Matthew 10:34-42 – Division, Presence, & A Cup of Cold Water

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Jesus sends out the TwelveMatthew 10:34-4234 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come 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 person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

37 ”Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever 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.

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today’s lesson continues Jesus’ words to the disciples as He sends them out to preach saying, “The reign of heaven is at hand.” Jesus plainly tells them that they will be rejected for this message. Today’s text says that even families will be split because of the message the disciples bring in Jesus’ name.

Sword 2The Prince of Peace says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Strange words from Jesus especially when we remember that, at His birth, the angels sang, “Peace on earth,” (Lk. 2:14). Such an odd saying from Jesus who, the night before He dies proclaims, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (Jn. 14:27).

Jesus did come to bring peace. He came to bring peace between us and God. Until we have peace with God, there will be no peace in any of our relationships.

These words of Jesus are hard, harsh, and difficult. This is not a warm, fuzzy Jesus. His picture of a sword cutting through the family is one that is hard to accept. Sons against fathers and mothers against daughters and enemies within your own household – tough stuff. Some of you may have personal experience of this sword slicing through your own family. Even if you don’t know this division in your own family, you probably know someone who has had the experience.

In fact, your Savior has gone through this Himself. A sword passed through the indivisible Trinity. God the Father abandoned His only-begotten Son as He paid for your sins. God swung a sword through Himself to bring you peace with Him. Yet, the peace you have with God can cause divisions within your relationships.

Your relationship with God defines your existence with others. You exist as a father, mother, sibling, child, or whatever because you first exist as God’s creature. “That relation is older and closer” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce). You see because of your sin, even your love for your family is filled with sin. You cannot truly love others, not even your own family, unless you love Jesus first. Only when you love Jesus first can you really, truly love your family.

The first commandment is to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. If you love mother or father, son or daughter more than God, you don’t love them at all. They are gifts from God, remember that. Even a focus on your family can cause you to make idols of the gifts God has given. Too often our idols are not statues of wood and metal that we bow down to. We fashion idols out of the gifts God gives us – our houses, our finances, and, yes, even our family. Rather than recognizing them as God’s good gifts we idolize them.

That is why Jesus sends out His twelve disciples. He sends them out proclaiming that God’s reign has come in Him. Jesus stands on the earth that was created by Him but is in open, sinful rebellion against Him. Jesus brings the peace with God that comes only through His atoning sacrifice and delivers the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus sends out the disciples to proclaim, “The reign of heaven is at hand.” This means that all the gods and idols we have made for ourselves are coming to an end. They are coming to an end because of the sin that we brought into His creation. This means that God’s judgment is also upon us sinners.

In Christ, God is at war with sin. The Great Physician is amputating what is incurable – your sin, your evil, your wickedness. He took it upon Himself and nailed it to the cross, buried it in the tomb, and left it there when He rose from the dead.

So Jesus sends His messengers with the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins even before the event of the cross. Therefore, every person who received the disciples and their message received Jesus and even the Father who sent Jesus. Christ’s mission is to unite heaven with earth by being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This amazing fact means that when you receive the message of the disciples you receive Jesus and the Father. Whatever division comes out of that is easier to bear when you have the presence of God.Two Reigns of God

Jesus closes this text speaking about rewards for receiving the prophet, righteous person, and giving even a cup of cold water to a “little one.” The prophet is the disciple who speaks the message given to him by Christ. The righteous person is the disciple who is made righteous by Christ. The “little one” is also the disciple – even a gesture as small as giving a cup of cold water to the disciple is noticed by God.

The cross of Christ does divide. It can divide you from those who should be dearest to you. But it divides you from your idols and sin. It brings you into the presence of your Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter. And it refreshes you now and into eternity. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 10:5a, 24-33 – No Fear

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Matthew 10:5a, 24-335 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them,

24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

26“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 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.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Do you know what command is given most often in the Bible? Think about your answer because the right answer might surprise you. Is it, “Do not kill”? Is it, “Love God,” or, “Love your neighbor”? Is it to rightly worship God? Is it, “Be more moral”? If you guessed any of these, you are wrong.

The most common command in Scripture (by N.T. Wright’s count) is, “Do not fear.” Jesus gives this very command three times in this text alone, “Do not fear.”

