Jesus sends out his twelve disciples, but reminds them that following in his steps is not something they should expect to be easy.
Matthew 10.pdf (Caid Fergusom)
Matthew 10.mp3 (Caid Ferguson)
Jesus said we “are of more value than many sparrow.” Sometimes we think of this in isolation as a statement of how valuable we are in God’s eyes. After all, if not even a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from our Father, then we can rest assured that God cares for us too.
There is nothing absolutely wrong with those thoughts. Our heavenly Father does care. He is attentive to the smallest detail of our tiniest trouble. The big troubles mean even more to him, we can be sure. But let’s read the verses surrounding the sparrows along with the verses we love.
28 And 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. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Overall, they seem to be about not fearing in the face of opposition. What if I am tempted to deny Christ? We need to fear God rather than any human opponent. We should want Jesus to acknowledge us and know that he will, as long as we acknowledge him first. Christ is telling us we need to have a public faith.
What Jesus is saying is something like this: “You are valuable to your Father and mine, he cares about your smallest concern, but how valuable are he and I to you? Would you remain faithful to me even if it costs you something? Will you fear those who can only kill the body, but not fear God more?”
Let’s remember that if we are “worth more than many sparrow,” then Jesus is worth something far greater still. He is worth our very lives and even those lives are something akin to the penny paid for sparrows by comparison. Our worth is derivative; it comes entirely from him. Christ’s worth is original and derived from any other source. He can share his worth with all of us and still have infinite value left in himself.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Christ had compassion on the shepherdless crowds who were harassed and helpless. In response he asked us to pray, and so this is what we are doing. He alone is their true Shepherd, their Good Shepherd and Chief Shepherd.
There are multitudes who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of who he is and what he has done. There are multitudes more who need to hear it again, who need to be reminded or given one more opportunity to respond.
None of us can accomplish this task alone. Please, heavenly Father, send out laborers. As Jesus pointed out, the harvest is truly plentiful and the laborers few. Send out laborers into this great harvest field. Let their labors lead to the increase of your church. Let their labors be used to build your church. Let eternity be filled with more people brought into your family as a result of the laborers that you send out in response to our prayers. Let disciples be multiplied and the knowledge of your word be increased. And let your name be glorified throughout all ages as a result.
Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement. He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves. That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith. If you want, you can read more about it here.
Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life. Needy people are not always in a position to believe. They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe. Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers. Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.
18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.
The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. She was dead. In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse. Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself. The mourners were no help. Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus. But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose. I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.
Christ’s public ministry moves forward with various miracles, revealing his power over sickness, nature and the demonic realm.