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Sun, Dec 07, 2014

60 - Fear Not! [b]

Matthew 10:24-31 by Robert Dean
If someone is hurling insults at you, what should you do? Listen to this lesson to learn that Jesus warned His disciples they shouldn't react in fear when someone insults and persecutes them for believing in Him. Sure, insults and persecution cause us to become afraid, but we need to understand that while fear is a natural reaction, we can make a conscious decision to trust God. See a number of reasons that show how much our Heavenly Father knows and cares for us. Apply this commandment not to fear to your own circumstances so you will not be ruled by the fear factor.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:53 mins 49 secs

Fear Not!
Matthew 10:24-31
Matthew Lesson #060
December 7, 2014

In the preceding verses as we have gone through this chapter Jesus has focused on commissioning the twelve disciples to a particular mission. Matthew 10 contains the second of four major discourses by the Lord Jesus Christ that are recorded by Matthew. Matthew records more discourses than any of the other Gospels, which means that when we move through the narrative material, i.e., the stories that are taking place in the life of Christ, they set up and frame these particular discourses. We have already looked at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7; now in chapter ten we are looking at His commissioning of the twelve.

As we have seen, when He commissions the twelve this is a specific mission. But everything that He says here is applicable to any other group. He sends them to the house of Israel for the specific mission of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. There are certain specifics of that mission that are unique to this particular incident. But then there are aspects of what He says here that are also applied to other groups. For example, in Luke 14 we have a parallel passage that seems pretty similar but it is different in a number of respects. There are a lot of places where the same kinds of instructions are given but it is the commissioning of the seventy. So Jesus obviously repeated certain things over and over again to different groups in different contexts. We see that some of the instructions that He gave to the twelve here are repeated in different places in some of the other Gospels as he gave instructions to different groups.

He gives instructions to these twelve and they are going to go out to the house of Israel. They are to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom and they will be accompanied by various miracles that validate their message. They came as His emissaries. There is this tight connection that we must understand between the disciples as His representatives and Jesus as their teacher, leader, as the Messiah who sends them. We saw that He gave the disciples various instructions regarding the message and how they would be received: that there would be varying responses to their particular message. That is described in Matthew 10:9-15. Then He is going to warn them in Matthew 10:16-39 of some of the opposition and rejection that they are going to encounter.

As Jesus was teaching them He first of all told them that they were going to go on this trip, travelling throughout Galilee, and were not to go to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. He gives specific instructions and then He says something that would probably drive most of us crazy. Having travelled with some of you a good bit I know that this would immediately increase your fear factor and anxiety level to a high level. He tells them they weren't to take anything with them. They had nothing to fall back on if anything went wrong. But then Jesus tells them that they were going to have to make certain public statements about the response that they get to their message. They are going to come to some homes where the people are going to welcome them and respond positively to the message, and they are going to stay with these people who will provide for them. But then there is going to be a large segment that is going to reject them, be hostile to them, and they are going to have to make a public display of that rejection by leaving that person's house and making a dramatic display of shaking off of the dust as a sign of God's judgment upon that house for the rejection of the gospel message. They have to make this public display of condemnation, which never wins friends and influences people.  

Then Jesus tells them that these people that they go to are going to respond to them like ravenous, voracious wolves. They would be like sheep in the midst of these wolves and these wolves are going to seek to destroy them. They are going to be arrested and forcibly dragged before various religious councils, and even synagogue leaders are going to beat them, scourge them and torture them.

Now if you were to receive that kind of a commissioning—that you are going to go on this mission, I'm not going to tell you how long it will last, you are not going to take anything with you, and people are going to react in a very hostile manner toward you—how would you start feeling? At this point Jesus makes it even more 'pleasant' to anticipate. He says that they will be dragged before kings and leaders who would have them tortured and imprisoned. To make it worse they are going to be rejected by some of their closest family members who are not only going to reject them but are going to call the authorities and have them arrested and executed. Now we all love rejection, don't we! So this is not a scenario that the disciples would look to with great anticipation. Not only does Jesus paint a pretty dreary picture about the mission, He then concludes it by saying they will be hated by all and persecuted, so that they have to flee from one city to the next. In other words, you can't plan on anything for the future. You can't lay down any roots. You can't buy a home, you can't build a family, you're not going to be in a position to save for your retirement; you're going to have complete instability in terms of your life because you are emissaries of me.

