Summary: As Jesus continued to provide instructions regarding the ministry He had called the disciples to engage, again He emphasized the difficulty they would encounter. Although this was a worthy task, with eternal implications, their opposition would be evident and extensive.
Confident to Serve
Matthew 10: 23-28
As we continue to study the conversation Jesus had with the disciples in order to prepare them for Kingdom ministry, again we find the Lord being totally honest with them about what to expect. While their task was certainly worthwhile, having eternal implications, it would not be without opposition or controversy. In fact, the mission they were about to engage in would be anything but easy. The Lord wanted them to be aware of the difficulties they would most certainly face, while making necessary preparations to deal with the adversity.
Cultures may change, but the depravity and needs of humanity do not. The work we are engaged in may look different on the surface, but the issues we face are very similar to that which the disciples faced. The devil continues an attempt to hinder and defeat every believer who is committed to serving the Lord. All people are not saved, and the majority today have no desire to hear the Gospel or serve the Lord. Those in authority are increasingly putting measures in place to restrict our voice and hinder the influence of the church. The mission we have received is anything but easy. It is not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted. We need determination, faith, and confidence in the Lord if we are to endure.
As we discuss the details Jesus provided the disciples regarding ministry, I want to consider: Confident to Serve.
I. The Presence of Opposition (23) – But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Having already warned of adversity, Jesus continued to reveal opposition the disciples would encounter as they ministered, sharing their faith. Consider:
A. The Certainty – But when they persecute you in this city…Jesus did not say, if they persecute you – He emphatically declared, when they persecute you. He wanted the disciples to know they would face persecution. This was never a question of if, but when. The enemy would see to it that they were opposed in the work, and Jesus desired them to be prepared for adversity.
If you have served the Lord for any length of time, trying to do even the smallest task for His glory, you are aware of the presence of opposition. We have not faced physical violence like many around the world, but the work of the Lord always faces opposition from the world. We must expect it to come, knowing that all who serve the Lord will deal with opposition. 2 Tim.3:12 – Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
B. The Responsibility (23a) – But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another. Knowing persecution would come, they also needed to know how to respond in the face of difficulty. Jesus instructed the disciples to flee the city of persecution, going into another. They were not expected to remain among their persecutors, willfully tolerating their abuse. Jesus wanted the disciples to proclaim the truth to as many as possible. When persecution arose in a particular city, they were instructed to immediately flee that place, going to another that was more hospitable at that particular time.
It is interesting to note that Jesus didn’t instruct them to abandon their efforts and return home at the first experience with opposition. While He didn’t expect them to remain in a volatile environment, He also didn’t expect them to abandon the work simply because they faced opposition and persecution. (We share the same responsibilities. While we may not be expected to remain in a dangerous or unfruitful situation, we must not abandon our efforts simply because we have been opposed. While some will not be receptive, others will; and we must seek to proclaim the Gospel to as many as possible.)
C. The Urgency (23b) – for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. This statement from Jesus has caused confusion and uncertainty among many. In fact, many of the commentaries I consulted ignored these words of Jesus altogether. Clearly Jesus was not speaking of the Second Coming happening before they would be able to share the Gospel throughout Israel. He was speaking of His being revealed as the Christ, offering Himself as the atonement for sin, and rising triumphantly in resurrection life. He wanted the disciples to sense the urgency of the moment. Even if they assumed He would establish the Kingdom then, they would have sensed the urgency of the moment. There was no time to waste.
We too must sense the urgency of our time while serving the Lord. Our lives are but a vapor; none are promised tomorrow. We have a limited time to share our faith, and all men have a limited time to respond to the Gospel. The Lord is soon coming. Those who are saved by His grace will inherit eternal life, and those who have rejected the Gospel will face eternal death in hell. There is no time to waste. We must be faithful to the work we have received.