Sermon Notes + Quotes:
Grace and peace to you. We study through books of the Bible at the Village Chapel. If you would like a paper copy, just raise your hand and someone will bring one to you. It would be great for you to look at the text as we are studying today. We are continuing with our study of the Gospel of Matthew, which we have named, ‘The King and His Kingdom’. I ran across a quote that Pastor Jim Tweeted this week and thought it was a great summation of the Gospel of Matthew. Listen carefully as Lesslie Newbigin sums up Matthew’s message concerning King Jesus’ Kingdom in saying,
“The real government of the universe, the final reality, which in the end, confronts every human being is the crucified and risen Jesus, the king and his kingdom. King Jesus, and his kingdom is the real and true government.”
This quote is a sturdy truth to build our lives upon. We just sang about Jesus as the King of Kings. He is the Good Teacher and Master, our Redeemer and Savior, whose work on our behalf allows us to come to His table and give thanks together. We will study today from our brother, Matthew.
Friends, the Lord has been kind to us today. He has been kind to bring us here today, to do what we were meant to do, to worship Him. He has brought us together to hear His word, to actively listen, and to go out on mission when we leave this place. I am so glad you are here.
Several weeks ago, in our study of the Gospel of Matthew, we heard King Jesus describe for us in His Sermon on the Mount what His kingdom is like. In Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount, our King describes for us what those who follow Jesus, can and should look like. Per what we refer to as the Beatitudes, His Kingdom resembles meekness, it resembles a hungering for righteousness, a purity of heart, and a poor, desperate spirit that recognizes our neediness for our savior. This kingdom life sets us free from the harsh taskmaster of this world. It is in sharp, relieving contrast to the value system of worldly culture that emphasizes survival of the fittest and desiring to be bigger, faster, stronger, and better at all costs. Jesus steps in and tells us there is a new way to be human, (which is an old way), when Jesus tells us in a later chapter of Matthew to “Come all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest when you take my yoke upon you.” He knows we have a yoke, the yolk of the world on us. He offers us a new way of flourishing, where we can find rest.
In the past few weeks, we have been taking a close look at the ministry of Jesus. He preaches about His kingdom, and then He goes out and does ministry. He demonstrates what this kingdom is like, and in His merciful kindness, He demonstrates His power and authority by healing the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, and casting out demons as only God can do.
After Scotty Smith preached last week, (I am so thankful for his teaching), we now find ourselves in Matthew chapter ten where Jesus sends out His apostles on mission. He had many disciples, but He chooses this unlikely group of twelve apostles (the word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’) on His gospel mission.
This unlikely group of men, (their names are on the screen, and I won’t read them all), but we can see these are real men, in real space and time. consist of those with a variety of lifestyles and perspectives. For instance, Scotty told us last week of Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector, who were real men from different ends of the social spectrum culturally and perhaps politically as well. A group of twelve men with different backgrounds have come together to collectively proclaim that Jesus is the king.
At the beginning of Matthew ten, Jesus commissions these twelve apostles. Here is a rough outline of how Matthew ten flows: He starts off by commissioning these twelve everyday men, who leave their families, homes, and vocations for a season to live out Jesus’ great commission because they have seen Him for the treasure that He is. Then, Jesus clarifies their mission in a couple of different ways. First, He tells them that on this mission they are going out to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. We will also see, especially towards the end of Matthew’s gospel, the great commission of which all of Christ’s disciples will go into all the world preaching and teaching, making disciples, and baptizing all with the comforting promise that He will be with us until the end of the age.
Here in Matthew ten, Jesus is sending out these apostles on a particular mission to the House of Israel. Jesus has told the apostles exactly what He wants them to do on this mission: to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. In other words, Jesus sends them out on mission to do exactly as He had been doing. With the commissioning of these tasks, Jesus also cautions them about the opposition that will come because of Him, His message, His gospel, and His kingdom values that will be at odds with the cultures of the kingdoms of the world.
In our study this morning, we will be in the section of these cautions of Jesus to His apostles. We are reassured that King Jesus is aware of their human frailty and their fears associated with leaving the familiarity of home and family for a season. He knows their fears and comforts them in their fears. He contrasts the responses to the King and His Kingdom and to the King as either being received with reception or rejection. We will see that most pointedly at the end of our text.
If you would, turn to Matthew chapter ten verse twenty-four, that is where we are going to start. I will pray for us to begin.
