Summary: This message from Matthew 10 deals with Jesus sending out his men to preach and perform miracles. Jesus shared his power and mission with his men. The message focuses on five animal analogies Jesus used in instructing his men for ministry.

Sheep & Wolves …Snakes & Doves … Sparrows

Matthew 10:1

CHCC: February 6, 2011


In this series on the Power of Jesus, we’ve seen some amazing miracles that prove His power over disease, demons, and even over the forces of nature. This week, we’ll see something more astounding than even those miracles. Jesus passed His supernatural power on to His followers. Matthew 10: 1 says, Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Later on, Luke records that Jesus sent 72 disciples out on a similar mission. (Luke 10) And Jesus last directive was to send all of us on the same mission: Go into all the world, … (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus made it clear that His followers would share His Mission AND His POWER. In Matthew 10:7 he told his disciples: As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

I can imagine the excited look on their faces … they were going to have the same supernatural POWER that Jesus had! They would share both His Power and His authority. And then I can imagine their faces falling when Jesus added this unexpected word of warning: 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.

1. Sheep and Wolves

It was common for teachers of that day to use animals as analogies of human behavior, and this was a word picture that would definitely catch their attention! These guys lived in a sheep-herding part of the world. They had seen what happens when wolves get a hold of sheep.

Back in the 1970’s Dr. W. Phillip Keller wrote a book called A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23. Dr. Keller grew up on a ranch in British Columbia and observed sheep-herding first hand. He describes a scene of carnage when wolves attacked the sheep one night. “Some ewes were killed outright, their blood drained and livers eaten. Others were torn open and badly clawed. … Some had huge patches of wool torn from their fleeces. In their frightened stampede some had stumbled and broken bones or rushed over rough ground injuring legs and bodies.” According to Keller, “Two wild dogs have been known to kill as many as 292 sheep in a single night of unbridled slaughter.” (p.37) You can only imagine what a whole wolf pack could do!

The disciples had to be thinking, “No shepherd would deliberately send his sheep out into the middle of a pack of ferocious wolves!” But Jesus was describing an unavoidable reality. The only way to spread the Gospel is to deliberately go out into wolf territory.

As Christians, we can’t afford to be so idealistic that we lose touch with reality. That’s why Jesus warns us up front to be on guard. In verses 17-25 he spelled it out. He said His followers would be arrested, flogged, and put on trial by local councils and national governors. Even people in their own families would betray them and some would be put to death. Jesus explained that whatever people did to Him, they would also do to His followers.

About 45 million, or two-thirds of all Christian martyrs in the history of the church, actually died in the twentieth century, according to a new book, "The New Persecuted: Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century," by an Italian journalist named Antonio Socci. The author estimates that an average of 160,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1990 in a variety of nations such as Pakistan, Sudan, Algeria, and Nigeria. Preaching Now Newsletter. June 25, 2002

This is a reality most of us have never had to face. We live in the only nation on earth that was founded on the idea of Religious Liberty. Because of that, we can imagine the world is a nice, safe, pleasant place for Christians, but that’s just not reality in the rest of the world. For most of us, the wolves have been held at bay.

It’s common in America for people to be naïve about the existence of evil. Maybe the WOLVES out there are just misunderstood critters … and if we just feed them and pet them, they’ll come around and be nicer.

Which reminds me of a story I heard …

The State of Montana once offered a bounty of $5,000 for every wolf captured alive. So two hunters named Sam and Jed decided to head for the hills and make some money capturing wolves. Day and night they scoured the mountains and forests searching for their valuable prey. After three days of hunting without any success, they both fell asleep and let their campfire burn out.

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