No FearIn Junior High and early High School, my favorite article of clothing was a sweatshirt which had a little logo embroidered over my heart which said, “No fear.” That sweatshirt was my favorite. It was forest green with a plaid hood. I felt super cool wearing it, so I probably wore it more often than I should have. I would don that bold and defiant statement, “No fear.” However, underneath that sweatshirt was the skin and bone frame of a timid, dorky adolescent. In reality, I feared lots of things. I feared the mean kids. I feared being left out and rejected. I feared that no girl would ever like me.

I’ve mostly grown past those fears. I don’t live in fear of the neighborhood bully. I have learned to not care what others think about me. And I’ve gotten married. But I still fear many irrational things. I fear that because I don’t take good enough care of my house that it will someday collapse on my family. Even though I never came within 100 ft. of it, I feared the industrial wood chipper that workers from the city were using earlier this week as they cut down trees in our neighborhood. On top of that, I have mild mottephobia. Yes, I admit it; I fear moths – I hate how they flutter.

Apart from those fears, which I admit are foolish, I still have a lot of fears. I fear that the economy will crash and my kids and grandkids will have to learn how to hunt squirrels and rabbits. I fear that the war and fighting in many parts of the world will spread and cause World War III. I fear that our country will continue down this path of immorality. I fear that we are not far from authorities demanding that we accept and even endorse immoral, Godless behavior as ‘normal.’ I fear that we Christians in this part of the world will be bitterly persecuted because of our faith and confession.

Jesus sends out the TwelveThese words from Jesus today speak of persecution that comes because of a faithful confession. In this text, Jesus is sending out His twelve disciples to preach His message, “The reign of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 10:7). And Jesus doesn’t hide the fact that people will hate them for this proclamation. He says, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child. You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” Jesus says, “They have already maligned me by calling Me ‘Beelzebul.’ They will certainly malign you too.”

These words of Jesus are very solemn and sobering and downright scary. But throughout this text, Jesus’ command, “Do not fear,” dominates. In the face of persecution, Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not fear.”

We ask, “Why, Jesus? What rational reason can You give us to not fear?”

We wish Jesus would say, “Do not fear because I will spare you from suffering.” But that is not our experience; we do suffer in this world. Jesus doesn’t say that we will not suffer; in fact, those who are most faithful to Him will likely suffer most. We are not greater than Jesus. He suffered persecution. We should expect suffering and persecution as His servants.

Instead, Jesus tells the disciples, “Do not fear because everything done in secret will be made known to all. Do not fear because the worst thing people can do to you is kill you. Do not fear because you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

Consider each of these for a moment.

“Do not fear because everything done in secret will be made known.” Now, at first glance, this is a terrifying thing. Think of all those sins that you have committed and gotten away with. Think of all those things you have thought and said and done which you think are secret. Jesus says that they will be revealed.

But then remember, believer, that in baptism you have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 3:27, 2 Cor. 5:21). When God looks at you, all He sees is Jesus – His perfect life of obedience and His suffering, dying, and rising – for you. So no matter how discretely you are persecuted, God knows it all. God is a just God and will ultimately not allow sin to go unpunished. “Do not fear.”

Secondly, “Do not fear because the worst thing people can do to you is kill your body. They have no power over your soul.” Again, this doesn’t sound very comforting on the surface. All we know is our existence in this life, so the death of our body is something we fear.

But God tells us that there will be a resurrection of the dead and that there is life in the world to come. God has the power and rightful authority to cast you, body and soul, into hell. Because of your sin, you deserve that eternal punishment which was prepared for Satan and his angels (Mt. 25:41). But that is not your destiny, Christian. For you, God has prepared from before the foundation of the world (Mt. 25:34) an eternal kingdom of righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. “Do not fear.”

Finally, “Do not fear because you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Jesus says that two sparrows are worth only a penny (back then this was 1/16th of a day’s wage). Sparrows are basically worthless, but God takes note of every sparrow that dies.

Even beyond that, at any given moment, God knows the number of hairs of your head. He knows you and every part of you intimately and perfectly. And He loves you. Even if you are persecuted, suffer, and die, God knows. “Do not fear.”

