Text: Matthew 10:24-39
:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft
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:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Video: Thoughts on Worship (Worship)
Hymn of Praise: "I Have a Shelter" (Steve and Vikki Cook, Bob Kauflin; Sovereign Grace)
The Word in Music: "His Eye is On the Sparrow" (Gwen Ingram, Bobby White, Rick Bean)
Video: Thoughts on Worship (Apostles' Creed)
Hymn of Sending: "Jesus Calls Us" (GALILEE)
Postlude: Rick Bean, jazz piano
:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:24-31)Today we are continuing the broad theme of “belonging to God through following Jesus.” In recent weeks we have looked at Jesus’ follow-me invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, and John – the four fishermen-disciples – and to Matthew, the tax-collector disciple. Today we are looking at some broader teaching Jesus is sharing with the full group of twelve disciples. They are all listed at the beginning of this chapter, Matthew 10, if you want to see their names. Two weeks ago we looked at Matthew 8, where we learned four important things about following Jesus: 1) you have to count the cost; 2) you have to make Jesus first priority; 3) you actually have to follow; and 4) Jesus is worth following.
Here in Matthew 10, with the group of twelve disciples assembled, Jesus more or less reviews some of that list. In the first part of Matthew 10, he talks some more about counting the cost, describing the challenges followers of his will face. Then, in our text for today, he explains what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple, and continues that theme of counting the cost as well as the need to make Jesus first priority. Do you remember the man who wanted to first bury his father? Jesus will use language equally as startling in this text today.
Do Not Fear (vv. 24-31)
If the disciples had not truly counted the cost, Jesus takes some time to really do so with some thoroughness now. What might they face?
ACCUSATION (vv. 25-27): Some have falsely accused Jesus, naming him a demon; surely they will do the same and more to his followers! But do not fear, for the truth will come out, including Jesus’ true message and identity.
SUFFERING/DEATH (v. 28): Earthly opponents can hurt or kill the physical body, but they cannot kill the soul. So do not fear, for only God has authority over one’s eternal soul. (Side note: you should take God very, very seriously!)
Having built up to the point that God alone is the only one worth really fearing, Jesus turns a sharp corner and reminds us of God’s love. Don’t you know that God takes care of the tiny birds sold for a penny at the market? And that God not only knows and sees and cares for those tiny birds, but knows and sees you – even to knowing the number of hairs on your head. (This is simply to note how intimately God knows you!) Jesus’ point? It’s there in v. 31 – “So DO NOT FEAR; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
So yes, there is a cost to following Jesus; but do not fear, only God truly holds your life and soul in His hands, and God sees you and knows you and loves you. You are precious to Him!
Do I Belong? (vv. 32-33)
From there, a natural question might be, “Do I follow Jesus? Am I one of God’s sparrows? Do I BELONG TO GOD?”
And that’s where Jesus turns in v. 32: “Therefore everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.” (and the flip-side – “however denies me; I will deny” – v. 33) What does that mean, to “confess Jesus?” It’s the first question we ask of everyone who comes to be baptized or to join the church: Who is your Lord and Savior? And you respond, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” You do so publicly, confessing with your mouth what you believe with your heart. That’s the beginning of following Jesus; and then there is following after him.
Finding Life (vv. 34-39)
Jesus turns back to the cost of following him, picking up that theme of PRIORITY we talked about in previous weeks. This is one of those texts I would call a “hard teaching” of Jesus. It sounds as if Jesus is intentionally stirring up division and war, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” and “I came to set a man against his father….” There he is quoting from scripture – the prophet, Micah. But he presses on even further, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” To that he adds life itself: “He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it…”
What in the world to do with all that? Let me break that overwhelming group of statements up into pieces. Like the earlier interaction in Matthew 8 and burying one’s father, Jesus is not here saying that his followers should be against parents, children, or somehow hate their family. Indeed elsewhere Jesus is clear to uphold the commandment about honoring one’s father and mother! There are two equally intense things being said here. For one, Jesus is holding up the two things most human beings value most in this world: one’s immediate family (interesting that in-laws are mentioned!) and one’s own life. He is not putting those things down; he is lifting them up to give us some handholds to understand what a priority God should be in our lives, most notably as we follow His Son. It’s what we do when we say something like, “I love you more than ice cream!” or “I love you to the moon and back.” We aren’t saying that we hate ice cream or that the trip to the moon and back is a small thing. We are choosing something we love a lot and a distance that is truly immense and saying, “I love you even more than that!” That’s what Jesus is getting at here. Following him is not a hobby or an amusement or something to squeeze into our schedule when we get a chance. It is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – which we can only truly calibrate around the people and things we naturally give the greatest value.
Having said that, which is along the theme of PRIORITY, Jesus is also touching on part of the COST of following him that some believers have had to face. Though many of us have been blessed with families who understand our faith and discipleship and we live in a country that protects our religious freedom, some Christians have indeed been set against parents or children or safety in order to follow Christ. I think of people in some Muslim countries who have been disowned by family or even persecuted, arrested, or killed for their faith. Is Christian faith really so important to cost that much? Some have thought so and Jesus seems to be saying so. Closer to home, I remember talking to one young college graduate whose vibrant faith was leading him to consider ministry or missions. His parents, who are not Christians, simply cannot understand. And while they have not disowned him, he has had to choose between meeting their expectations and following where Christ leads him. I know there are some of you in this room who have stories like that.
Family, life and health, discipleship. That’s a pretty steep claim Jesus is laying on us. But he grounds all that in the claim at the end of verse 39, that the one who has set God first will indeed find “life” – and not just the physical sense, but the eternal and spiritual sense.
There is a cost to following Jesus; and following requires that we acknowledge him as who he claimed to be – savior and Lord, the very Son of God. Is it worth it?
Is it Worth It?
When we were in Matthew 8 a few weeks ago, I ended with the claim that Jesus is worth following. Having gone even a little deeper today into the challenges of truly following Jesus, this is a good place to end again today. Despite the high cost, despite the challenges and the obstacles, Jesus is worth following. How can I say that? Jesus is worth following because of the strength, the sureness, the power, and the reach of his love. I say it on the strength of God’s Word and I say it because I’ve experienced it.
In just a moment we will have a time of silence to confess before God those things that come between us. Today those may include doubts and struggles, the kinds of things that stand in the way of fully running after Jesus as a disciple. After a time of silence, we will read together a great passage of scripture that describes that strength, sureness, power, and reach of God’s love through Jesus Christ. It comes from Romans 8 and it is one of many strong reminders in scripture of why Jesus is worth following. Let’s go to God now for that time of silent prayer…