Sunday, October 07, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “Like Sheep Among Wolves”

“Like Sheep Among Wolves”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
October 7, 2018 :: Matthew 10:16-31

Today, we’re picking back up and Following Jesus in Matthew chapter 10.

Matthew 10 is often called the “Mission Discourse” or Jesus’ “Major Teaching on Missions” in the Gospel of Matthew.

It’s the second of five major blocks of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew.

The first was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which we spent several months this year studying together. Jesus’ teaching on the upside-down, inside-out, already-but-not-yet coming kingdom of God.

And when Jesus came down from the mountain, He started demonstrating His authority. His authority over sickness and demons and creation and even over death and sin. Jesus has all authority.

And in Matthew chapter 10, Jesus delegates some of His authority to 12 special agents that He is preparing to send out to the nation of Israel on a mission.

At the end of the chapter 9, Jesus saw the crowds, and He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like...what? Sheep without a shepherd.

And just like we prayed before the Good New Cruise.

And just like we prayed this morning for Church Multiplication Sunday.

And just like we’re going to pray every day this week at 9:38, Jesus told His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field.

And then He turned around and answered that prayer. He commissioned these 12 workers to go into the harvest field.

“Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

First, He called them to Himself. And then He sent them out for Himself. As representatives. We called them “special agents” to represent Him and preach about the coming kingdom of God.

Do you remember this? Verses 1-15?

These 12 had a unique mission. They were to preach, but also to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons.

For this mission, they were to travel light and live on the hospitality of others.

And only stay where they were wanted.

If they were received, then Jesus was received.

But if they were rejected, it was really Jesus they were rejecting, and it would have been better for those people to have lived in Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment.

And then we ended with verse 16 which is where I want to pick things up today. Let’s read it.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

That’s quite a statement, isn’t it?

Have you been thinking about that the last few weeks?

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

There’s four animals for you.

Sheep, wolves, snakes, doves.

And the disciples were supposed to be like 3 of them. Sheep, snakes, and doves.

They were not supposed to be like wolves. There’s going to be enough of them around! Don’t need any more.

What does this mean?

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.”

Well, that’s a dangerous mission right there, isn’t it?

He isn’t sending them out like wolves among wolves.

They aren’t supposed to attack the world.

They aren’t supposed to “fight fire with fire.”

They aren’t supposed to be violent or self-serving like a wolf would be.

They were supposed to be like sheep.

In what way?

Well, I think, at least, as vulnerable as sheep.

Jesus is saying that this mission will be dangerous. It’s not a walk in the park.

You are a sheep, and there are wolves out there.

Which is interesting because these guys were just given authority to do miracles, right?

But they aren’t given authority to blast their enemies to kingdom come.

They can do miracles that signify the blessings of the kingdom to come, but they are not given the authority blast their enemies to kingdom come.

No, they are sent as sheep among wolves.

Which, by the way, is how Jesus came, isn’t it?

What did Isaiah say?

“...he was led like a lamb to the slaughter...”

Jesus said to the apostles, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves...”

Now, I also think that the analogy with sheep reminds us of how they trust their shepherd.

Sheep are very trusting. They trust their shepherd.

So, they are vulnerable, yes, but they are also dependent and trusting.

It’s interesting when you think about the Great Commission which this whole book is leading up to in chapter 28, Jesus says that all authority has been given to Him, and He is now sending us, not just to the lost sheep of Israel, but to all of the nations. And He promises as He sends us TO GO WITH US. The Shepherd goes with the sheep! I think that’s significant.

Especially when we consider all of the wolves out there! There are wolves out there!

But we have a Good Shepherd, and we go with Him.

Now, I don’t think that Jesus means for the apostles to be sheepish. To be frightened or scared.

Or dumb!

Like sheep often are. I don’t think He means that they ought to be exactly like the sheep that are harassed and helpless and lost along the way.

That’s why He gives the second sentence.

“Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

The apostles weren’t supposed to be as shrewd as sheep. They wouldn’t last very long if they were!

But they also weren’t supposed to be as innocent as snakes either.

Do you catch that? They aren’t supposed to be like a snake in the grass. Sinful, conniving, wicked.

They are supposed to be like snakes in just one: smart. Shrewd. Wise. Skillful. Strategic.

But as for their character, like a dove.

I love this verse!

There is so much to chew on here.

“I am sending you out [on a dangerous mission] like sheep among wolves. [So be careful.] Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Now, the rest of this passage unpacks these ideas.

Jesus is preparing His disciples for this mission, and He’s making sure that they know that it’s going to be very dangerous, so they need to be very careful.

