sharing and equality.
Jesus and the disciples describes a life where fear didn’t have the final word
that trust and hope were the guiding forces.
But this didn’t make it easy for the lives of the disciples
It complicated not just their interactions with the authorities
but their personal relationships as well.
Those living under empire weren’t keen on the disruptions folks challenging empire invited.
Because it usually invited trouble
and that trouble had a tendency to trickle down to everyone
making everyone’s lives more difficult
Most were content with living under the radar
Maybe not thrilled with the reality but not interested in inviting trouble either
Just go about your business
Don’t cause any trouble
and we will all live to see another day.
Jesus warned the disciples that their actions would cause conflict with those wishing to stay under the radar.
He says in verse 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”
Surprising to hear that, coming from Jesus, isn’t it?
But what Jesus is saying here is not that His message is one of violence—
quite the opposite
he is advising them that their countercultural actions
their resistance- even peaceful-
will likely bring division and conflict even among those who love them the most
man and father
daughter and mother
daughter-in-law and mother-in-law
that even in their own households, the change they are seeking will be met with division.
But still he urges them on
and seeks to reassure them
Reminding them of the divine source of their plight
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”
Jesus reminds them that their mission is aligned with the God of Creation.
And that they are protected by God
maybe not in the way they might expect
Jesus doesn’t promise they won’t suffer
but that what’s important- the soul— will be protected and kept intact.
Because they matter
they are seen
They are loved and valued by God.
every hair on their head is counted
Jesus seeks to align their mission with its eternal significance.
Reminding them of their importance and the importance of this mission
Its not just their mission, but God’s mission
To usher in a new reality.
Yes, Jesus warns the disciples of the dangers
but reminds them of the divine protection they are afforded for it.
And the theme behind of all of this
The ultimate message Jesus gives them for all of their sacrifice
all of their risk
He’s telling them- It’s worth it.
And they won’t be alone.
Jesus was with those disciples who suffered for their faith.
And in the same way, Jesus is with those disciples today who suffer for their faith.
Because in some ways the situation is the same for many
There are still those
Who jeopardize their lives, risking it all for their faith.
There are those who live in parts of this country and around the world where they continue to suffer for their faith in ways we will likely never experience and can scarce imagine.
And yet Jesus is with them in the same way.
Reminding them that every hair on their head is counted
and that God has their backs.
That this is a divine mission.
And that in spite of it all, it’s worth it.
The same is true for us.
Because we might not experience the same risks for standing up for our faith.
It’s unlikely that we face death, arrest, or imprisonment as the disciples in Matthew’s community or even those in places around the world might
But we still face challenges.
There is still the risk of division for holding fast to the way of Christ.
In many ways, following Jesus is still countercultural
It still threatens many of societal’s norms.
Many of our traditional values, rooted and based in our understanding of the Christian norms established by our faith
are mocked in society for being “old-fashioned” and “dated”
In our pluralistic world which is becoming more and more secular, standing up for our faith oftentimes opens us up to ridicule, judgement, mocking
How many of us have been in that freshman religion class where the professor seemed to almost delight in mocking our Christian values.
Or how many of us have been teased by our more “enlightened” friends- maybe even those who deem themselves “spiritual but not religious” who mock us for some of the elements of our faith traditions.
Or how many of us have been called names or politically labeled for taking stances for justice and equality, again rooted and based in our understanding of the Christian norms established by our faith.
It seems no matter which way we turn, living out our faith—following the way of Jesus- offers us up for ridicule and judgment.
Perhaps the division Jesus speaks of in this passage
applies to us as well today.
Perhaps the meaning is the same
that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Jesus knows that a life of faith brings challenges.
It resists the norms of the world and oftentimes empire
and with that often comes division and discord
But he tells us, over and again
it’s worth it.
Jesus tells the disciples— and us today- “whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”
This is our goal
to find the life that is truly life
to live a life worth of our calling as disciples of Jesus.
Folks, this is what we are here for.
And its worth it.
Jesus tells us
All the risk
All the threats
all the division and discord
It’s worth it.
Every hair on our head is counted.
We are seen
We are valued
We are protected by a loving God
the creator of the universe who promises to be us now and forever
So stand strong, people of God, when you take a stand for your faith.
It’s worth it.
Stand up for those values that you hold dear, even when those at your work, in your social circles, or even your family mock them
Because its worth it
Stand up for those on the margins- whoever you perceive them to be-
because it’s worth it
Continue to be the living presence of Christ in a world in desperate need of it.
And just as Jesus was with those early disciples
Jesus is with us as well
amid the discords in our personal lives, families, communities, congregations, nation, and world.
Jesus is with us
Urging us on
and reminding us that whatever lives we might think we are losing
we are actually finding them
lives that are truly lives
Lives of true purpose
And its worth it.