Summary: Jesus helps us face all the challenges to our faith.
A Challenge for All True Christians
Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10.32-33
All of us are familiar with challenges. It’s a challenge to start a new business, to play on a basketball team, to go to school at nights while supporting your family. These are big challenges, and sometimes we wonder if we can handle them? But one of the most important elements in our success is that we understand that something is a challenge, that we see it, expect it and plan for it.
Living the Christian life is truly a challenge. That is something that Jesus really wants us to understand. We can run from a challenge or face it. We can live in fear or we can live by faith. The words of our Lord are encouraging as we consider the difficulties that every true Christian will face.
1. A Walk Through the Text
Notice first that this Gospel lesson is taken from the tenth chapter of Matthew. That chapter opens with the calling of the twelve disciples. There were hundreds of disciples, but Jesus selected twelve to be a special group. These twelve were sent by Jesus to go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (10.6). Jesus knew that they would encounter many problems along the way. The words of our Gospel lesson are part of His exhortation and encouragement to them as they go proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus says that the disciple is not above his master (10.24). We usually understand that in a positive sense. The student learns the knowledge and skills of the teacher. But in this case Jesus is talking about negative things. Just as the teacher is criticized and condemned so will His students be critcized and condemned. They called Jesus Beelzebul. “Zebul” is the Hebrew expression for “heap of dung.” That’s saying it in about as nice a way as I can. I think you know what Jesus is really saying. “Beel” is a form of the word “Baal.” This was the ancient Canaanite god called Baal. “Beelzebul” therefore is a very derogatory way of referring to the devil. Just as men rejected Jesus, so they will reject the followers of Jesus. They will consider them the worst of evils.
But Jesus says “have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known…” There were many things that Jesus was teaching the disciples. Some of these teachings couldn’t be fully proclaimed until after His death and resurrection. These teachings would become the most controversial of all: Jesus is true God and man, the way of salvation, the one who will return on the Last Day. The followers of Jesus will be threatened. Some will even be killed. But again Jesus says not to fear those who can only kill the body and not the soul. There is a far greated problem ahead when we turn away from God’s grace. Jesus assures us that nothing escapes His notice. He does not fail to see every injustice done. The hairs of our heads are number. A sparrow does not die except that God knows. Those who confess Him before men will be mightly confessed by Him before the Father in heaven.
2. What Does This Mean - the Problem
When a person becomes a Christian, they soon find themselves involved in a struggle. There are many things that are opposed to Jesus and to anyone who has faith in Jesus. First of all there is our own human nature. Humanity does not naturally love God and look to Him. If that were the case, there would be no need for pastors, teachers, missionaries or Sunday school teachers. Like Adam and Eve in paradise, our human nature is to hide from God and to avoid Him. Second, there are denomic beings described in the Bible – fallen angels – All those who followed Satan in his rebellion against God. They are constantly leading people into rebellion against God. Thirdly there is the world that is deceived by Beelzebub and his hoard. It is this last challenge that Jesus is focused on in Matthew 10.24-33.
Yet in the midst of what seems to be an impossible situation – how can anyone possibly be saved? – Even in the midst of such formidable opposition God comes to save. Through His Son, Jesus, God has and is defeating these three divisions of darkness.
The problem with the world is the pressure it puts on Christians to conform to its sin-filled lifestyle. This pressure begins early in the Christian’s life. Christian children are challenged. It’s not cool to let your Christian faith show. Even in a Christian school some of the most popular kids will often be those who are the least committed to Jesus. Christian children will have friends that come from unChristian homes. They will eventually realize that not everyone worships on Sundays, not everyone respects their parents, not everyone has restrictions for watching TV or using the computer. In fact they will soon figure out that most kids in this world do not learn the Bible or certainly do not go to the effort to memorize it. They may even become convinced that the Christian faith is a challenge they just don’t need.