That, of course, is going to create a situation where it is going to raise the fear factor in the disciples, and that is exactly what Jesus is going to address, starting in verse 24. Three times in this next section Jesus is going to say, "Fear not", to these disciples. He is addressing the problem. A lot of what Jesus says in the first 23 verses is really tailored to this particular mission. In fact, in the first fifteen verses or so that applied much of it was experienced by the disciples in that initial journey they were on in approximately AD 30. But some of the things mentioned in Matthew 10:16-23 are not fulfilled until just prior to the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the Tribulation. Jesus also makes the statement in Matthew 10:22 that he who endures to the end shall be saved. He makes that same statement in Matthew 24 in the Olivet discourse, which tells us that the really intense opposition and rejection is something that would be experienced immediately prior to the coming of the Son of Man.

At this particular time there was no announcement made that there would be a pause in God's plan for Israel and the introduction of the new dispensation, the Church Age. So if things had gone in the way that God had revealed in the Old Testament, that the Messiah would come, offer the kingdom, and if the Jews [that is the condition] responded positively, then what would have happened after the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ would have been seven years of intense suffering and persecution, which is when this would have taken place. And then it would have culminated in the second coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom. From their perspective this could have taken place within their lifetime if Israel had responded positively to the gospel of the kingdom. Because they didn't, that part of it was postponed and will not be experienced until the Tribulation period.

Those first 23 verses really focus our attention on the specifics and the unique aspects of this particular mission. But then when Jesus deals with how to respond to the problem, how to respond to the opposition, the persecution that they are going to face, He gives instructions that apply not only to their situation but apply across the dispensations. When He addresses this command to fear not, this is a command that has its roots and much instruction in the Old Testament. It is tied to many different situations where Israel faced opposition and hostility in the Old Testament and, in fact, it continues to be a major command and encouragement in the New Testament because fear is such a fundamental problem that every one of us faces.

After Christ instructs the disciples about the dangers that they will face in carrying out the mission He then begins to teach them and us about the proper mental attitude we have to develop as we face the challenges of life. We have to recognize that just like the disciples are the emissaries of Christ, and they are going to face rejection and hostility because of that, we too are going to face the same thing. So just like any good soldier who prepares himself mentally before going into combat we have to prepare ourselves mentally before we go into combat, before we engage the enemy in terms of our representation of Christ. Jesus focuses on mind training here: mental attitude dynamics, so that the twelve disciples can understand how they are to face the challenges ahead. Since we encounter the same kind of opposition to different degrees, we also have to learn from these examples.  

Jesus first of all warns them that they should expect the same kind of treatment as He, that because He is the teacher they are not going to be any greater than He; they should not expect a different response.                

Matthew 10:24 NASB "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…"

Apparently v.24 was a fairly well known proverb at that particular time. There seem to be some examples of that in ancient literature, parallels to it anyway, that a disciple is someone who is simply a student, one who is learning from a teacher, someone who has bound himself in many cases to a particular of a school, a teacher, and they are committed to learn and develop on the basis of what that teacher has to give them. Technically, in the New Testament a disciple is usually viewed as someone who is, first of all a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and second, someone who is committed to grow and mature spiritually. Not all believers are disciples. There are many believers who simply are satisfied that their eternal destiny is secure by trusting in Jesus Christ as savior, but when it comes to becoming spiritually mature and going through the process of spiritual growth, learning the Word of God, becoming an effective student of the Word, they are just not interested. They would rather just get by, just make sure that they are going to be in heaven, than to understand the richness and the fullness of the new life that Christ has given us, and all of the assets that we now have in Christ as believers in the church age. They just are satisfied with being believers but they are not really disciples.

