Sermon title:  TAKE UP YOUR CROSS, AND FOLLOW JESUS

Matthew 10:22-39    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 5, 2018

 

 

There’s a tendency in churches these days

to preach only feel-good sermons.

 

Pastors are under pressure

to make everyone feel good about themselves.

 

It’s as if the church-going public wants to hear

only about God’s love, and nothing else.

 

It’s as if their theme song is “Jesus loves me, this I know--

and this is ALL I want to know,

nothing else!”

 

There’s a tendency to avoid the tough stuff Jesus said—

and he said a lot of tough stuff.

 

Jesus wants us to know and understand

all of His words, and all of His actions—

those that seem harsh and severe,

as well as those that are kind and gentle.

 

In fact, at Luke 9, Verse 26, [  OPEN  ]

Jesus said something pretty tough

about the need to do that.

He said,

 

“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words,

the Son of Man will be ashamed of them

when he comes in his glory

and in the glory of the Father

and of the holy angels.”

 

So, we should appreciate all

of Jesus’ words and actions—

all aspects of God’s personality and character.

 

And we’ve been attempting to do that.

 

Since shortly before Christmas

our sermons have been taking us through the Gospels

in chronological order.

 

We’ve been looking at everything our Lord Jesus said and did

in the order in which those events occurred.

 

And that way, we don’t miss anything

that our Lord wants us to know.

 

And we put the same weight of emphasis

on the various parts of his message—

the same emphasis that the Gospels themselves give.

 

But, with this approach,

we end up discussing some pretty tough stuff.

 

It’s not because I’m looking for negative things to say,

but it’s because we’re looking at everything Jesus said—

the things that are pleasant to hear,

as well as the things that might rattle us a bit.

 

This morning, we’re looking at Matthew Chapter 10[  OPEN  ]

which contains some of those hard sayings of Jesus

that we just read in our Responsive Reading.

 

But, to put it all into context, let’s look at

Matthew Chapter 10, beginning with the 1st Verse.

It says,

 

1 He called his twelve disciples to him

and gave them authority

to drive out evil spirits

and to heal every disease and sickness.

 

Up until this point, Jesus himself has been doing all the healing.

Jesus has been driving out evil spirits,

and Jesus has been doing all the preaching.

 

The Twelve Apostles and other disciples

have been following Jesus,

watching, listening, and learning from him.

 

But now he is about to send out the Twelve Apostles

to begin doing that same work themselves.

 

Verses 2-4 list the names of the Twelve,

which we’ve looked at before.

 

And then in Verse 5, Jesus gives them their marching orders:

 

5 These twelve Jesus sent out

with the following instructions:

"Do not go among the Gentiles

or enter any town of the Samaritans.

6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

 

Now, these instructions will change later,

when, after his death and resurrection

Jesus sends his disciples into all the world

to preach the Gospel to all nations.

 

But this is their first missionary assignment:

to preach only to the Jews

at that point in time.

 

And in Verse 7, our Lord tells them

the message he wants them to preach.

 

7 As you go, preach this message:

'The kingdom of heaven is near.'

 

“The kingdom of heaven” is the kingdom of God

that we pray for when we pray,

“Thy Kingdom come!

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

 

And the kingdom of heaven was “near”

because the King of that Kingdom—Jesus himself—

was walking the earth, among them.

 

And the kingdom of heaven was “near”

because he was about to institute the New Covenant

that would bring us into his kingdom.

 

In Verse 8, Jesus continued to instruct them,

 

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead,

cleanse those who have leprosy,

drive out demons.

Freely you have received, freely give.

 

9 Do not take along

any gold or silver or copper in your belts;

10 take no bag for the journey,

or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff;

for the worker is worth his keep.

 

11 "Whatever town or village you enter,

search for some worthy person there

and stay at his house until you leave.

 

Jesus told them not to charge for admission

when crowds gathered to hear them preach:

 

Freely you have received, freely give.

 

And not to charge for healing sick people,

not to charge for driving out demons,

and not to charge for raising the dead.

 

But they should accept the hospitality

of those they ministered to.

Do not take along

any gold or silver or copper.

 

People would want healingfor themselves and their loved ones,

so they would gladly invite the Apostles

to eat with them and stay with them.

 

In Verse 12 Jesus continued,

 

12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.

13 If the home is deserving,

let your peace rest on it;

if it is not, let your peace return to you.

