Listen to or read a reflection on Matthew 10:24-33
Jesus said to the twelve: ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.’Matthew 10:24-33
You may be surprised to hear that the most repeated command in the Bible is: Do not be afraid.
In today’s reading alone we encounter the command to have no fear three times.
Over the last few days we have heard of Jesus challenging his apostles (those who are sent out) to travel very uncertain and dangerous roads with very little preparation or physical protection.
Fear must have been in their hearts.
And yet he says: Do not be afraid.
Rather than following up this command with such words as: God will protect you (although he does say that eventually), Jesus rather says that a time is coming when everyone will understand their message because: nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.
In this passage, that often causes confusion, Jesus is actually referring to two very different dangers in this world.
He is certainly talking of the danger the apostles will face when they encounter other human beings. The intolerance of those of other faiths, the anger of the religious authorities who felt threatened by the Good News Jesus brought into this world, and the violent aggression of the Romans and their collaborators, such as Herod.
However, he is also talking of another, and even greater, danger.
Jesus is also talking of the danger to the immortal soul of everyone who chooses to reject the love and grace of God, and to take the path to hell and eternal damnation.
Such language seems archaic to our sophisticated modern minds, but is it really?
Faith in Jesus Christ entails our total surrender to the call and command of God.
In his commissioning and sending out of the apostles in chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear how great the challenge is.
It is no less great for us in the twenty-first century.
But … are we any better prepared than those first disciples?
How have we used the last two thousand years of human history to inform our journey through this world in the name of Jesus Christ?
How equipped are we to be true apostles, and sheep in a world full of wolves?
I invite you to read the narrative in Matthew 10:1-33 again and as a continuous whole, and then to consider which road you are travelling – the one to God, or to the opposite destination?
Then I invite you to seriously consider how you can, and will, respond to the call to apostleship that is uniquely yours.