Jesus understands

Has anything ever happened in your life or in the life of a loved one that caused you to doubt your faith in Jesus? Our pericope today is here to help serve as a resource in those trying and difficult times. When Jesus finishes training His disciples, He departs to teach and preach Matthew 11:1~When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (ESV) Over the next two chapters (11-12), Matthew records various responses to Jesus and His message. The first response recorded is doubt. This passage reveals what we should do when we have doubts. This week, we want to consider: What do you See and Hear?

A great place to begin is by knowing that Jesus Understands. Allow me to set the stage: Herod Antipas seduces Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. No, they were not from L.A. Lower Alabama or for the transfers or even West Virginia. They were Samaritans. After Herod divorces his own wife, he marries Herodias, his half-brother’s wife. As we approach the holidays, this would qualify for one of those weird family gatherings filled with all the tension some of you will face. When JB (John the Baptist) learns of Herod’s sexual immorality, he can’t pass up a little clothesline preaching. As he publicly preaches against this senseless wife stealing-swapping. Which you can imagine would chap old Herod’s hide, who then has the herald John Baptist arrested. 

Matthew 4:12~ When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. (NIV) All Herod can do at this point is to make life uncomfortable for JB, and so he imprisons John. If you are asking, why not silence the voice, John? Listen to Matthew 14:5~And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. (ESV) Today, I want us to take note that even the bold, like John the Baptist, can have doubts about Jesus Christ. While in prison, John hears the things Christ Jesus is doing. Remember prison is doubly difficult for John, who is a rugged outdoorsman. And while we have navigated the discourse of 7 chapters, John has been confined into lock-up, likely just a small cube of space or a dark and dirty dungeon void of the expanse of the sky has probably sent him into a deep depression. 

Therefore, John sends two of his disciples to ask Matthew 11:2~Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples (ESV) John enquiring minds want to know, what is on your mind? Matthew 11:3~ (ESV) In other words, are you really the Messiah? John grew up hearing the story and may have even witnessed things. John knows what the Lord has told him, it’s why he is called the herald of Christ. John, buddy what is on your heart? John said, If You really are Messiah, why don’t You get me out of jail? 

If you have walked out your faith for any length of time, you have probably been in a situation or three that made you ask God, why have you not fixed this thing in my life, family, career. I want to assure you today that the Lord has remembered you. Upon a quick search of the scripture, you will see He remembered Noah, Hannah, Rachel, Sarah, His covenant. God takes each of us through a process to bring about the best version of ourselves, while simultaneously fulfilling His will. Why not take time today to ask God to move again, and this time accept the peace He offers, let His joy flow freely, and know that you are loved.



True loves reward

Examine our reward (Matthew 10:34-42). The Jews thought when Messiah came, he would establish a time of world peace. Matthew 10:34~Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (μάχαιρα machaira). (ESV) (μάχαιρα machaira) is a small sword for cutting, not unlike what a real butcher would use today. This refers to the suffering His followers will experience because of their loyalty to Him. People want to cut Christians apart. Listen to how James says this in James 4:4~You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (ESV) 

Jesus explains that even family members will be set against each other, as we find enemies in own households (10:35-36). There will always be opponents to the Gospel and, sadly, sometimes they are family members or close friends. Listen to Matthew 13:57~And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” (NIV)

However, when the choice is Christ or family, Jesus says in Matthew 10:37~Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (ESV) That’s hard, but Jesus is saying He must be number one in our lives. Matthew 10:38~And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (ESV) Our cross is whatever makes it difficult for us to faithfully follow Christ. Sadly it can oftentimes be the hostility of a family member. This is why it is so vital that before we are married we choose a mate that loves the Lord God with all their hearts.

The Christian life is a paradox. Matthew 10:39~Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (ESV) If you are not familiar with Jim Elliot look him up. I love his story. Jim Elliot was a missionary who in 1956 went to Ecuador. Where he and a small group set out to win the local cannibals to Christ. Though Jim will meet Jesus for his attempt to share the Gospel, many of these will be won to Jesus by his wife. Jim said He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. This means we were freely given the Gospel of Jesus Christ and when we accept it, we cannot lose Jesus, when we’re walking with Him daily, living before the Lord. Moreover, Jim also said, God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. Choose Jesus. 

