Lesson 22: Sheep Among Wolves (Matthew 10:16-33)Related Media
I. Intro and Recap:
a. This is the second discourse of Jesus that Matthew records. The first one was the Sermon on the Mount.
b. Jesus sent them out on a short-term mission, and he gives his disciples instructions on their short-term mission, but his message here seems to drift more into the long-term mission. Which makes this somewhat tricky.
i. How do we apply this? Who is the audience? When will this happen?
ii. I think it’s helpful to say that chapter 10…
1. It was happening.
2. It has happened.
3. It will happen.
iii. The words from Jesus here are telescoping. It’s a telescoping prophecy.
1. Persecution was happening to them.
2. Persecution will happen to them more.
3. Persecution will continue to happen to His disciples.
c. In this section Jesus envisioned a long period of time when His disciples would be persecuted and yet witness to the Truth.
i. He starts off with speaking about this mission that the 12 are about to go on, then he pans out to include all believers, and even including the Great Tribulation.
ii. Jesus forecasts the global holocaust that is coming upon His Church and His disciples.
iii. This type of telescoping prophecy is common in Scripture.
iv. Often times a writer will prophecy two events at the same time.
d. This message has one point: Expect persecution and don’t live in fear. And that’s the outline.
II. Principle #1- Expect Severe Persecution (10:16-25, 34-36).
a. The main point of this section is pretty simple: We are like sheep among wolves (10:16).
i. This is an interesting metaphor that Jesus picks.
1. Normally, a shepherd would protect his sheep from wolves, but Jesus is sending His sheep into the wolf pack.
2. This is a call to the cost of discipleship. Be prepared to live like a sheep among wolves.
3. Acts 20:29, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…”
4. Mat. 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
5. Jesus sends them out as defenseless sheep among evil, wicked, vicious, God-haters.
ii. This was a promise of difficulty and tribulation and persecution.
1. It’s like what Winston Churchill said to Great Britain after a heavy setback for the Allies, “All I can offer you is blood, sweat, and tears” Winston Churchill.
2. Jesus is promising that life as a disciple of His, would be like a sheep amidst wolves.
3. Between the first and second comings, things will be bad.
b. This promise of persecution was actually made many many years ago:
i. The prophet Daniel predicted successive governments that get worse and worse until the Christ comes back.
ii. Jesus referred to this time as the “time of the Gentiles.” Gentiles, not Jews would be large and in charge.
iii. The times of the gentiles would be marked by a tension between the State and God’s people.
iv. In the book of Daniel, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrates this.
1. These three guys are commanded to bow down and worship a statue, which represented the State.
2. But they wouldn’t bend their knee; and they are persecuted for it. They are thrown in to a fiery furnace.
3. It’s an illustration for us of what life will be like for God-fearing people until Jesus comes back.
4. The King is coming back, but in the meantime, things will not go well for followers of Jesus.
c. So, how do we live in a hostile world?
i. “Wise as serpents…”
1. serpents carried the idea of clever.
2. Be prudent. Sensible.
3. Don’t be naïve.
4. Don’t be inflammatory.
5. Avoid conflicts and attacks.
6. Have a sense of appropriateness.
7. Don’t be an idiot.
8. Car dealer who was a Christian.
a. He was committed. He knew His bible. But the other workers couldn’t stand him.
ii. “Innocent as doves…”
1. “Innocent” lit. means “unmixed”
2. Be different from the world. Be holy.
3. Prudent and innocent.
4. Many missionaries need to practice this to literally stay alive.
5. This saying of doves and serpents would mean that when missionaries go into a hostile situation they need to live upright morals lives, while not necessarily divulging their motives to see people saved from their sins with the Good News of Jesus.
iii. Bottom line: we want to win people!
1. 1 Cor. 9:19, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”
d. Persecution will come from four areas:
i. #1- Persecution from Religion. (10:17).
1. “they will flog you in their synagogues.”
2. Jesus experienced persecution from the religious folks.
3. It was the religious people of the day who put Him to death.
4. The early church was almost entirely persecuted by Jews for the first few decades.
5. Paul is persecuted by idol makers Acts 19.
a. Paul upset the silversmiths who made idols for Diana because they were running out of business.
