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.
Thank you that like these wise men, I was once distant from you, but you led me to Jesus. When I think of the effort these wise men put forth to find him, I have to admit that I did a lot less and found Jesus all the same. Teach me to put forth more effort now as I seek to know Christ better than I do.
These wise men clearly offered gifts from among the best things that they had — gold, frankincense and myrrh. Teach me also to give all that I have which is valuable to me in the worship of my Savior.
The wise men were also very aware of your leading them: first from a far land to Jerusalem, then to a specific house in Bethlehem and then back to their own country by another way. Teach me also to be aware of your leading in my own life.
Deep down I want to serve you well, follow Jesus and be led by the Spirit in all that I do. Please make my life a more accurate reflection of your will for me. Help me to make it an offering to you and an act of complete worship.
And I ask this for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ.
We thank you that you did not send Jesus only to the prominent and lovable people of this world or for their sake only. Thank you that our Savior has the variety of people that he has in his family line. We see the lost, the lonely, the unloved and the despised there giving his genealogy a fair representation of the human race. The adulterer and immigrant are found alongside the kings and counselors. In some cases they are the same people.
You knew who we were and what kind of Savior we needed. Therefore, you sent us Jesus Christ, your unique, your only-begotten Son, in a way and to a people that would require him to identify with us in all of our sin and shame. Thank you furthermore for the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It through him and because of his work that we live.
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.
Like the famous porridge in the story of Goldilocks, a person’s response to Jesus can be “too hot” or “too cold.” Let’s take a look at a couple of examples before we determine what a “just right” response would be.
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
This scribe seems to have not thought his commitment through. His response is too hot, or overzealous, given his level of understanding. Jesus may made his home in Capernaum, possibly with Simon Peter and family, but the reality of his ministry meant that he didn’t often get back there at night. At a deeper level, we have to think through where our true home is. Paul reminds believers that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). If we do not consider this reality, then we may find our commitment to Christ is superficial. It may not stand the test of time or the rigor of unforeseen trials.
21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Without going into detail, we can see that he is asking for a delay. Maybe it would be weeks or months, maybe a year or more. Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham. The man grasps that following Christ involves sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that he is unwilling to make. Unlike the overzealous scribe, this man is underzealous or too cold.
A Goldilocks response to Jesus needs to be carefully thought through rather than hasty. But it also needs to be willing to give whatever is necessary for the cause of Christ. This world is not our home anyway, so with that in mind, why wait? A true and thorough cost-counting will reveal that Jesus is worth more than anything or anyone that we might decide to place before him.