It happens every year….all over the
world…children leaving home…. for college or for jobs,….it is a
joyous time…a grieving time….a rite of passage time and often the
scene is the same….mom and/or dad driving their daughter or son off
to school or giving that last bit of advice to their son or daughter
before he/she starts the new job or enlists for service in the
military, …where has the time gone? And then the questions start:
Did I teach them everything they needed to know?
Did I do my job well?
Are they confident enough in their ability to make it on
their own? Have I lived
and modeled the Christian Faith so they can now make wise decisions
without my advice? Do they really know how tough the real world is
out there? …they won’t have the security of home anymore…can they
really be ready to handle this next chapter in their lives?
And reality hits if you are the parent…you
have no choice…the time is here and its time to give them wings to
see if they can fly….on their own…and you send them off with one
last reminder and blessing…remember…no matter what…you can always
come home, nothing can keep us from loving you and with God on your
side…you are going to be great!
That’s a little how I see the scene in our
gospel reading today…Jesus, like a nervous parent sending his
disciple’s off for the first time….on their own…without him…could
they make it? Would they
But in this passage often called a part of
the missionary discourse from the Gospel of Matthew…it’s like Jesus
also feels the need to paint the worst possible scenario, like he
has to scare the “heebee jeebees” out of them……a true test to see if
they were willing and ready to go.
Most of the
words in our gospel reading today are not something that would make
you feel good about following Jesus. In fact….if I had been one of
the first 12 apostles sent out….I seriously might have
reconsidered….except for this one significant detail that we learn
earlier in the chapter….in verse 1 it says, “Matthew
called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority
to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and
was their first mission alone….they had been given the power to do
what they had been called to do.
This was before
Pentecost when the Holy Spirit rained down fire…but the power of
Christ had been breathed on them for this first mission. You see
It was important that they have these powers because Jesus’s plan
was that His mission of the Kingdom would be extended through them.
In the earlier part of the chapter he gave them their check off list
with specific instructions for who to go to, how to find lodging,
what not to take with them….how to respond when they met with
opposition…and then he offers these final words
which is our text for today…a final reminder before he sent
them out. Let me summarize the key points:
A student is not above the teacher, but is like the teacher. A
servant is not above the master, but is like the master.
Do not be afraid. What is covered
will be uncovered. What is secret will be made known. What is
told in the dark will now be told in the light. What is
whispered will be shouted aloud.
Do not be afraid of those who can
kill the body, but those who can destroy the soul.
ll who acknowledge me, I will
acknowledge before God. But those who deny me, I will deny.
I haven’t come for peace in the way
that you understand. I have brought a sword to divide.
You must love me more than
others. More even than father or mother. More even than son or
Take up your cross. Follow me. Be
worthy of the call I extend to you. For if you only want to
cling to your life, you may lose it. But if you let go of
everything you hold dear, for my sake, you will find life.
Makes you want to step off the mission bus
and get to it doesn’t it?
But you also have to put this in context.
Most scholars think that the Gospel of Matthew was the earliest of
the Gospels, written somewhere between 50 and 70 AD. As the writer
of Matthew was sitting down to record his memories of life with
Jesus, the little community of believers that had formed—the church,
you could call it—was in deep trouble. They had had a few years of
experimental living as followers of Jesus, and the ways in which
they insisted on living were flying in the face of the society and
the Empire that ruled around them.
Because they called themselves Christians many of them had been
disowned by their families.
They had lost jobs and social status; they had been ostracized in
their communities. And now, by the time Matthew was writing, things
were getting dire and dangerous. Being a Christian meant you might
very well end up facing a hungry lion in the Coliseum, turned in to
government leaders by people you knew and loved: neighbors, friends,
colleagues . . . even your own family members.
If I were to ask you to raise your hands if
you have ever been in harms way because of your faith in Jesus,
likely very few hands would go up…you see, unlike the first century
disciples….we do not face the potential of persecution and death as
Although there are places in the world where
being known as a Christian could cost you your life, most of us will
not face that decision likely in our lifetime.
But the call to discipleship does not lessen
for us. For the question
would be, would we go
that far? Is our love for Jesus that strong?
Is our belief that solid?
You see I believe that if we can say yes to
that question, and then take a hard look at our lives today as 21st
century Americans, in a land of the free and brave, we
should be standing on the rooftops and shouting…as Jesus said…but it
is not that easy is it?
For we live in a world that is still filled
with suffering and sorrow and great challenges. We are faced with
life circumstances that cause us to doubt the love of God and our
love for him and fear builds within us.
often the question that is
shouted all around us every day is. “Why Lord? Why the heartache and pain and suffering and grief?” Why
does it hurt so much?
And an answer may come back in a gentle
whisper…”because love costs”…you see when you love as deeply as God
loves, when you love the way God calls us to love, there are costs
and sacrifices….often beyond our control. Someone has said it this
way,, “to love deeply means sometimes we will hurt deeply.”
So Jesus, setting the stage for these first
disciples….prepares them for the worst…realizing that human
fear can take over….….
and so right smack in the middle of this
discourse of all the horrible things that might happen because of
their love for Jesus, He gives those wonderful three verses of
assurance…letting us know that we are not alone and thus, making
this passage Good News
this morning….it was Jesus’s “I love you no matter what, you can
always come home line,”
is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single
sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.
the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of
Did you hear that?
God says not a sparrow falls to the ground that I do not
see…..You are valuable to me…..I know the number of hairs on your
head….You have nothing to be afraid of.
Now this is a promise we can trust this
Fear is debilitating isn’t it?
If I were to ask you all the things that have
you trapped in fear this morning, the list might be long...
Fear of being rejected, fear for your
children who have gotten on the wrong path, fear of not having
enough money to pay the bills or fear of losing your job, fear of
being alone, fear of what the future may hold for you, fear of bad
health and even the fear of dying or someone close to you dying….
