Summary: In following Jesus, we sign up for both his suffering and his victory.
A Messiah Who Sends Part 2: Expecting Opposition
Text: Matt. 10:16-23
1. Illustration: John Stott wrote, “I could never believe in God, if it were not for the cross… In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.”
2. The Apostle Paul also said something to us is shocking and uncomfortable.
3. Philippians 3:10-11 (NLT)
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,
11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
4. The point that we would like to avoid, but have to deal with, is if we want to follow Jesus we have to follow him not only to the victory of the Resurrection but also to the pain and suffering that produced it.
5. If we want to follow Jesus we need to realize that:
a. Opposition Is Expected
b. Opposition Will Be Fierce
c. Opposition Will Come From Unexpected Places
d. Jesus Empowers Us to Overcome Opposition
6. Read Matt. 10:16-23
Proposition: In following Jesus, we sign up for both his suffering and his victory.
Transition: Jesus tells us that...
I. Opposition Should Be Expected (16)
A. Sheep Among Wolves
1. One of the key elements to being successful in ministry is to realize that it is going to be difficult.
2. Jesus makes this very clear to the ones he is sending out by saying, “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves."
a. Sheep are perhaps the most dependent, helpless, and stupid of all domesticated animals.
b. They are as often panicked by harmless things as by those that are dangerous.
c. And when real danger does come, they have no natural defense except running, and they are not very good at that (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew 8-15).
d. But the sheep's greatest enemy is predators, the worst of which in Palestine and in many other parts of the world has always been wolves.
e. People in Palestine understood the nature of sheep and the danger of wolves.
3. What Jesus is doing is preparing them for what they will face because he himself faced the same struggles.
a. John 15:20 (NLT)
Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.
b. In the figure of the sheep and wolves, Jesus gave a graphic illustration of the rejection and persecution by a God-hating world they would face because of Him.
c. So before the twelve went out into their first brief and relatively undemanding service for the Lord, He set before them the cost of discipleship.
d. Just as He did not escape opposition and persecution, neither would they(MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew 8-15).
4. However, Jesus not only prepares them to be persecuted, but how to act when they receive persecution. He says, "So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves."
a. The vulnerability of sheep is enhanced by their proverbial stupidity, but the disciples are not to act like that (France, 390).
b. The serpent was the emblem of wisdom, shrewdness, and intellectual keenness, while the dove represented simple innocence.
c. This is a difficult but necessary balance to maintain.
d. Without innocence the keenness of the snake is crafty, a devious menace; without keenness the innocence of the dove is naive, helpless gullibility (Wilkins, 392).
e. Therefore, Jesus tells them, and us, to embody the best characteristics of both animals.
f. The disciples cunning is to be directed not at harming their opponents, but to their own survival and the spreading of the gospel (France, 391).