 

The common Jewish greeting is the Hebrew word “Shalom,”

which means “peace.”

So,

13 If the home is deserving,

let your “Shalom,” your greeting of  peace rest on it;

if it is not, let your peace return to you.

 

Then, beginning in Verse 14, Jesus talks tough

about those who would not receive his Apostles

and not listen to their message.

14 If anyone will not welcome you

or listen to your words,

shake the dust off your feet

when you leave that home or town.

 

15 I tell you the truth,

it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah

on the day of judgment than for that town.

 

This is the second time

our Lord Jesus referred to Sodom and Gomorrah

as an example of the worst possible sinners.

 

A couple of months ago we read at

 Matthew Chapter 11, Verses 23 and 24,

where Jesus denounced the town of Capernaum.

 

Jesus himself had been preaching there,

but its people did not listen

and did not repent of their sins.

So, Jesus said,

 

23 And you, Capernaum,

will you be lifted up to the skies?

No, you will go down to the depths.

 

If the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Sodom,

it would have remained to this day.

24 But I tell you

that it will be more bearable for Sodom

on the day of judgment than for you."

 

Those horrible sinners in Sodom

whose practices give us our modern word “sodomy”—

they would have repented

and stopped sinning

if they had seen Jesus’ miracles

and heard his preaching.

 

And now, when Jesus is sending his Apostles

to preach in various towns,

he uses similar terms

to describe what will happen to those

who fail to listen to them.

 

14 If anyone will not welcome you

or listen to your words,

shake the dust off your feet

when you leave that home or town.

 

15 I tell you the truth,

it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah

on the day of judgment than for that town.

 

So, Jesus would hold people accountable

for how they would respond

to the message of the Apostles.

 

Today that message is found

in the pages of the Bible,

and Jesus holds people accountable today

for how they respond to the Bible message.

--------------------------

 

Next, our Lord went on to describe

the persecution his Apostles could expect:

Verse 16:

16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes

and as innocent as doves.

 

17 "Be on your guard against men;

they will hand you over to the local councils

and flog you in their synagogues.

 

18 On my account

you will be brought before governors and kings

as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.

 

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,

20 for it will not be you speaking,

but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

 

So, the Apostles Jesus sent out to preach

could expect to be arrested

and to be flogged, or publicly beaten.

 

But Jesus told them not to rehearse ahead of time

what to say when that happened.

 

God’s Holy Spirit would give them the words to say,

and the Spirit of God

would speak through them

when they made their defense.

 

This would give Jesus’ followers

the opportunity to preach to governors and kings.

 

But there would also be opposition closer to home—

not just from the authorities.

 

In Verse 21, he says,

 

21 "Brother will betray brother to death,

and a father his child;

children will rebel against their parents

and have them put to death.

 

Just as Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus,

he is telling us to expect

even close family members

to turn us in to the authorities

to face punishment or death.

 

When the anti-religious police come knocking at the door,

looking to round up Christians,

an adult child might greet them at the door, and say,

“I’m not one of those Christians.

You’re looking for my father.   He’s one.

You can find him at 123 Main Street.”

 

And this brings us up to Matthew 10:22,

where this morning’s Responsive Reading begins.

 

There Jesus says,

 

22 All men will hate you because of me,

but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

 

23 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.

 

So, they hate us,

because they hate him.   Jesus says,

All men will hate you because of me,

but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

 

They hate us because we follow him,

and because we live the way he wants us to,

rather than the way they want us to.

 

They falsely accused Jesus of blasphemy and sedition.

 

In Muslim lands today, enemies of the Gospel

often accuse Christians of “blasphemy”—

speaking against Allah and against Islam.

And that “crime” is punishable by death in some lands.

 

Here in America, they may falsely accuse us

of being intolerant bigots,

homophobic racists,

child-abusers because we home-school our children,

or because we won’t let our son

take on a girl’s name and dress like a girl.

 

In Verse 24, Jesus explains

that we can expect

the same sort of treatment they handed out to him:

 

24 "A student is not above his teacher,

nor a servant above his master.

 

25 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!

 

“Beelzebub” literally means “Lord of the Flies.”

 

It was a common nickname for Satan the devil.

 

And Jesus warns us

that if they called him by abusive names—which they did—

we can expect them to call us, too, by abusive names.

