Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Mt 10:16
Jesus’ teaching and miraculous works summarized in the first 9 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel point to a greater mission for God’s people. The mission which every Christian must accept, is to proclaim the good news that Jesus has come into the world to save us from the consequences and power of sin through His atoning death and triumphant resurrection. In chapter 10, Matthew seems to have systematically collected the teachings of Jesus related to mission. We have seen in the first 15 verses of chapter 10, the source, staff, and specifics of the first mission given to the twelve apostles of Jesus. Next week we will pick up with verses 16-39 which reveal the peculiar danger of the mission as it is carried out by the apostles and subsequent generations of the church in a hostile world.
Trouble is the habitat of Christian mission. It seems that Jesus purposefully sendsHis people into a hostile world as “sheep among wolves.” Rather than an unfortunate side-effect of our mission, it seems Jesus intends for His disciples to carry on His mission through suffering. The cross is not the exception, but is the rule of a disciple’s life; we will lose many battles in our effort to carry our our mission. Though we are sent out as vulnerable sheep, we are not “stupidly vulnerable;” we are also called to be “wise as a serpent,” even while being “innocent as doves.”Christian disciples are not fighters; hatred and retaliation are not options for us; we are not revolutionaries; we are likened to sheep and doves – the gentlest of animals. And we carry out our mission in the midst of arrests, beatings, confrontations, hatred, mockery, and persecution, even at the hands of those closest to us. These were the experiences of our Lord, and we cannot expect to be exempt from them ourselves. However …
Trust is the habit of Christian mission. As “sheep among wolves,” we have no hope, save One. On judgement day God will vindicate us and our message. We do not need to fear “those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” So go boldly on your mission, knowing that you have a Heavenly Father who cares and is sovereign over everything that happens to you on this impossible mission. In fact, He ordains even your trouble. So fear God, and do not fear anything or anyone else. Though He makes no promise that you will be delivered from trouble on earth, He promises something much greater – to be rescued from eternal death and judgment.