‘Lord, you were here before we even got here this morning. You were already working in our hearts. As we open our hearts, please soften them so that we might hear your word. Speak so that we might listen and from our listening, may we glean understanding. May we be thrilled and delighted to know more about who you are. Be with us today as we continue to worship by learning from You. In Jesus’ name, we all said, amen’.
Matthew chapter ten verse twenty-four,
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant to be like his master, [There is an understatement, to be like Jesus, the teacher and master, I love that]. If they called the master of the house, Beelzebub, how much more would they malign those of his household. [Essentially, Jesus is beginning or continuing His caution here. He is saying that those who are going to follow Him and seek to be like Him in teaching and healing are going to be mocked. They are going to be scorned and maligned just as He is.
Beelzebub was a mishmash of an old Philistine God, a Baal. The name means, ‘Lord of Flies’ or ‘Lord of Dung’. In the time of this text, the name became associated with Satan and Satan was synonymous with the prince of demons. Jesus is communicating that the world is going to call Him Satan, or at least align Him with Satan, and people are going to do the same to those who choose to follow Him.
It is interesting that Matthew uses two different images: a disciple and a teacher. A disciple, (essentially a student), a student and a teacher. He also uses master and servant as an example. A disciple in those days, (a student) was a little bit different than today. A modern-day student might get up in the morning, go to school, take a test, and come home, (or log off if virtual) around 3:00 p.m. However, in Jesus’ time a disciple would live with their teacher for a season. We have extra Biblical sources that tell us about, for example, Rabbi Hillel, or in the Bible will see John the Baptist, who have their own disciples. The disciple would live with them and learn the warp and the woof, the intellectual and spiritual fabric of the day, and learn how to view the world.
The other image that Matthew uses is that of a servant and his master, someone who submits his will, and even gives his body to labor in service of another. In essence, I think what Jesus is saying here, is that the disciple is something in the mind, and a servant, is something of the body in volition. The whole thing, body, soul, and mind are given to the King and to His Kingdom, bowing in submission.
Jesus says as we become more like Him by following in His ways, we will be maligned, mocked, and ridiculed just as He is. But in verse twenty-six we find comfort when He calls us to have no fear of the world that is opposed to the King and His Kingdom. The value systems of this earthly culture are opposed to the good creator, God, and the ways He created us for flourishing.
He described courts, the governments of the world, synagogues, religious and educational institutions, and even families are that divided because of this message. However, this divisiveness is nothing to fear because nothing is covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known There is a forward motion in what Jesus is saying. He is providing an eschatological look to the end of the age when the Lord will wrap up history and all will be revealed. So, with that in mind,] what I tell you in the dark, say in the light to be bold. [What you hear whispered and proclaimed on the housetops, proclaim it with boldness and without fear. Verse 28,] Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [Here we see a contrast as Jesus uses two different kinds of fear. One is a survivalist’s fear of man, where one cowers, and tries to protect himself at all costs so as not to be hurt by man’s words or weapons. However, here in this text, the familial fear of God is a filial fear. This type of fear is like a child looking at his father in awe. It is more like being awestruck with wonder and deep respect, with a deep trust knowing He loves him. Jesus is claiming the sovereignty of God, who commands every molecule, and every square inch of the universe is under His command, including judgment against all that opposes Him.
Verse 29, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father. Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, for you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father is in heaven. [Again, notice the contrast between those who receive and those who reject Christ and His gospel.
The immediate impression you might get upon reading this is that it might strike fear to hear Jesus say, “whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my father in heaven.” However, you must remember the context of this statement. He is talking directly to the apostles in reference to their direct mission at hand. The apostles are the ones who have been called, the ones who have started following Him. Jesus says to them, and there is comfort here, “I acknowledge you before the father.” Friends, we are now also acknowledged before God our Father because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. We claim the same thing, which is why we can even come to the table a little bit later today. We have a mediator between us and a holy God, but there will be those who will reject His gospel and kingdom.
There is great comfort in knowing the apostles are real men, in a real place, who are on this mission in the first century, and Jesus is warning them that they will be hated. He warns them that they will be hated because of Him, not because of their obnoxiousness, but because of Him, and His message. This hatred might look like divided families or being dragged before a court, but we need not fear.