6. We know that in the end times there will be a global religious system.
a. Babylon the Great will be a worldwide religious system.
b. Rev. 17:5, “And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”
7. What about today?
a. Islam is increasingly a threat to Christians all over the world, and of course not only Christians, but anyone who will not submit to Mohammad and the Koran.
i. Just last week in London a British soldier was beheaded in the middle of the day.
ii. The two men who did it were Muslim and were quoting the Qur’an.
iii. They were Muslim street preachers.
iv. I just ordered a book called “What every Christian needs to know about the Qur’an.”
v. Make no mistake about it. For folks who believe the Qur’ran, they desire to bring you under submission to Mohammad, or else behead you.
vi. Maybe we will see more of this as time goes. But Jesus certainly prophesied this would happen.
b. Newsweek Magazine, Feb. 13th 2012, had as it’s cover “The War on Christians” The title of the article was “The rise of Christophobia: From the one end of the Muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith.”
1. “We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm…From blasphemy laws to brutal murders to bombings to mutilations and the burning of holy sites, Christians in many nations live in fear.”
c. The world is a dangerous place.
ii. #2- Persecution from Government (10:18).
1. “you will be dragged before governors and kings…”
2. In the past 2000 years much of the persecution that has come against Christians has been through the State.
3. The State has been responsible for millions of deaths.
a. Communism and Socialism hate Christianity.
b. “Government is ordained by God but manipulated by Satan.” MacArthur
4. Foxe’s book of Martyrs says that the only apostle who escaped a violent death from the State was the Apostle John.
a. He starts with Jesus, and tells the stories of persecution of the apostles from the Roman Empire, then on to the other emperor’s. Then the persecutions and martyrs on Christian from the Catholic church on folks like Wycliffe and John Huss and Tyndale.
b. It’s a massive chronicle of how Christians have been beaten and killed.
5. But this persecution was promised by God. We will be persecuted.
6. The world will hate Christians because the world hates Christ.
a. If you claim Christ, you have just made yourself a target.
b. John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
7. What about today? How can we expect the State to persecute us?
a. Well, first off, Paul tells us to pray for freedom and peace. But if the Lord instead chooses to judge our nation, which we see happening, then I think we can expect:
b. A persecution through the courts.
c. Reckless laws will be passed.
d. Tax-exempt status’s for churches and charitable giving will be denied.
e. Hate-crimes will be applied to preachers who condemn the sin of homosexuality.
f. Or, more mildly, churches will lose tax-exempt status for taking a stand on biblical principles.
g. Maybe jail for preaching the Word? Why not?
8. But the Holy Spirit will direct us as we go.
9. And for us, as Americans. We enjoy a great measure of freedom, but are we prepared to not bend the knee to the State, if the State ever asks us to go against our conscience and the Word of God? I hope it doesn’t, but that day may come. And if history repeats itself, then that day WILL come.
iii. #3- Persecution from Family (10:21-22, 34-36).
1. Brother will deliver brother…
2. This may be the most difficult form of persecution.
3. To be ostracized from your family because of Christ is no easy thing.
4. In some places in the world, people will hold a funeral for a family member who has converted to Christianity.
5. Even worse, they will deliver you over to death. Brothers and fathers and mothers will do this.
6. Jesus says, “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household…”
7. Conflict will come on account of Jesus.
iv. #4- Persecution from Society (10:22).
1. “and you will be hated by all”
a. He isn’t implying all people, literarily, even Christians.
b. He is saying all people, generally. Society as a whole.
2. The Bible makes it clear that we will true Christians will not be cool in the worlds eyes. This is a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner you do, the better. Christians will never be the cool kids on the block.
a. 1 Cor. 4:9-13, “…we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
b. Rom. 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
a. The “Atlantic” this week made headlines with, “Support for Same-Sex Marriage has doubled since 1996.”
b. After 103 years The Boy scouts lifted their previous ban on homosexuals and now allow gay boys to be members, although they did not lift the ban on gay leaders. Which shows the hypocrisy of the decision.
c. “The church’s engagement with the culture involves a host of issues, controversies, and decisions–but no issue defines our current cultural crisis as clearly as homosexuality.” Al Mohler
4. Hollywood and the media.
a. Will not portray Christians in a positive light.
b. We will be seen as haters. As bigots. As intellectually inferior.
c. Colleges and Universities and schools will continue to disparage Christians.