Blessings from the CrossIn the face of persecution and death, Jesus tells His disciples – and you – do not fear, but acknowledge (lit. ‘confess’) Christ. Jesus solemnly urges you to make your confession of salvation through Christ. He has redeemed you and everyone you meet with His holy and precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death.

My “No Fear” sweatshirt was meaningless words of thread. But Jesus’ simple words, “Do not fear,” are more than your normal, everyday words – they are God’s words. God’s words are His actions, so, “Do not fear.”

In the face of sickness, cancer, and disease, keep your confession and do not fear. In the face of this world which always appears to be falling apart at the seams, keep your confession and do not fear.

God’s love for you is unquestionable. He has sent His Son to suffer and die for you. He has forgiven your sins. As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed your sins from you. “Do not fear.” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Acts 2:1-21 – These Last Days

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Acts 2:1-21—When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;

18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.Pentecost Spirit

Today is Pentecost Sunday which marks the beginning of the last days. God’s Spirit who was there at the beginning of creation hovering over the face of the waters is now sent spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus to all mankind which comes through the waters of baptism (Act. 2:38).

Pentecost, as you have heard in years past, was initially a Jewish festival which remembered when God descended on Mt. Sinai in fire and cloud in order to give the Ten Commandments which was God’s covenant with the people of Israel. In our text, God again descends in fire with the New Covenant to God’s people which replaces the old covenant. God gives this New Covenant in Christ’s blood to all humanity So the disciples speak about Jesus and the Gospel.

The Jewish festival of Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Passover. At Passover, the people of Israel remembered how God had protected them from the angel of death by the blood of the lamb smeared on their doorposts. They remembered how Pharaoh and his army had been defeated by drowning in the Red Sea. Fifty days later on the day of Pentecost, the Israelites remembered how they assembled before Mt. Sinai which was covered in fire and smoke. They stood far off from the mountain out of fear of God’s command to not touch the mountain. They remembered how God’s terrifying voice spoke to them the words of His law, His Torah.

In our text, it has been fifty days since Christ’s Passover. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has been slain. Fifty days before this day the angel of death descended upon Christ as He hung on the cross. Now the voice of God comes again to His people assembled around His holy mountain – Mt. Zion. The enemies of sin, death, and the devil have been defeated. The voice of God comes to them, and they cannot help but spread the Good News of the voice of God to all the people assembled in Jerusalem.

Jesus had promised the disciples, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [My] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47). Now we see how easy God made it for this to happen. Rather than the disciples having to travel to every corner of the earth, God brings “devout men from every nation under heaven” to Jerusalem to stand right before the disciples so they can hear. Paul reaffirms this in Ro. 10:18 saying that the Gospel of Christ has indeed gone throughout the earth even to the ends of the world.

Peter, and those who were with him, were accused of being drunk with new wine because of how they prophesied, preaching about the mighty acts of God which Christ had done.

Peter says that what is happening at the Pentecost is that the last days have come. God has poured His Spirit out on all flesh. So all sorts of people are prophesying about what God has done with sin – He has condemned sin in the flesh (Ro. 8:3) of Jesus.

Peter uses these words from Joel 2:28-32 to say that the events of Pentecost are God’s activity in the last days. A new age has arrived (I. H. Marshall).

To understand all of this, it is important to know context of the verses from Joel. In Joel, a plague of locusts has come and gone, and Joel is now calling the people to repentance before the day of the Lord comes.

Jesus spoke about how the judgment of the world had come in His cross (Jn. 12:31). God’s judgment against the sin of the world all falls on Christ as God pours out all His wrath against sin upon Christ. That’s why, as Peter continues his sermon after our text (which will be one of our texts next week), Peter speaks about Christ and the cross.

Peter speaks about how Christ did many miraculous signs among the people, yet He was delivered to sinful men to be crucified and killed. However, God did not allow Jesus to see corruption, but raised Him from the dead. Jesus then ascended to the Father where He sits ruling as Lord over all creation.

The people are “cut to the heart” because of this message. So the Holy Spirit directs Peter to prophesy the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.

Jesus takes and becomes sinThis message is for you here today. God gives an urgency to this message because these are the last days. God’s final attack on sin has occurred in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, be united with Him through baptism. Are you already baptized? Good; remember the promise God made to you there. His promise is that He has forgiven your sins, made you His child, and ushered you into His presence now and forever. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.