Year A : Sunday 12/Proper 7/Trinity 4 Matthew 10:24-39 19/6/05
Matthew 10:24 "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household 26 "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven 34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn " `a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Jesus said, verse 38, "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
A Bible dictionary says this about crucifixion. "A person crucified in Jesus' day was first of all scourged, beaten with a whip consisting of thongs with pieces of metal or bone attached to the end. This was not just done out of cruelty but was designed to hasten death and lessen the terrible ordeal. After the beating the victim was forced to bear the crossbeam to the execution site in order to signify that life was already over and to break the will to live. A sign detailing the crime(s) was often placed around the criminal's neck and then fastened to the cross. At the site the prisoner was often tied (the normal method) or nailed (if a quicker death was desired) to the crossbeam.
The nail would be driven through the wrist rather than the palm, since the smaller bones of the hand could not support the weight of the body. The beam with the body was then lifted and tied to the already affixed upright pole. Pins or a small wooden block were placed halfway up to provide a seat for the body lest the nails tear open the wounds or the ropes force the arms from their sockets. Finally the feet were tied or nailed to the post. It could take days of hideous pain as the extremities turned slowly gangrenous; so often the soldiers would break the victims legs with a club causing massive shock and a quick death. Such deaths were usually done in public places, and the body was left to rot for days, with carrion birds allowed to degrade the corpse further."
To take up one's cross was, therefore, a one way trip to public rejection, derision, humiliation, anguish, and death.
In today's passage Jesus makes it clear that following him is a public act and this will cost. He refers to persecution ( verses 21-25 ), difficult relationships ( verses 35-36 ), even death (verse 28).
Jesus said that our relationship with him should come first. It should come before our relationships with family members, 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
Jesus is not saying that we are not to love our family members, but that our love for him should be greater than our love for them. In most cases the two loves will not be mutually exclusive.
Please note that Jesus is not saying that believers should be so busy with church activities that they do not have time to relate to and care for their families. Yet there will be times when a Christian needs time to worship, pray and study with fellow believers to maintain their relationship with Jesus and to be part of his body on earth.
I know that many believers have the difficulty of living in a family where other members of the family do not share their faith. This can be hard where one's spouse is not a believer and particularly when they make it difficult to worship regularly. We must remember that God loves our family members more than we do. We probably are seen at our worst in a family situation, which can make us guilty, angry, frustrated. In such situations we have to rely upon God's Spirit to give us the strength and guidance that we need to live for Jesus. We also need to keep on praying for those whom we love who have not yet come to faith.
I suppose we have all heard the expression, "Oh, it's a cross I have to bear", when people refer to a disability or difficulty. This isn't what Jesus had in mind here.
John Howard Yoder; "The believer's cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the bearing of which is demanded. The believer's cross must be, like his Lord's, the price of his social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost. . . . It is the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come."
Christianity is not a private religion. 32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven
To "acknowledge" Christ refers to a unity with him. We should not be ashamed of the person of Christ, the character of Christ, the teachings of Christ and the demands of Christ. This should involve our words, deeds, thoughts, indeed every area of one's life. It involves trusting him for our salvation. Worshipping him publicly and regularly. Loving fellow believers. Caring for the sick, bereaved and needy. Being hospitable, verses 40 -42. Fighting for truth and justice. Serving Christ in the church and in our families, jobs and communities
Jesus died, rose again and ascended to be reunited with God. Christians follow this path. They have crucified their old, sinful nature, verse 39, "loses his life for my sake" ( see also Galatians 2:20 ). They then rise to a new relationship with God, something Jesus called "eternal life" ( John 17:3 ). This bearing of one's cross is the "denial of self" and other difficulties the believer faces in this life. Whilst it is costly, it is not the loss of anything that is important in the light of eternity. In return the believer receives many things including forgiveness of sins, peace with God, a joy within, the friendship of Jesus and of other believers, a sense of worth and purpose, the power to live for God, and the certain hope of being with God forever with a new resurrection body.
Jesus reassures his followers that, whatever the world and the devil may throw at them that God cares for them and that he is in control of their eternal destiny, verses 28+. Moreover, nothing is hidden from him. He sees the true nature and cost of our faith and will reward us for this.
The American evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman was in London and had an opportunity to meet General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, who at that time was past 80 years of age. Dr. Chapman listened reverently as the old general spoke of the trials and the conflicts and the victories he had experienced. He then asked the general if he would disclose his secret for success. "He hesitated a second," Dr. Chapman said, "and I saw the tears come into his eyes and steal down his cheeks," and then he said, "I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with the poor of London, I made up my mind that He would have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life."
Dr. Chapman said he went away from that meeting with General Booth knowing "that the greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender."
The hands of Christ
Seem very frail
For they were broken
By a nail.
But only they
Reach heaven at last
Whom these frail, broken
Hands hold fast.
John Richard Moreland (1880?-1947)