Instructions for Apostles - IV
24"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It 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! 26So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What 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. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So donít be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Continuing His instructions to the twelve Apostles preceding their first missionary journey, Jesus has been informing them that they will face persecution. In this section, Jesus gives three reasons why they should not fear this persecution. Three times in this passage, Jesus tells His followers, "Do not be afraid." In fact (so Iíve heard), the most oft-repeated commandment in the Bible given to Godís people is "Do not be afraid." With an all-powerful, and all-loving Lord, why should we be afraid of anything?
The first reason given by Jesus that they should not fear persecution is that He Himself, their Lord, faced persecution: "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 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! So do not be afraid of them" (vss. 24Ė26). As we learn in Mark 3:22, Beelzebub was a name given to the prince of demons. In that verse, Jesus is accused by the teachers of the law of being possessed by Beelzebub. Given this, Jesus here intimates that the apostles should not consider any persecution that they may encounter to be strange, for "a student is not above his teacher." On the contrary, we should expect, even rejoice in, such persecution, as Peter tells us: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed" (I Peter 4:12Ė13).
Moreover, Jesus next tells His apostles that they should not let any persecution deter them from spreading His message: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs" (vss. 26Ė27). Note that the message we proclaim is one we have received from the Lord. It is not something that we make up, or deduce ourselves. It is something we receive from Him as we study His Word, and as we meditate on it. And at times, as suggested here, He speaks to us "in the dark", presumably as we seek His will in prayer.
The second reason given by Jesus that His apostles should not fear persecution has to do with Godís control over our ultimate destiny: "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" (vs. 28). With this in mind, we would have to agree with Solomon when he said that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10). Whenever there is a conflict between what men say and what God says, it only makes sense to pay heed to the One "who can destroy both soul and body in hell." "There is no cure for the fear of man like the fear of God" [Spurgeon, 128]. "In proportion as one has a true fear of God, he will feel no fear of man" [Broadus, 230]. Men have no direct control over our ultimate destiny. Any persecution we face from men is temporary, even trivial, when viewed from the perspective of eternity.
However, God would rather not win us over with threatenings. Paul would have us realize that "Godís kindness leads you toward repentance" (Rom. 2:4). And despite the reality of His threatenings, God (as Peter tells us) does not want "anyone to perish", but rather wants "everyone to come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). This brings us to the third reason that Jesus gives for us not to fear the persecution of men: God cares for us. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of the your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So donít be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (vss. 29Ė31). There are those that believe in God who think that God only cares about the "big" things. Jesus, our Lord, assures us here that God is concerned with absolutely everything that goes on here on earth, even down to the most trivial detail. And not only is He concerned, He directs every detail. Read again: "Yet not one of [the sparrows] will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father" (vs. 29). The implication is clear. Since "you are worth more than many sparrows", there is nothing that happens to you that is not sanctioned by God. If you are persecuted by men as a result of your apostleship, this is the will of your Father in Heaven. "Nothing can happen in this world without His permission: there is no such thing in reality as chance, accident, or luck" [Ryle, 104].
And so, Father in Heaven, help us to heed the command given here by Jesus, "Do not be afraid." Give us boldness in sharing the good news of the Gospel with others. Give us strength in enduring whatever persecution we may experience. Help us to realize that in enduring persecution, we are walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ, who willingly endured persecution for our sakes. In His name we ask these things, Amen.