But of course, they are fearing. They have left their homes to follow Him, and now He is telling them that this is what they can expect, so of course they fear. A Christian counselor I was listening to this week, (I just found this so helpful) claims that,
“The human soul, you could really think of three basic levels of the human soul. We have the shallows, up here at the top, important, but kind of trivial things. We have the midland, and we have the depths.”
In the shallows of our souls, we might keep conversations limited to how beautiful the weather is, or how my Atlanta Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds last night, that kind of stuff. Then, there is the midland area that goes a little bit deeper. Here you ponder things such as ‘I am retired, what is the value of my life now?’ ‘Where am I supposed to go?’ ‘Where am I going in my career?’ ‘Is my family’s safe?’ Those kinds of questions.
Then, we also have the depths as the psalmist in Psalm 130, states, “from the depths, I cry to you, oh, Lord.” Those depths of our souls are our deepest trusts. Our deepest loves, love of spouse, love of children, our deepest wounds, and our deepest fears. And Jesus here with these apostles. He meets them and provides for their deepest needs. Jesus is with us in the same way this morning, so I hope you hear and take to heart the words, do not fear.
Jesus is the great comforter. I love that. We sang it earlier today. Before we continue reading, Sproul has a beautiful quote that we have used here before. He says,
“If there’s one molecule in the universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”
Jesus is the great comforter. Jesus says, “No, no, no, no.” He is in control of every sparrow. He understands the destiny of every sparrow that falls. He knows the number of all the individual hairs on your head, (and it might be different for some of us with less hair). He knows us. The sovereignty of God, I believe Spurgeon says, is a pillow that we can rest our head on at night.
Jesus is cutting at the root of this kind of survival fear, fear of what man can do with this word of comfort. So, do not fear. Verse 34,] Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword, for I have come to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.”
These are hard words, but the honesty of Jesus is refreshing. We can be honest when we are doing Bible study as well. These are hard world. Jesus says, “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”. I thought Jesus was the Prince of Peace. I thought at the end of the age, Jesus would come and the new heavens and the new earth and we would have shalom, peace. That is true, but again, remember the context of this. He is saying that we are going to be like sheep among wolves. He is sending us out into a world that is opposed to Him. There are many institutions and people that we will meet, who are opposed to the King, His Kingdom, and His values.
We want justice in the world. We want justice for human trafficking. We want justice for extreme poverty, and for racism that is running wild. Here is the word of comfort from Jesus. What is the sword that He is talking about? It is a symbol of Him and His message of hope for justice and redemption. Later, we will hear that gospel of what Christ accomplished on the cross, but it will seem like folly to the world. The sword that He is coming with is His message. It is also an invitation. I am glad He is coming to eradicate those things we desire justice for.
This is a good thing, but sometimes it will look like brokenness here on Earth. I hope and pray that it is not like this in your family. Perhaps, you have been acquainted with this, but it might look like a broken family. We have friends who are overseas, serving in places and countries where, culturally, if you come to the Lord, you are ostracized from your community. Sometimes, the Christian life in these places is a cultural cause for a family’s economic ruin and worse. We may not be acquainted with this, but what Jesus is saying, you can expect opposition and it will be hard. But He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The love of Christ, the Kingdom of Christ must be preeminent, must have preference all over, all others.
Augustine would talk about loves, and with that same language, our loves must be properly ordered. With that, there is beautiful hope. When the King and His Kingdom is number one, then everything underneath, such as our marriage relationships, our family, our children’s relationships, our institutions, they all flourish when His Kingdom is number one.
Opposition will come. The good news of Christ though, is that He offers us comfort. So, do not fear. This opposition may look like a family divided against itself, or an institution against you. You might have resources cut off from you, body, mind, and soul in your allegiance to Christ. The world, the flesh and the evil one has pledged allegiance to another kingdom. Anything that tempts you to serve a pretend throne, we can expect to face that opposition.
To get a bit closer to where we are today, though, for many in this room, we are in the ‘Bible belt’ and this explicit persecution for our faith is not something that at least I am not acquainted with. But perhaps, some of you find yourselves in these types of environments or have experienced cultures of other countries that are averse to the Christian faith. There is this opposition, and it is very much like this, like Jesus describes.
