Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.
As we follow Jesus, He EMPOWERS us to MAKE A DIFFERENCE as ambassadors-in-training.
Overall Commentary: 🌎
In the text above, Jesus finishes His teaching to the "sent-out ones." (apostles) He is going to sum up everything He has said with some straight, no-none-sense teaching about what to do and what to expect. This text is long and can be overwhelming. The best way to see it is in four parts:
- Part one: Publicly declare Jesus as Lord. (verses 32-33)
- Part two: Expect opposition. (verses 34-36)
- Part three: Go "All In". (verses 37-39)
- Part four: Experience True Life. (verses 40-42)
We make a difference as AMBASSADORS IN TRAINING and experience the ADVENTURE of the ALL-IN life.
Verse 32-33: Publicly declare Jesus as Lord.
- Acknowledges- this phase is a legal term. The idea is to stand up before a crowd of people and declare allegiance. Jesus is saying those who are His must declare themselves so publicly. There is also a reciprocal experience that will happen on the day of Judgment. This "blows up" the idea that anyone can serve God in secret. There are no such things as "closet Christians." This is also why baptism is important. It was seen in the early church as the public stepping over from one kingdom to another.
- Before My Father in Heaven- In the Divine unity of the Triune Godhead, there are different roles but the same God. (Don't worry. It hurts my head too.) The book of Hebrews calls Jesus our intercessor before the Father, who is seen as the Judge of all creation.
Verse 34-36: Expect Opposition.
- Don't image- The Jewish idea of the Messiah was that He would unite all the tribes and declare war on their enemies. Jesus is saying that peace will come, but not quickly and not the way they are thinking.
- Jesus does not bring peace, but a sword?- Doesn't this seem to contradict the other statements of Jesus and His title as the Prince of Peace? No. Jesus is not saying He is declaring war on the Earth. This metaphor means that people will be divided because of the Good News. This will include those closest to you. Jesus doesn't bring the sword. He brings salvation. Salvation is met with conflict because you must admit you need it before you can receive it.
- Old Testament quotation of Miach 7:6- Jesus quotes from the Old Testament book of Micah. In context, Micah is lamenting over the bad things that are happening to God's people. However, it is right after the verse Jesus uses that Micah switches his tune and declares that God is still faithful and will still overcome. No doubt, Jesus knew the disciples would know the rest of the text.
Verse 37-39: Go "All In".
- If you love them more than me, you are not worthy- Jesus says something that would have been just as wild as it is now. In Jewish contexts, the highest law to obey (other than loving God) is to honor your parents. Is Jesus saying we should not love our family? No. He is saying, "As much as you love your family, love me more." This makes sense because loving Jesus will increase my capacity to love others more. The end result is to love more than I did before.
- Take up your cross- This was said before Jesus died on the cross However, the idea would have been understood due to crucifixion being so common. According to Plutarch the historian, every condemned person was required to carry their own cross. Once this march started, there was no way you stood out from the crowd. Jesus is saying your level of devotion must be the same. You place Christ first in your life and you don't swerve to the left or right.
- Cling to your life- The idea of clinging to life is like hanging at the end of a rope. Holding on as though life depended on it.
Verse 40-42: Experience True Life.
- Give up your Life and find it- Jesus uses a play on words because the word used for life in this text can either mean your current consciousness or the length of your days. Which is it? Jesus would say, "yes." When you commit your life to Him and follow His ways, you truly find it.
- Whoever receives you receive me- One of the greatest blessings is to be used by God to be a blessing in someone else's life. We become a blessing by sharing the Good News of Jesus and sharing our lives as we live for Jesus.
- Prophet, righteous person, little one- Jesus uses three different types of people. One is someone who is actively involved in ministry. The second is someone who is living a holy life. The final one is someone who is either young or young in following Jesus. Jesus says all receive the blessing of following Jesus and honoring others. The bottom line- God does not use status to display His goodness. All are welcome.
What can we learn from this passage?
Jesus is preparing His disciples for what is coming. It is going to be one of the greatest adventures of their lives. However, it is not going to come without a cost. There will be wolves. The best thing Jesus can do is to prepare them for all aspects of the journey, the good and the bad.
Chuck Swindoll says the two words to best summarize what Jesus says is brutally honest. He does not want them to get into the harvest field and find out it is harder than they imagined. He does not want them to feel misled. He is telling them the truth. Following Jesus and serving in His harvest field is difficult. The most miserable people I have ever met are half-way-Christians. They know the truth but don't live in it. It is almost better to not know, almost.
However, there is no greater adventure than to live for Jesus and watch what He can do in you and through. We joyfully following Him into the world He loves and make a difference.
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
This also reminds me of the cost of following Jesus in other countries. If you live in the United States, you likely have heard the stories of our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world. I heard the story of a man named Nokseng. His story became a local legend that was later turned into one of my favorite hymns, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." His story has been told in various ways over the years. It's hard to find out all the facts due to the way it was trasnfered over the years. The best article I have found to tell the most agreed upon facts of his powerful story is here >>> click here.
Questions/Journal Prompts for reflection:
- Have you ever thought about what baptism means?
- Have you ever experienced opposition as a Christian?
- Where do you need to follow Jesus completely and carry your cross?
- After today’s message, what is your next step?
Resources For Further Study
- Blue Letter Bible: Cross-Reference/Word Studies/Translations
- How to Cross-reference passages. Let the Bible interpret the Bible.
- BibleHub.com: So. Many. Tools.
- Sending Out the Twelve from Enduring Word
- Bible Study Notes: The First Mission
- Matthew Henry Commentary
- Instruction the Twelve From One Hope Fellowship
- Principles of Ministry