As our Lord draws our passage to a close, He offers us some very encouraging words. Matthew 10:40~Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. (ESV) Have you received Jesus Christ? How people treat one of Jesus’ followers represents their attitude toward Jesus. Therefore, “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.” 

Matthew 10:41~The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. (ESV) A prophet is one who proclaims God’s Word. A righteous person is a devout disciple of Jesus. The word receives means to receive the messenger and the message. What if a follower of Jesus is not a preacher, missionary, or in full-tune ministry? What does Jesus say about His little ones, those who may seem to be insignificant Matthew 10:42~ And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (ESV) 

Our Takeaway: God is a Rewarder. No act of kindness toward any follower of Jesus will go without a reward. Those who serve the Lord in the nursery, teach in Sunday school, serve as ushers, greeters, deacons, or whatever capacity, will receive God’s reward for helping His little ones—the seemingly least of His disciples.



Every hair numbered

Matthew 10:27~What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. (NIV) We are to proclaim the Gospel fearlessly and lovingly. However, there is often a price to be paid for taking a stand for Christ. Therefore, Jesus says, do not fear. Matthew 10:28~And do not fear (φοβέω phobeō) those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (ESV) (φοβέω phobeō) fear refers to flight and terror. Whatever the enemies of the Gospel may wish to do, there is one thing they cannot do to us—and that is to kill our souls. 

Our bodies are temporary, our world is transient, but our souls are eternal. So, which is more important, this moment, or eternity? Thus Jesus says, fear God. Proverbs 9:10~The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

(NIV) This fear is the reverential awe for the one who planned, created and implemented His own purpose in our world. (Isaiah 1:17-19) Our love and reverence for God must supersede our fear of persecution, in whatever way it may come. Thus, God warns us about the certainty of persecution, saying Give it the Boot. 2 Timothy 3:12~In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (NIV) 

No one can escape this if they are in Christ. He continues by reminding His disciples of their value. Matthew 10:29~Are not two sparrows sold for a penny (ἀσσάριον assarion)? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (ESV) The word (ἀσσάριον assarion) is our version of a penny. At that time a denarius was a day’s wage for the average worker, and a penny would be the pay for about 30 minutes of work. Sparrows were of very little value, and a penny would buy two of them. For those who lived heartily in the last century, two sparrows cost a bag of candy. Yet, God knows when each one of them dies. Matthew 10:31~Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (ESV).

Because of God’s unfathomable love, he numbers even our hairs. How many of you have a locket of hair from your baby’s first hair cut? Some have pictures and certificates of all this stuff and you thought you were paying attention to the details. Listen to God’s attention in Matthew 10:30~But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (ESV) God knows every detail about us, what we are going through, even the persecution we suffer standing for Him. Students, He knows the homework question you skipped, God knows what we have omitted in our responses, He knows everything. When we revere God and believe in His sovereignty and omniscience, there is never a need to fear. In God’s hands, we are presently and eternally safe and secure. Why would we ever want to leave? Grasp the promise of Proverbs 18:10~The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (NIV)

Jesus emphasizes the importance of taking a stand Matthew 10:32~So everyone who acknowledges (ὁμολογέω homologeō) me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, (ESV) The word (ὁμολογέω homologeō) acknowledge, confess it means to agree or speak the same thing. In this verse, it means declaring allegiance to Christ. Just believing Jesus lived, died, and rose again is not enough. Why? According to James 2:19~You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. (NIV) 

However, demons don’t declare their allegiance to Christ. Remember Romans 10 says to become believers, we must acknowledge Him, by believing in our hearts and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior by confession. To confess Jesus before men, means we identify with Him as Lord and Savior, that we are a part of His people, the church, His bride. The first step in affirming and confessing before men is to be publicly baptized. Christ Jesus next warns of the alternative, denying. Matthew 10:33~but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (ESV) This means if someone fails to take a stand for Him, Jesus will deny that person before His Father. Do you want to be like Jesus Christ? Then we’re going to come into the Line of Fire: where Slander is Levied, where we must Give Fear the Boot.
 
Today, bravely share your faith with someone God has laid upon your heart.