There is an organization that I would like to commend to you, and I would love for you to check out their website. It is a great place to find resources regarding how to pray for our brothers and sisters in other places of the world. Open Doors International is a great resource and voice of the martyrs. Here are a couple of statistics, (and stats are not always helpful, but I think these are particularly helpful from Open Doors International). They do a yearly top fifty world watch list of the countries with the worst records of extreme persecution. So, just in those top fifty countries, 105 churches are attacked, burned, or vandalized, every month. In these top fifty countries, every day, eleven Christians are killed for their faith. In the voice of the martyr’s magazine, I was reading that Pakistan was towards the top of the list. Afghanistan, by the way, is the number one worst place for Christians to live right now. In Pakistan, there are nearly four million Christians, two percent of the population, (98% Muslim, 2% Christian). Christians by default have limited educational opportunities and face extreme poverty. They are given the most menial tasks like brick, kiln workers, sewer cleaners, street sweepers.
There was one story that just really caught my eye related to COVID in Pakistan. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Pakistan led a campaign that tied food, and aid to conversion to Islam and Christian hospital workers were sent to the COVID-19 ward without any protection, because they were viewed as expendable.
In a recent course that I was taking at Covenant Theological Seminary, I was talking with a friend who I had met at this class who is a pastor in Canada. He had been a pastor for many years, and he had just preached, as he had for many years. He preached on a passage of scripture that talks about a Christian sexual ethic. As he came home, he kept the windows open, because he had a genuine concern that he might have authorities come to his home to question him, or perhaps even bring charges against him. Now, I don’t tell you these things, so that we might fear. In fact, it is just the opposite. There is great courage in the gentle, ordinary, faithful believers around the world and in this room, who point to the treasure of who Jesus Christ is and His Kingdom. Some do that while under threat of bodily harm, economic harm, or even death.
Jesus told us to expect it. Yet, these faithful ones who we are talking about in these statistics move forward in their mission in the square inch of the world that the Lord has put them in. We are called to do the same, wherever our square inch of the world might be, (that square inch imagery comes from a great Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper). We are called to the same, and this should not lead us to fear, but should bolster our courage. Why? Because the work of the kingdom is not done in isolation. We do not labor in the fields alone. That should give us courage. Also, God our Father is caring for us even now as we speak, so we do not fear.
I love what Pastor Warren Wiersbe says,
“The fear of God is the fear that cancels fear.”
We will finish our reading here at chapter ten verse forty, “Whoever receives you, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives Him, who sent me.” We have come in here to some important contrasts. We just read about families that are divided because they have not received. Some of them have not received His gospel, His kingdom, His message, and now, we are entering into a contrast here where Jesus shows it. The text shows us what it is like when there is reception to His Kingdom. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me, receives Him, who sent me.” In other words, when they go out to these cities, when they are received, they are receiving Christ Himself. That is the reward. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. The one who receives a righteous person, because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. Whoever gives one of these little ones even just a cup of cold water, (yes, even the smallest person doing the most menial tasks in God’s kingdom) is blessed and will by no means lose his reward.Jesus shows us here this great contrast between the rejection of Christ, which can bring division to families, communities, relationships, and the receiving of Christ. The receiving of Christ’s message, via His messengers bringing the exciting hope of the great blessing and reward that comes when Christ is treasured above all else.
So, as we have looked at this text and listened to the words of Christ to the apostles and to us this morning, there are a few handles that we can grab onto. The first is that the King, His kingdom, and His people will face opposition. Secondly, the call of Jesus moves us to mission in our square inch of His world.
There is a great hymn that many of you might be familiar with by Robert Lowry titled, ‘How Can I Keep from Singing’. Here are just a few lines of it.
‘Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing? The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing all things are mine. Since I am His, I belong to Him. How can I keep from singing?’
The apostle Paul in First Peter talks about our calling into the kingdom of Christ. He says it like this, “But you, [this includes us in this room] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession. We belong to Him, God, the Father, [and he gives the why,] that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.”
For those who have been awakened from the darkness of the kingdoms of this world to the light of the face of Christ, how can we keep from singing? How can we keep from proclaiming the kingdom of heaven is at hand wherever the Lord has us in our square inch of this world? Once you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, once you have been awakened from the darkness, and once you have realized that He has addressed your greatest need at the cross, defeating the greatest enemy of death itself and provided a new way for us to live a flourishing life and His kingdom, how can we do anything else but proclaim all His excellencies?
You might say, ‘well, I am retired’, ‘I am a stay-at-home mom’, ‘I am a real-estate agent’, ‘an accountant’, etc. and ‘I am not sure how I am supposed to do this’. Wherever you are planted, whatever part of culture the Lord has put you in, (with all that entails), you lean in and enjoy as if unto the Lord, because it says so in Colossians 3.
I know that sounds simple, but it is so important for us to take that big burden off our shoulders. We are not all gifted to be John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, or Tim Keller, but our first step is to follow Jesus in faithfulness, wherever we are planted in our square inch of His kingdom. I love how John Stott puts it,
“How are Christians to react when faced with the opposition of the world? They are certainly not to retaliate, nor are they to lick their wounds and self-pity, nor are they to withdraw into a safe place where they are sheltered from the enmity of the world. No, they are bravely to bear witness to Jesus Christ before the world in the power of his Holy Spirit.”
Last week, Pastor Scotty Smith took us through the first half of Matthew chapter ten where Jesus says this explicitly, “It is the Holy Spirit that will give you the words to say.” The care of the father sets us free from fear of anything opposed to the kingdom of God. I can make that even simpler. The care of the father sets us free from fear.
Let’s get personal for a moment, (at least personal for me) fear is in the air in our current cultural environment. It is in the air, but it always has been since the fall of man. We see it even in Genesis chapter three. However, our awareness of fear both in ourselves and in others is perhaps being magnified and broadcasted in ways unimaginable even just a few years ago. Fear is in the air. At least three of the top ten New York Times best sellers as of recently included books related to fear, fear of others, fear of failure, fear of death, and fear of being an inauthentic person. It is in large part why our Twitter and our Facebook feeds are so loud and caustic and why our rhetoric can be so full of contempt. Contempt is that idea of anger and disgust bound together against another person. Fear is the root of so much of our emotional fragility. I think we all see that, but Jesus speaks to us and calls us not to fear even in those depths. Three times in this text Jesus offers these words of encouragement, “do not fear” to His disciples, His apostles, and to us here today.
There was a great gravity to those words for the apostles, the ordinary men who had left home and family, rightly recognizing Jesus as King, to follow Him. The Lord knew their frailty, knows your frailty, and knows my frailty in the depths. My greatest wounds, my greatest fears are known to the Lord.
Another man, nearly a thousand years before Jesus faced similar fears, King David, and he records this for us in Psalm thirty-one, (I invite you, if you want, just flip to your Bible right in the middle, Psalm thirty-one. It would be good for you to set your eyes on this passage as it is a great study for anyone who wants to study more on this. Trust of the Lord.) With terror on every side, King David gets a little bit of Jesus’ encouragement for the apostles in Psalm 31:14, “I trust in you, oh Lord. I say you are my God. My times are in your hands. [The way Jesus put it,] I know the destiny that your father knows, the destiny of every sparrow that falls”. He knows the number of every hair on your head. You belong to Him. King David knew to whom he belonged.
Your father is the sovereign creator and sustainer over all things, rules over every molecule, every seemingly insignificant animal, every government, and is over all of history. But your also father knows you fully. Just to be called our father, and just to be called His child is so bundled with deep meaning and comfort. Your father cares for you, and Jesus says we need not fear.
J.I. Packer puts it so beautifully,
“Adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name. To be right with God, the judge is a great thing. But to be loved and cared for by God, the father is greater”.
There is a lot of truth there. Jesus says, “So, do not fear.”
I was reminded this week by Pastor Matt of a prayer written by John Wesley, who was an 18th Century Anglican and the founder of the Methodist Church. It is a prayer that Wesley wrote for his church to read and recommission themselves every single year as an annual tradition. I invite you to pray this with me.
“I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, place me with whom You will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for You or set aside for You, praised for You or criticized for You. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to Your glory and service. And now, o wonderful and holy God, creator, redeemer, and sustainer, You are mine and I am Yours. Amen.”
We know to whom we belong. Let’s pray,
‘Lord, some of us in this room cry out from the depths to you like other Psalmists have said. There are fears and wounds there that can only be met by your provision. I pray that as we have studied your word today, that your spirit might remind us anew that we belong to you. Thank you that as father, you look upon us as children under your watchful eye. Help us to rest in that, help us to rest in the comfort that you bring when you tell us, as you told your apostles and through them us, “do not fear.” Lord may be so, thrill us with your love, may we delight in you. May we delight as we go out on mission, telling others about the good news who you are and what you have done, in Jesus’ name we all said’