Today’s read gives us a startling picture of what it’s really like to be a disciple of Jesus. It’s the reverse of what you might think. Jesus has called his 12 disciples, and now He is sending them out on their first big assignment, which is to go throughout the villages and towns and do what He’s been doing. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. Preach repentance, because the kingdom of heaven has come near. I would think the disciples might have been excited at first. They were going to experience amazing things as the power of God worked in and through them. But as Jesus continues to prepare them, they might have had second thoughts about what they had signed up for!
Matthew 9, 10 and 14 would not be the kind of job description that most of us would jump at. Listen to what the disciple of Jesus can expect to face.
* Set aside any thoughts of gaining financially; instead, you will rely on the generosity of others.
* Go out as sheep among wolves (those you are sent to will likely want to destroy you).
* Expect to be arrested and brought up on charges before officials.
* Don’t be surprised when your own family turns against you, and even betrays you.
* Expect persecution, and when it comes, be ready to flee.
* Anticipate that you will be called the devil; you will be seen as evil, even as you do what is right.
* Be ready to lose your life; daily you will “take up your cross” and die to yourself.
* If you speak the truth, you may lose your head. Literally.
Those aren’t the kinds of things we generally publish when we invite people to follow Jesus, are they? Yet, they are words from Jesus’ own mouth. If we want to be accepted and liked by the world, then true discipleship is not the way. To be a friend of the world, in fact, is to be an enemy of God (James 4:4).
Does this mean we go out of our way to antagonize those who do not believe? That we are free to be obnoxious and judgmental, holier-than-thou in our attitude? Certainly not. Jesus is simply reminding us that the message of the gospel is offensive to those who are unwilling to repent, and if we stand with Jesus, if we truly live for Him and proclaim His name, we can expect the same treatment the unbelieving world gave Him.
How’s your friendship with the world? Do you fit in nicely? Are you at home, accepted? An examination of your commitment as a true disciple of Jesus might be in order.
The good news is that there’s more to the story. As His disciples returned from their journeys through the villages, physically tired but rejoicing in the spiritual victories, Jesus encouraged them to “come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” God knows we need each other, and that spiritual and physical rest in the company of fellow believers in the presence of God is important for every disciple. When the world beats you down, do what the disciples did. Rest. Worship. Reflect. Be restored, and you’ll be ready for the next assignment.
Jesus also reminded His disciples to keep their eyes on eternity. “Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). Payday for the disciple doesn’t happen here, although God certainly blesses us along the way in many ways. Our real reward will come when we stand before the Father and Jesus stands beside us, acknowledging that we belong to Him, that we are one of His faithful disciples. What a wonderful day that will be, when God Himself invites us into heaven, to enter His eternal rest! Any hardship we have suffered in His name will not matter at all, because as a disciple of Jesus, we are home.