Occasionally the word disciple describes someone who is not a believer. For example, Judas Iscariot. Generally that is an exception. When Jesus is instructing His disciples He is teaching them about what a growing, mature believer should look like. In v. 25, "and the slave like his master", He compares the teacher-disciple relationship to a master-servant relationship. He is implying that as the Lord—the word "master" there is the same word translated "lord" elsewhere, KURIOS—they are His servants. This foreshadows the fact that many of the apostles as they wrote their epistles referred to themselves as DOULOS, a servant or slave of Christ.

What Jesus is emphasizing here is that a disciple should expect to have the same kind of treatment as his master. So as students of the Word we should expect to have the same kind of response to our lives and ministries as the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus was reviled and ridiculed and misrepresented, falsely charged, physically tortured and publically executed, we may experience much of the same kind of thing. Jesus goes on in v. 25 to say, "It is enough for the disciple that he becomes like his teacher, and the slave like his master…" That is, that we should follow and emulate Him. He is just reiterating and emphasizing the fact that what our Lord experienced is something that we, too, should expect. We should not expect that just because we are a Christian everything should be rosy and fine and we are not going to expect rejection and hostility because of that.

This is paralleled in other passages of Scripture. Paul gives us a promise in 2 Timothy 3:12 NASB "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 

The word "persecution" is the Greek word DIOKO, which has a range of meanings. The English word really is a much narrower concept where we focus on some sort of overt active pursuit, opposition, punishment, torture, something of that nature, whereas the word in the Greek means someone who is chased after, rejected, pursued or persecuted. So there is a range of opposition. There are people who are going to reject us. Just because we are a Christian they don't want to have anything to do with us. They may even be some in your family, people you work with; they don't want to have anything to do with you because you are trying to live a consistent spiritual life. They may be people whose respect or admiration you might like to have. They may be people who are important to you in your career or in your job, yet because you are a Christian you are never going to gain your respect. This is a milder form of persecution.

Then there are more extreme forms of persecution. There is even rejection of believers who just don't want to get with the plan. Because you are a believer who is focused on spiritual growth and spiritual maturity, as you grow and mature you present a source of conviction in their life, and so they may react against you and may be a source of hostility and rejection. So this doesn't come simply from non-believers, it can come from believers.      

John 15:20, 21 NASB "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."

Here Jesus is addressing His disciples the night before He went to the cross within what is called the upper room discourse, when the Lord was giving His disciples instruction on what they would experience following His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. He is giving them principles related to the church age and the spiritual life of the church age in John 15. He is reminding them of the same thing He taught them in Matthew chapter ten.     

Then in Matthew 10:25 Jesus goes on to point out just one particular instance of how these disciples are going to experience this rejection from the religious leaders in Israel. "… If they have called the head [master] of the house Beelzebul, how much more {will they malign} the members of his household!"

The "if" there represents what is called a first class condition in Greek grammar. In the first class condition the author or speaker is assuming that what he is saying is true. That doesn't mean it is true. There are times when you are assuming it to be true for the sake of argument. At other times you may think it is true and it may not be true, it is simply the way the speaker is thinking about the condition at the time that he is stating it. But in thirty per cent of its uses it does have the sense of if and something is true and it is true in reality.

This is what Jesus is saying here. "If they have called the head [master] of the house Beelzebul…" This is truly a blasphemous concept because it is identifying Jesus with Satan. We have already had a hint of this in Matthew 9:34 NASB "But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." After Jesus cast out a demon from a man who was mute because of the demon possession the Pharisees interpreted this and rejected it as a sign of His messiahship. All that Matthew is reporting is that they are identifying His source of power as coming from the one who is the ruler of the demons.

As Matthew is increasing his telling of the opposition he will culminate it in chapter twelve. There he reports: "But when the Pharisees heard {this,} they said, 'This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons'." We learn here that Beelzebul is a title for the ruler of the demons. It is an interesting kind of term.

Jesus is using what we call an a fortiori argument. That is a Latin phrase: fortiori, we can always think of that as the words fort, strong, strong defensive position; the a is the preposition for from. It literally means from being stronger and it is the type of logical argument where you state something that is a much stronger reality and then infer that if this is true for the greater reality, it would also be true for the lesser reality. It is basically saying, for example: Jesus is greater than His disciples, and if it is true that He is going to be accused of performing miracles by the ruler of the demons, you can infer that those who were associated with Him would also be accused of performing their signs and wonders in the power of Beelzebul.

Beelzebul was the name given to one of the manifestations of the Canaanite god Baal back in the Old Testament. 2 Kings 1:2 NASB "And Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber which {was} in Samaria, and became ill. So he sent messengers and said to them, 'Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this sickness'." The title for this manifestation of Baal meant "lord of the flies". But much later, in the transition period between the Old and New Testaments, the name was changed to Beelzebul. It is a play on words, a pun. The word "zebul" changes the meaning from "lord of the flies" to "lord of the dung". It became an insult. This is what would typically happen in the ancient world. They would take the gods of the nations and apply some sort of negative title to that god in order to elevate their own deity and to put down the other person's god. The word Beelzubub was applied to the devil or to Satan, so Beelzebul was a play on words calling Satan the lord of the dung. This is the background here. It is just another title for Satan.      

In Matthew 12:24 Jesus will be accused by the Pharisees in public of performing His miracles by the power of Satan. In His response in v. 26 Jesus said: "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?"

So what Jesus is saying in v. 25 is: "If they are going to accuse me of having power from Satan, they are certain to accuse you of having power from Satan; so this is the kind of hostility you can expect." It doesn't have anything to do with logic; it doesn't have anything to do with your personality or how nice you are or how much Scripture you know; it is because you are identified with Jesus, and they are rejecting Jesus, that you will experience this kind of rejection. And by application we are all potentially victims of this kind of opposition and persecution. Let me tell you, it has nothing to do with who you are. They are not rejecting you; they are rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to keep that in mind so that we don't respond personally.

The response here from Jesus, and three times He mentions it, is that the way to handle this kind of opposition is to not be afraid. Do not give in to fear. What often happens when we face some hostility, when we witness to somebody, is that the anger of hostility that we may be tempted to fall into is the result of fear—fear of rejection, fear of someone becoming hostile to us and treating us in a disrespectful manner of some sort—and we are not to be afraid.

When we get into this passage we see this emphasis on fear. Verse 26: "do not fear them"; v. 28: "Do not fear"; v. 31: "So do not fear". Even though the vocabulary is the same in each one of these exhortations, He expresses them differently in the grammar. The basic command here is that we are not to respond in fear.

Matthew 10:26 NASB "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known."

He uses an aorist passive subjunctive. There is a difference between putting a command in the aorist tense and putting a command in the present tense. In an aorist tense with the negative it indicates that you need to stop doing something that you have already started to do. You have already begun the process of being afraid. So the idea there is: stop being afraid. There are some times when this grammatical construction is used and it still primarily has the force of just a general prohibition, but as grammarians point out it still seems to have that sense that you have already started doing it, so stop doing it. Now later He is going to shift to a present passive imperative, which has a little different sense to it. Because He is using all of these, it is like He is covering all the bases: if you have started, stop doing it; if you haven't started, don't start. He is covering all the bases to make sure we understand how important it is not to give in to fear. And that is the idea in the passive voice. It is interesting that this isn't an active voice verb because fear, we would think, is something that we choose to do. But by emphasizing it is passive, it emphasizes that that this is like an automatic reflex, an automatic response to a set of circumstances. In the passive voice the grammatical subject (each one of us) receives the action of the verb.

So what I think is going on here is the thought that fear is the basic orientation of everyone's sin nature. When Adam and Eve sinned and were then in a fallen condition, God came to them in the garden. God said: "Where are you and why are you hiding from Me". Adam said in Genesis 3:10 "We heard the sound of You in the garden and we were afraid." The basic orientation of the sin nature is on arrogance. We are totally focused on self. We are self-absorbed and are totally focused on surviving as self. The instant that Adam sinned he separated from the creator God of the universe who alone is in control of everything in the universe. When Adam was in right relationship to God, there was nothing for him to be concerned with. He is totally relaxed because of his relationship with the Creator who controls everything. But as soon as Adam sinned, the entire universe was plunged into chaos. Everything was now out of control. It is not out of God's control but from the creature's viewpoint he has been separated from God now by sin and everything is out of control. The environment has changed so it is chaotic. The creature is now aware that everything is out of control. And his immediate response to everything being out of control is fear because he can't control it. Security has gone; stability has gone; he has no idea how to deal with this hostile environment now that he is a sinner. And we are all born in that situation.

People are born with this soul condition of angst. We have come into this world in this state of agitation. And that reflects the biblical truth that they have stumbled upon. When we are all born and we come out of the womb that sin nature is activated and immediately we are in a state of high stress and anxiety. We seek to start controlling our environment. How do we start doing that? We start crying. We want to get people's attention to take care of us immediately and to start solving problems that we think exist.

This is what Jesus is dealing with here and why the verb in the Greek New Testament never occurs in an active voice. It always occurs in the passive voice; it is a state that is natural to our sin nature, and apart from making a decision to trust in God and rely upon Him we are constantly going to be in this state of high anxiety. Jesus says, "Don't fear them". The first thing that we are going to recognize when we face any hostility or rejection is, don't be afraid; don't worry; don't be concerned about it.

Why? "… there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known."

What He is pointing out is that eventually there will be a judgment in which everything is exposed. For believers that judgment takes place at the judgment seat of Christ; for unbelievers it takes place at the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennial kingdom. But Jesus is stating a general principle here: Remember, even though this is done in secret or may be hidden now, it is not going to remain that way. Eventually there is accountability and God will bring righteous judgment. Even if people are betraying you in secret, eventually that will be exposed. 

Matthew 10:27 NASB "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear {whispered} in {your} ear, proclaim upon the housetops."

This is a positive command. Whatever you hear—a situation of privacy; proclaim upon the housetops, i.e., publicly. Jesus is saying that whatever He communicates to them in privacy, they are to go out and proclaim this publicly and expose this information to everyone.   

Matthew 10:28 NASB "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 [Gehenna]."

In this verse there are two things we need to address. The commands are a contrast. On the one hand, don't fear people who can simply kill your physical body. They can't destroy your soul; they can't destroy your spiritual life. All they can do is create trauma for you. Instead, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom, which is located just to the south of Jerusalem. It was the location of human sacrifice in the Old Testament period. This became a depiction of judgment. The reason for God's judgment on Israel was what took place in the Valley of Hinnom, and so this became an image of judgment. What Jesus is saying here, to translate it more idiomatically, is, "Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in judgment." It is not talking about eternal judgment, it is just making this contrast: don't be afraid of the human who can just harm you physically, but rather be in fear of the ultimate Judge of the universe who is in control of all things.

It is this God who is the ultimate judge before whom we will stand who is also the omniscient, loving God who takes care of us. He uses two illustrations here.    

Matthew 10:29 NASB "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And {yet} not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father."

As insignificant as a sparrow might be, the death of any sparrow is not unknown to God who oversees all of creation. If God is focused on the most insignificant aspects of His creation, what Jesus is saying, how much more is God paying attention to what is going on in your life as one who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, one who is on the road to spiritual maturity. 

Matthew 10:30 NASB "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." The "hairs of the head" is an idiom found many times in the Old Testament related to someone's death. God is aware of the most insignificant details in your life; they are the focus of His attention. 

Matthew 10:31 NASB "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

The conclusion is that God is not unaware of what circumstances surround us. We may be faced with opposition, with persecution, even martyrdom; but God is fully aware and He provides the grace we need to handle any circumstance and any situation. Just as the disciples were given a mission to take the gospel of the kingdom to the house of Israel, we as church age believers are given a mission to make disciples, to communicate the gospel, to witness to others, to encourage them with the Word. Now different people have different gifts but we are all given this basic mission. We are going to face hostility and too often what causes us to draw back, to not say something, to avoid that opportunity to witness to somebody, is because of this level of anxiety. So three times Jesus says, "Don't worry about the response". Our responsibility is to communicate the truth of the gospel and we are not to be afraid. We are to trust in the God who controls all the circumstances to watch over us and provide for us no matter what happens.