====================

 

But our Lord tells us not to be afraid,

and he assures us that the truth will come out.

 

God will eventually expose our accusers as liars

and will punish them.

 

Verse 26:

 

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.

 

27 What I tell you in the dark,

speak in the daylight;

what is whispered in your ear,

proclaim from the roofs.

 

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.

 

A judge here on earth

may uphold false charges

and sentence a Christian to prison or to death.

 

We’ve seen that in the case of American Pastor Andrew Brunson

who has been held in Turkish jails for almost 2 years now.

 

Pastor Brunson’s story

has been in the news headlines this past week,

 because President Trump is demanding

that Turkey set him free.

And President Trump has put sanctions in place

against certain Turkish officials

who are persecuting this pastor.

 

And today there are countless other Christians in prisons

and many facing death

in North Korea

and in Muslim lands

where preaching the Gospel is banned.

 

But our God has his eye

on each one of those persecuted believers

and our Lord is with them in their tribulation.

 

Jesus assures us in Verse 29,

 

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

Yet not one of them will fall to the ground

apart from the will of your Father.

 

30 And even the very hairs of your head

are all numbered.

 

31 So don't be afraid;

you are worth more than many sparrows.

 

32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men,

I will also acknowledge him

before my Father in heaven.

 

33 But whoever disowns me before men,

I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

 

So, God knows each of us intimately,

including the things we suffer for the sake of the Good News.

 

And Jesus stands up for us

in the heavenly courts of God the Father

and Jesus claims us as his own—

that we belong to him.

---------------------------------------------------

But troubles for Christians

don’t always come from hostile governments or authorities.

 

Beginning in Verse 34, Jesus says that households will be divided.

 

34 "Do not suppose that I have come

to bring peace to the earth.

I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

 

35 For I have come to turn

'a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--

 

36 a man's enemies

will be the members of his own household.'

 

Members of your family

may openly oppose your following Jesus

and may try to discourage you from going to church.

 

You may run into open opposition like that,

or there may be more subtle attacks on your faith

from those in your own household.

 

In recent months I’ve seen cases in other churches

where a son or a grand-daughter

raised in the faith

takes up the homosexual life-style

and expects Christian parents or grandparents

to welcome and affirm their practice of sin.

 

Faithfulness to Jesus

would require those parents and grand-parents

to say, “I still love YOU,

but what you’re DOING is wrong.

That sinful lifestyle will bring you

pain and suffering later in life

and eventually punishment from God.

And I don’t want you

to bring such trouble upon yourself.”

 

But, instead of giving that loving correction,

some parents and grand-parents

are telling their church and their pastor,

“These are fine young people.

What they’re doing isn’t really that bad.

The church should accept them and their behavior.”

 

This is why Jesus goes on to say, in Verse 37,

 

37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother

more than me

is not worthy of me;

anyone who loves his son or daughter

more than me

is not worthy of me;

 

38 and anyone who

does not take his cross and follow me

is not worthy of me.

 

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it,

and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

 

Our Lord went to the cross for us,

to set us free from sin and death,

and to give us eternal life.     He paid it all.

 

But at Matthew 16:24 he also said,

 

“If anyone would come after me,

he must deny himself

and take up his cross and follow me. 

 

What did he mean by that?

 

He meant following him,

even if it means losing our friends,

our family, our job, our possessions,

or even our life.

 

Is Jesus that precious to us? 

 

 “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me

is not worthy of me.”

-------------------------------------------------------

 

But Jesus is looking for better things from us.

 

And he is looking to reward us

with many wonderful blessings.

 

When we receive and welcome

the message the Apostles recorded for us in the Bible,

it’s like receiving the Apostles themselves.

 

And that puts us in line for rewards and blessings.

 

Continuing in Verse 40, Jesus told the Apostles,

 

40 "He who receives you receives me,

and he who receives me

receives the one who sent me.

41 Anyone who receives a prophet

because he is a prophet

will receive a prophet's reward,

and anyone who receives a righteous man

because he is a righteous man

will receive a righteous man's reward.

42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water

to one of these little ones

because he is my disciple,

I tell you the truth,

he will certainly not lose his reward."

 

Yes, Jesus invites us to pick up our cross and follow him.

 

We may need to suffer loss in this world.

 

But, whatever we lose will seem very small

when Christ welcomes us into his presence

in the heavenly paradise he has prepared for us.