Listen to or read a reflection on Matthew 10:16-23
Jesus said to the twelve: ‘I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’Matthew 10:16-23
Many years ago we went on an extended family holiday to Florida. Whilst there we visited all the normal tourist attractions including, of course, Disney World. My sister, who was always an adventurous holiday maker, was determined to go on all the rides, no matter how scary they were thought to be by others. She queued, sometimes for an hour or more, to be thrown around in unimaginable ways, always to emerge looking an alarming shade of green.
Reading Jesus’ words to his apostles today, reminded me of my sister’s adventures in Disney World.
Surely, as they journeyed from town to town, they must have experienced the same feelings of uncertainty, stomach-churning fear and pumping adrenalin.
Jesus brought an exciting and new message about God into this world, and he knew what it was to be opposed in terms that were uncompromising and relentless.
Jesus was not surprised by the strength of the opposition he faced, hence his words of to his apostles on the day of their sending out.
Even today, when clergy are ordained there is an aftertaste of Jesus’ warning to his disciples – we are all charged to unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word in season and out of season, and to declare the mighty acts of God.
That phrase: in season and out of season, has a direct connection to Jesus’ warning to his apostles – a warning that they were being sent out like sheep into the midst of wolves.
As we look back in time, we know the truth of Jesus’ solemn warnings.
There have been many persecutions, beatings, imprisonments and killings down the centuries, just because of faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In the same way, faith in Jesus Christ has certainly split families in cruel ways.
We often speak of our own society with pride because of its tolerance, but there are still many in this world that are far from tolerant of the differing faith of others.
And, in fact, it doesn’t take too much examination to find similar intolerance even in the ‘civilized’ United Kingdom.
Throughout the verses of chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel that we have encountered in recent days, we have been presented with a challenge that is even scarier than those horrendous rides in the world’s biggest fun fairs.
But … that challenge is so much more than a passing flush of adrenalin, it is an invitation to join in the most exciting, world-changing mission imaginable – to join in the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ.