Sunday, January 10, 2010

Matthew 10 - Whose Life?

by Becky

LINK:
Matthew 10

BACKGROUND




Please read the chapter before you read my comments. One danger in devotionals is that they often substitute for God’s Word. God’s Word is special, inspired by Him and given to us. My words are my words. I meditate and pray before I write them. I try to write what is true. But my perspective is limited. So if you don’t have much time and you can only read part, please click on the link and read the passage from the Bible before going any farther here.



This passage names the twelve men that Jesus chose as his closest disciples – men who learned from Him. These men are also called “apostles” in verse 2, which means that they were designated messengers, chosen and charged to carry Jesus’ message to others. There is no indication that any of them were powerful or rich. They were all Jews. The New Testament follows the Old Testament and God came through the people He’d chosen and worked in and warned for centuries.



The rest of the chapter is the charge that was given to them. It seems to me to be divided into three sections, each closing with “Truly, I say to you.”



Vv. 5 – 16 give an immediate charge, something the twelve were to do right then. They are told not to go to the Gentiles or to Samaria. That was a temporary charge for this one instance. Jesus himself went Samaria and ministered to Gentiles. At the end of Matthew Jesus charges his disciples to go into the whole word to all cultures. And in Acts 1:8 Jesus’ disciples are told that they will be his witnesses to the ends of the world. These instructions here are for a specific time and place, though principles here can be applied to those of us who follow Jesus. Can you see any principles?



Vv. 17 – 23 instruct the disciples about the near future and what they will face. Again, there are principles here for us.



Vv. 24 – 42 seem to be for anyone who has decided to follow and learn from Jesus.



REFLECTION



This chapter is so full of instruction that there’s no way I can deal with it all here, so I’m just going to reflect on a couple of things that stood out to me as I read and meditated on the passage this time.



It hit me that Jesus tells his disciples to try to avoid conflict and persecution, in so far as they can do it without rejecting Him. Jesus said to the twelve in v. 16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men…” Look at the metaphors there! They are helpless (like sheep) being sent out among people compared to wolves, the very predators of sheep. They will need to keep their wits! Ancient people characterized the serpent as cunning and wise. The word translated shrewd here could also be translated prudent, which means to look ahead and practice common sense. Jesus also tells the disciples to be “innocent as doves,” without deceit and guile. The disciples were going into danger, and they would need to be alert and wary and careful and free of impure motives or actions. Jesus also tells them that they will be persecuted, and when they are able they are to flee to the next town (v 23). Persecution will come, but they are to try to avoid it, while still remaining true to Jesus.



The whole point of this chapter is that Jesus’ disciples are to be like Jesus. We can expect to be treated as He was and we should respond as He did. He had to leave his family. (That sword in v34 is a metaphor for being divided. Jesus didn’t come to give peace at all cost. He came to glorify His Father. When we follow Him, we may have to be divided from family members who don’t in order to glorify our Father.)



The verses that hit me most are vv. 38 – 39. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”



Following Jesus means self-denial. It is not possible to follow Him and still keep the rights to your own life. This is hard. Every day I am faced with a choice to either follow Him or do what I want. Sometimes it does feel like dying. I have to say no to myself and yes to Him. Being a Christian is not about self-actualization. It’s not about “me” at all. It’s all about Him. I’m not just losing my life for some generic purpose. It’s not enough to be nice and unselfish so that others will be that way to me, or good as long as it doesn’t hurt too much or for what it will get me. Motivation matters. The reason I am to lose my life is FOR JESUS’ SAKE. He gave His life for me. He bought me with His blood. I am His.



I wish we were sitting around in my living room talking about this passage. I’m trying to think of specific examples from my own life and all the ones I’m thinking of are either too difficult to explain or seem too glib. There are times when I KNOW what God says is the way, but I want to do it my way because God’s way seems too hard. Everything in me cries out that this is too much to ask. That’s exactly when I need to lose my life for Jesus’ sake.



In losing my life, I will find it. A paradox, but true.



APPLICATION


Can you think of ways you’re trying to “find” your life rather than lose it for Jesus’ sake? Is there something you know He wants you to do, but you feel like it’s too hard and is asking too much? It could be something like forgiving someone or making a choice to obey Him in hard circumstances. Whatever it is, chose to” lose your life” for His sake. He gave His for you.



PRAYER



Thank you LORD, that Jesus shows us the way to life. What seems like death to us is really life. Thank you that Jesus died for us and then rose again. We can rest in His love for us, even as we love Him back imperfectly. Please remind us that we are not our own. Help us to die to ourselves and live for Jesus.
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