Three times in this passage Jesus says,
DO NOT BE AFRAID….
There are all kinds of fears….we often hear
the phrase that we are to fear the Lord, or we are to be in awe of
the Lord….that is healthy fear….there is a fear that takes over when
we are in immediate danger of something…adrenaline kicks in to keep
us out of harms way….that is good fear,…..but the fear that traps us
is usually the fear that we have no control over the outcome….trust has to kick
in to remind us that one so much bigger and powerful than us is in
I ran into Sam James last week at a funeral
and told him that I had been re-reading his book, “Servant on the
Edge of History”. Sam
and his wife Rachel, long time member of this church were once
missionaries in Vietnam during the war.
And in preparing for this sermon today… I was once again
reminded of the relationship of fear and trust..in a story he shared
in his book. Sam shares about an incident where he had been invited
to share in a middle School the true meaning of Christmas to a
mostly non Christian student body…he had decided to go even though
it was a dangerous time to be an American on the roads.
…as he rounded a curve…he saw the VietCong
road block ahead…and immediately he said his thoughts were,
are so stupid! You should have known better than to be out here!
It is so fraught with danger. Can you ever learn not to play
the hero and get yourself in trouble?”
And then he says that he was seized with
fear. He trembled all over. Panic began to surge his mind and all of
a sudden, Psalm 91 came to his mind…”He who dwells in the shelter of
the Most High will abide in the shelter of the Almighty. I will say
to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress…My God in whom I trust. For
it is He who delivers you from the snares of the trapper, and from
the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions and under
His wings you may seek refuge, So Do not be afraid.”
And at that very
moment…he said that God revealed to him that the secret place of the
Almighty God is a place of total trust.
The antidote to fear
is not courage or bravery…it is complete trust.
God miraculously God Sam out of that
situation that day…you need to read his book to find out how…but the
lesson learned that day for Sam in his words..”
How wonderful to walk through the deep and frightening experiences
of life and emerge on the other side with a new understanding of the
reality of the presence of God.”
Jesus knew that we would be afraid.
And so He uses 2 illustrations to tell his followers that
they need not fear because nothing goes unseen by God.
The first was the sparrow.
are some of the most plentiful, common birds in the world. Where you
find people, you’ll find sparrows. They only live in populated areas
because they are scavengers of leftovers. Sparrows hop up to you at
the outdoor restaurant and wait for crumbs. They aren’t known for
their beautiful colors or for their sweet songs. Jesus said two
sparrows sell for a half a penny.
Jesus was making a point that God cares for
the most common, unnoticed birds. Yet, He sees each one that falls.
And the second illustration was that of
the hairs of your head.
God knows the number of hairs on your
head….such an insignificant detail about us….do
you know the number of
hairs on your head?
(Well…for some that may be a little easier to answer)….but those
that study these types of things called “hairologist” have
determined that if you are truly blonde…you have about 145,000,
brunettes about 120,000 and red heads about 90,000….(don’t even ask
me the obvious question about why blondes have more hair?) that was
as far as I got in my research….
The point is…..even
that matters to God….
I think Jesus was saying to those first
disciples…I called you out….to follow me…..and I send you out
now….to share the good news of the kingdom….you have nothing to
fear. And because of those 12 brave men, (who were all, with the
exception of John,
eventually killed for their faith in sharing the gospel of Jesus)
…we sit here this morning being asked the same question….will you
I don’t know what that may look like for you
this morning…but I do know this….we
are to be witnesses of Christ’s work in and through us…God has
called us out individually and as a body of believers…to be a
witness to the truth of the Gospel. A witness is simply someone who
shares what he/she has seen and heard….and each of us in this room
today who has claimed Jesus as Lord, has a story to tell of their
encounter with Jesus. What is your story this morning?
There is one more truth and promise to trust
in this passage from
verse:27, “what you have heard whispered in your ears…now shout it
from the rooftops.”
God has been whispering in the ears of his
followers from the beginning of time…for those early disciples…it
was out of necessity…to be undercover for a while, but once they had
received the power…he said…shout it from the rooftops!
And here is the truth….God still seeks to
communicate with us….and here is the promise..He will if we will be
still and listen. “Psalm 46: Be Still and Know that I am God.”
We don’t do that well in our society.
Noise pollution has taken over…rarely do we have silence…..I
mean complete silence. I
saw on Youtube this week about the quietest room in the world.
Turns out to be in Minneapolis Minnesota.
Orfield labatories received the Guinness Book of world
records for having the quietest room…99.99% sound proof.
The longest someone has been able to stay in there is 45
minutes….you enter in the dark…it is so quiet you can hear
your heart beat, your lungs breath…and most people get
disoriented and have a difficult time handling the silence.
God is whispering to us all the time. Judson
Edwards, in his book Hidden Treasures, comments on this verse and
says, “ God whispers…I wish that were not so. I wish God shouted. I
wish that he was more audible and visible.”
But it is likely
that if you have heard God lately…it has been in a whisper….we are
to take those whispers and pray as we believe God with
all our heart.
We are to take those whispers…and minister
to “the least of these”…as if they were Jesus himself.
We are to take those whispers and give our
money as if the kingdom of God depends on our generosity.
We are to take those whispers and share the
good news we have in our hearts until we run out of breath.
We are to take those
whispers….those faint almost inaudible whispers and become fools for
Here is a truth…when God whispers and we are
listening..Our stories come alive.Life is complicated...following
Jesus is not easy, nor is He easy to hear in the noisiness of our
lives. You can trust that nothing happens to you that he does not
see…and when you fall, He is there to pick you up….whispering in
your ear.”You don’t have to be afraid”….it’s a promise you can