But at the same time, He’s telling them to not worry or be afraid because ultimately they belong to Him.

Now, at verse 17, it feels like things change a little bit.

It feels like Jesus is not just getting the Twelve ready for their short-term missions trip around Israel, but also getting them ready for what it’s going to be like in the Book of Acts.

It seems like He begins to describe things that are going to happen much later even including today.

I’m not always sure where He’s getting them ready in particular and when He’s talking to all of us. I think it’s all relevant for us and our mission either way.

Let’s listen in. I’ll read a little bit, and you tell me which animals you hear. Okay?

Sheep, wolves, snakes, doves. Ready? Verse 17.

“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.”

Do you see what I mean?

This sounds like the Book of Acts to me, not just their mission to the lost sheep of Israel, but also when they end up witnessing to the Gentiles.

Which animals do you hear?

Sheep? Yep. In danger.

Wolves? Oh yeah. Being handed over. Flogging. Brought before governors and kings. That does not sound like fun.

So how about snakes?

Yes. Jesus says, “Be on your guard.” That’s being shrewd. Know that this is coming and take appropriate action.

How about doves?

Yes. Why are they being drug before these authorities?

Is it because they are bad guys? Because they are doing bad things?

No! Verse 18, “On my account,” for My sake, Jesus says.

Because you are following me, you will get in trouble.

“Make sure you get in trouble for following Me. Not for following anybody else!”

But when you do, don’t worry.

Verse 19.

“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Oooh. Doesn’t that sound good?

I think this section could be summarized like this:

Beware, but don’t be scared.

Be wary, be careful, be shrewd.

But don’t be afraid. Don’t be worried. Don’t live in fear.

Is that an easy balance to maintain. No, I don’t think so.

I don’t know about you, but I’m much better at doing the exact opposite.

Often, I’m not careful, but I am fearful.

I don’t exercise shrewdness and strategy and wisdom. And I fall into worry and anxiety and vexation.

But Jesus says that we should do the exact opposite.

Beware, but don’t be scared.

You’re going to get arrested. But don’t worry. The Spirit will give you the words to speak.

By the way, this is not an excuse for pastors to not prepare for preaching.

This isn’t about the Sunday morning gathering. This is for when you can’t prepare because somebody drug you before the authorities.

Don’t worry then! Because the Spirit will have your back.

Isn’t it interesting that He’s called, “The Spirit of Your Father?”

This is the only place that He’s called that name in the Bible, but it’s precious.

The Holy Spirit who is so intimately bound up with your Heavenly Father that He’s called, “the Spirit of your Father,” and here He is giving you the words to say.

Did this happen in the Book of Acts? It sure did!

Let’s read the next section and look for the four animals. V.21.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Do you see the four animals?

Sheep? Yes. This following Jesus thing is very dangerous. Some people are going to die following Jesus.

Wolves? Sadly, yes. And where do some of these wolves come from? From your own family. Brothers betraying brothers. Parents betraying children and children betraying parents TO DEATH.

Snakes? Yes. Jesus is getting them ready to be on the move. They aren’t supposed to  just stay in one city until they are eradicated. They are free to move on. Be shrewd about this. He’s not giving them the option of quitting, but He’s not telling them that they have to stay in one location until they are wiped out either. Be sent, but be shrewd.

How about doves? Why do all men hate these disciples?

Is it because they have done something wrong?

V.2 “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Do you see that the whole point is Jesus?

This is a good paragraph to ask ourselves hard questions about whether or not we love Jesus more than we love our families.

If you had to choose between loving Jesus and loving your family, which one would you choose?

Let me put it another way to get closer to it.

If you had to choose between pleasing Jesus and pleasing your family, which one would you choose?

Throughout history, disciples of Jesus have had to choose Jesus over their families and sometimes paying for it with their very lives.

In some cultures in the world today, if you come to trust in Jesus, your family will hold a funeral for you and treat you as if you are dead.

And in some cultures in the world today, if you come to trust in Jesus, your family will actually try to kill you so that your funeral is real.

Now, most of us in the West don’t have to worry about that right now.

But we still can make an idol of our family.

We can put family first over following Jesus.

Jesus says that the blessings of salvation come to those who keep trusting and following Him, standing firm on His promises to the end.

Beware! But don’t be scared. Trust in the Shepherd.

By the way, I’m not sure about the correct interpretation of verse 23.

I’m not sure what Jesus means when He says that the disciples wouldn’t “finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

There are about 6 or 7 common interpretations of that and a few of them make just as much sense to me as others.

Perhaps, He meant that He would come to them on this short term mission that they are going out on. That makes sense. Though it’s not clear why He’d emphasize it.

A lot of it depends on how much of this teaching was just for that particular mission or for the Great Commission mission. And I’m just not sure.

He could mean that they wouldn’t finish their mission to Israel before His death and resurrection.

Or it could be talking about how the church must continue to try to reach the Jews throughout the world until the Return of Christ.

I’m not exactly sure.

Any way about it, He’s promising to take care of them.

He’s promising that He won’t leave them or forsake them.

Even when it gets hard.

Does this chapter scare you?

All of this talk about flogging? Persecution? Fleeing from one city to another?

It’s kind of scary.

“Sheep among wolves” is a very uncomfortable metaphor.

I’m glad that Jesus tells it like it is!

I’d rather that He only told us the happy things. Psalm 23. Lots of grass and still waters.

But if there are wolves out there, I want to know.

And there are wolves out there!

In the next section (verses 24-31), Jesus gives the disciples several good reasons to beware but not be scared. The first is simply that we should expect trouble because  we belong to Jesus. V.24

“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”

So who is who in this illustration?

Who is the master? Jesus Himself.

Who are the students? You and me and the disciples.

They call our Master the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Dung Heap. The top dog demon.

What do we expect to be called?

What do you expect to be called?

I don’t like to be called bad names.

But should I expect if my Lord was called Beelzebub?

If the wolves call you bad names because you belong to Jesus, CONGRATULATIONS! You are doing something right.

You are being a true disciple.

Beware if the wolves are happy with you all of the time!

Blair Murray died 3 years ago this week.

He often told me over 17 years to beware when all men speak well of me.

He would say, Pastor Matt, if you aren’t making some enemies because of Jesus, then you are doing it wrong.

Now, don’t forget that we must be innocent as doves.

Some of us make enemies, not because of following Jesus, but just because we are numbskulls. Innocent as doves. Innocent as doves.

But if you are following Jesus, expect to be maligned for it. And even wear it as a badge of honor. And don’t be afraid. V.26

“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”

They might call you names now, but someday, everything will be made right and made clear.

Everything will be clear for what it is.

Jesus will not be called Beelzebub. He will be called King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And you will be called by the name that He has given you!

Don’t be afraid.

Now is the time to speak up. To speak the gospel. To be bold.

The gospel message should be proclaimed from the rooftops!

Are we doing that?

We are we proclaiming the gospel from the rooftops?!

What you doing to proclaim the gospel these days?

Who are you telling?

I’ve had some neat opportunities recently to share the gospel with people.

I haven’t actually stood on a rooftop and yelled it.

But I have gotten to tell people the good news.

How about you? Are you sharing the gospel with others?

Or are you too afraid? V.28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Who is that?

That’s the Lord.

Jesus says to not be afraid of those who can only kill you once.

Beware of them! But don’t be scared of them.

They can only kill you once!

I don’t know about you, but that’s not especially comforting to me.

I don’t want to be killed even once.

But Jesus is worth it.

This gospel message is worth it.

It’s worth dying for.

Jesus is worth dying for.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid [fear, worship, revere] of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Think about God! Fear God. Worship God.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Don’t focus on people. Focus on God.

But notice how that fear works out.

It’s not slavish fear. It’s not quake in your boots fear.

It’s joyful fear that the Lord has you in mind.

The Lord sees you.

Remember last week–“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere; keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” v.29

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? [How many sparrows could you buy with the money in your pocket right now? Almost valueless.] Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. [He must consent. YOUR FATHER. There’s that Father language again that Jesus brought us in the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t miss that. That’s amazing. Your Father.] And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

This is not hyperbole. This is not an exaggeration.

God is that sovereign. He is that in control. Every sparrow!

And He cares for His children with that kind of great attention!

Every hair on your head.

Yes, some of us have more than others.

But the point is that our Father knows how many.

Why would they be afraid?

Why would these disciples heading out on this mission be afraid?

Well, they would have every reason to.

They are going out as sheep among wolves.

There are wolves out there!

But there is also a Good Shepherd out there.

And there is a fearsome loving Father up there!

So beware, but don’t be scared.

Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

It’s true. There will be people who HATE you and call you names and don’t like what you are telling them about Jesus.

And they might be in your family.

And you might even die. Like sheep among wolves.

But don’t be afraid. Not of them.

Focus on your Father and follow Jesus and proclaim from the rooftops what He has done for you.


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?