Friday 18 June 2010

Prepared to proclaim (Matthew 10:22)

This week we looked at some hard words from Jesus about persecution and I wanted to reflect on the words of Chapter 10 verse 22:

"All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

  1. Preparing for reality of suffering
    1 Peter 4:12 says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." What is striking about the way Peter describes suffering here is not the extent or intensity of pain; but how the Christians are caught by surprise by the reality of suffering. Jesus himself says, "I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you." (John 16:4)

    This is Christianity 101. This is basic discipleship; You will suffer. Paul understands this. Returning from his first missionary journey together with Barnabas in Acts 14, having planted new churches, and established them with new leaders, his first words to them recorded for us in verse 22 are, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

  2. Recognising the reason for rejection
    "All men will hate you because of me," Jesus says (verse 22). The disciples will be "brought before governors and kings", on my account (verse 18). "If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household" (verse 25).

    Jesus anticipates the rejection of his disciples as a reflection of the world's rejection of himself. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." (John 15:18)

  3. The hope, certainty and comfort of salvation
    Jesus says, "You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes" (verse 23). Though he calls his disciples to faithfulness in the face of persecution ("he who stands firm to the end" - verse 22); here Jesus promises that their trial will be cut short before it reaches out of hand.

    Verses 22 and 23 are linked by the Greek word "telos" - translated in 22 as "the end" and in 23 as "finish". Though the apostles are to stand to the "finish", their persecution will not "finish"/"run it's full course" before the "Son of Man comes". Though this is commonly thought of as a reference to the second coming of Jesus - it is more appropriately understood as the fulfilment of Jesus' exaltation through his death on the cross.

    The title "Son of Man" is a reference to Daniel 7:13 - which describes one "like a son of man" coming with the clouds of heaven to receive authority, glory and power from God, pictured there as the Ancient of Days.

  4. Recognising the suffering of Christ
    Ultimately, Jesus is preparing the Twelve, not for their suffering, but his. He draws their attention to his own rejection by the religious leaders (verse 25; compare also with 9:34 and 12:24); hints at his own betrayal (linking verse 21 - brother will betray brother - the word "betray" literally meaning "handing over"; the same word used in verse 17 - "they will hand you over"; and the same word used to describe Judas in verse 4 - "who betrayed (Jesus)" - see also Matthew 26:2) and connects the end/finishing/completion of their suffering with his exaltation at the coming of the Son of Man (verse 23).

    Jesus, in sending the apostles out as his missionaries and messengers, is saying to them, "Don't just look to the successes of my current ministry - the crowds, the power, the signs, the authority, the healing, the miracles, the casting out of demons, the calming of the storm, the awe-struck response to my teaching - don't just look at these ministry 'successes'; but look at the growing response of hostility and rejection to me. That will be the pattern of your ministry as well. I have come into this world of hostility and conflict; and I now send you into this same world."

  5. Encouraged to speak boldly of message of Christ
    The ESV's translation of verse 22 is closer to the mark - "You will be hated by all for my name’s sake."

    Acts 5 records the fulfilment of Jesus' words in the experience of the apostles. Having been arrested by the temple guard, Peter and the apostles are made to appear before the Sanhedrin, flogged, and then warned "not to speak in the name of Jesus" (verses 40; see also verse 28). Verse 41 reads, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."

    In chapters 4 and 5, "Jesus' name" becomes a shorthand for referring to the proclamation and teaching of, or identification with the gospel. To suffer hatred and rejection for "the Name", therefore means to face persecution for speaking message of the gospel.

    Hence looking again at Matthew 10:22 in its entirety, Jesus is calling his twelve apostles to "stand firm to the end" - by calling them to proclaim the gospel - the message of Jesus as the rejected Christ through his death on the cross. Inasmuch as it is a call to endurance in the face of our own suffering, it is moreover a call to faithfulness in witnessing to the sufferings of Christ.

No comments: