“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking – it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”
(Matthew 10:16-20, NLT).
(Matthew 10:16-20, NLT).
[You may want to read Jesus Commissions the Twelve: Responsibility to bring the Message and to Care for the Messenger. Click Here]
The key instruction in this passage is “Beware!” battles lay ahead, and the apostles needed to be prepared – shrewd, harmless, and ready for anything. They would need to be unafraid of conflict but also able to deal with it with integrity. Jesus warned them that the Gospel would not be warmly welcomed in all places (even in the “synagogue” which was the common place for worship, they will be persecuted).
At times the disciples would face outright antagonism. This would be more than mere differences of opinion or unfriendly families and communities. The opposition would come from religious and authorities (like we, Malaysian Christians, are ‘mildly’ opposed). The apostles would be arrested and could face harsh punishment simply for believing in Jesus and telling others about him. But these persecutions would provide opportunities for presenting the Gospel. Later, the disciples did experience these hardships (see Acts 5:40; 12:1-3; 22:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24). Interestingly, the word “martyrs” comes from the Greek word for witness or testimony.
Jesus said, “Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say.” Some mistakenly think this means believers do not have to prepare to present the Gospel because God will take care of everything. The Bible says, however, that we are to make carefully prepared, thoughtful statements (Colossians 4:6). Later one of these commissioned men, Peter, would write, “If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus was telling his followers to prepare but not to worry. He promised special inspiration for times of great need. Be encouraged.
Jesus warned the apostles to focus on their mission and turn their defence into a testimony of faith. We must assume that as we live for Christ and tell others about him, we will face persecution (physically or mentally or socially or all of these and perhaps more. But spiritually we will be empowered and strengthen by God). At those times, we can thank God for the opportunities and remember that Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33) and in him we will too.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.