5. The hatred and hostility will come from “all” of society and it will go from bad to worse.
6. But let’s not play the victim, my brothers and sisters! Let’s not cry foul and pout our way to the Promised Land!
7. Let’s proudly bear the Name of Christ!
8. Let’s thank God that we are considered worthy of suffering for His Name!
9. And honestly, our suffering is nothing compared to the suffering going on in the rest of the world!
10. Is America heading south down a moral sewage pipe? Yea! But why should that alarm us? This was never meant to be a Utopia, and we are not home yet!
11. I love America, but I love heaven more. Maranatha!
e. The one who endures to the end will be saved (10:23).
i. Only those who last; only those who persevere will be saved.
1. 1 Cor. 15:1-2, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”
2. Heb. 2:1, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”
ii. “When they persecute you, flee”
1. Don’t take it like a man if you don’t have to.
2. Run away!
3. You are not obligated to get arrested or imprisoned if you don’t have to.
4. Paul did this. When persecution became too intense, he left for another region.
iii. “until the Son of Man comes.”
1. (v. 23) “This verse is among the most difficult of the NT canon.” Carson
2. Some feel this statement “the Son of Man comes” is the same as saying “The kingdom of God has come.”
3. This is a clear eschatological statement.
4. Even during the end times, during the Great Tribulation when the 144,000 Jewish preachers are preaching all over the globe.
f. Expect Persecution because Jesus was persecuted (10:24-25).
i. Beelzubul means “head of the house”
ii. It was a common name for Satan or “Prince Baal”
iii. Jesus was called Satan. He was criticized for casting out demons by the prince of demons.
iv. We shouldn’t expect anything less.
1. “Lord of the flies” novel by William Golding is required reading in most High Schools and Universities.
a. They made a film which my wife and I just watched a few months ago, a black and white, made in 1963.
b. tell the story…
i. In Lord of the Flies, British schoolboys are stranded on a tropical island. In an attempt to recreate the culture they left behind, they elect Ralph to lead, with the intellectual Piggy as counselor. But Jack wants to lead, too, and one-by-one, he lures the boys from civility and reason to the savage survivalism of primeval hunters. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding gives us a glimpse of the savagery that underlies even the most civilized human beings.
ii. These English schoolboys turn in to a pack of vicious wolves.
c. The British officer arrives to discover the depth of their depravity.
i. Factions, gangs, jealousy, murder, hatred.
i. Moral of the story is that they couldn’t fix themselves. They needed to be delivered from without. Salvation comes from the outside.
2. That’s a bit of a picture of the world we live in. It’s hostile to God. It’s anti-Christ. It hates God and would gladly put Him to death. It did!
3. So in verse 25 Jesus is telling his disciples to not expect anything less.
4. If the world hates Jesus, and it does, then the world will hate you.
v. Expect persecution from religious people, expect persecution from the government, expect persecution from your family, and expect persecution from society.
vi. You will be like sheep amongst a pack of wolves in this world.
III. Principle #2- Don’t Live in Fear (10:26-33).
a. Such statements about persecution might have freaked the disciples out. Statements about being dragged in front of governors and kings and having family members hate you might cause some people to fear. Starting in v. 26 Jesus tells them they need not fear.
i. Jesus calls His disciples to be fearless, but not foolish.
ii. Disciples shouldn’t seek out persecution.
iii. Disciples shouldn’t be provocative, they should be prudent, wise as a serpent.
iv. BUT, there may be circumstances when they need to pick up and move town?
v. Maybe they thought that they needed to stockpile weapons?
vi. Believe it or not, Jesus seems to imply that both of those may be legitimate options…
vii. Just a few verses earlier Jesus tells them than moving towns because of persecution may be the right thing to do.
1. “when they persecute you in one town, flee to the next”
viii. Jesus also tells the disciples in Luke’s gospel to be prepared to defend themselves.
1. Luke 22:36, “And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”
2. BUT, they should NOT move out of fear, or purchase a sword out of fear.
3. Jesus gives three reasons why they need not fear.
b. Don’t fear people because the truth will prevail (26-27).
i. The disciples will be vindicated.
ii. Teach publicly what you learn privately.
iii. Jesus describes the coming judgment as a time for disclosing all the secrets of individuals’ lives.
iv. The truth will prevail, and every knee will bow.
v. The gospel which was suppressed and ignored and covered by some, will be revealed and exposed. The light will expose the darkness.
vi. So don’t fear. Believers will even take part in judging unbelievers as 1 Cor. 6:2 says.
vii. Don’t fear, rest in the truth.
c. Don’t fear people because God is more powerful than man (28).
i. Physical death is nothing compared to spiritual death.
ii. They can take your body, but they cannot take your soul!
iii. I must quote William Wallace here,
1. William Wallace: I *am* William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men... and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?
2. Veteran: Fight? Against that? No! We will run. And we will live.
3. William Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!
4. [Scottish army cheers]
iv. Little bit of a stretch but you get the point.
v. We are to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. But no matter what happens, they can’t take our souls away. They can take our bodies, but they can’t take about our freedom!
vi. Our eternal destiny is secure! Have no fear.
vii. Prov. 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
1. Fear God, not man.
2. Fear God, not governments.
3. Fear God, not legislation that persecutes.
4. Fear God, not family members who hate you.
5. Fear God, not society.
6. Fear God, that’s wisdom.
d. Don’t fear because God is sovereign (29-32)
i. “not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father.”
1. This is staggering!
2. The dust in the air! The flight of the sparrow. The cry of the baby. The division of cells. The rotation of the sun. The growth of cancer cells. The election of a President. The loss of a job. The path of a tornado. The flight of an asteroid. All do not take place without the knowledge and decision of the Lord.
3. Prov. 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
4. Prov. 21:1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”
5. Ex. 4:11, “Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
a. Family in Michigan who’s child has spina bifida.
b. This verse was an encouragement.
6. Eph. 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
ii. “you are of more value than many sparrows.”
1. God cares about the birds…
2. That thought alone should really encourage us.
3. You are more valuable than the birds!
iii. This ought to give us an enormous amount of confidence even when we are like sheep in the midst of a pack of wolves.
1. Martin Luther…
a. Luther was n stranger to controversy. He was like a sheep among a pack of wolves. He lived much of his life on the run, being smuggled by friends from here to there. Living in hiding, but not living in fear.
b. Translating the Bible into German while he was on the run.
c. These reformers were like sheep in the midst of a pack of wolves.
d. Many of them were burned at the stake for such crimes as, translating the Bible into English, and other horrifying crimes.
e. But they clung to the Providence of God.
f. Luther rested in the promise that, “God created the sparrows; this is why not one of them will fall to the ground without His will. God not only created human beings but also let His Dear Son suffer for them. Therefore He will and must care for them far more than He does for the worthless sparrows.”
g. There is no reason to fear, God cares for you more than the sparrows!
2. Stonewall Jackson:
a. When Phil Johnson was here last month we asked him who his favorite theologian was and he said it was R.L. Dabney. I had heard of Dabney, and knew Phil liked him, but didn’t know much about Dabney.
b. I was surprised when Phil mentioned that Dabney was a close personal friend of Stonewall Jackson and his chaplain during the Civil War and actually wrote Jackson’s biography.
c. Stonewall Jackson has sort of been labeled a religious fanatic, but the reality is that he was a very committed Biblical Christian with a high view of God and His Word.
d. His favorite pastime was to discuss theology. He lamented fighting on Sunday’s. although he did do it, reluctantly.
e. The NY Times had an article on Jackson a number of years ago and it said,.
i. “Theology was the only subject he genuinely enjoyed discussing. His dispatches invariably credited an ever-kind Providence. Assigning his fate to God's hands, he acted utterly fearlessly on the battlefield -- and expected the same of everyone else in Confederate gray…it was said he preferred good Presbyterians to good soldiers.”
f. Stonewall Jackson is legendary for his fearlessness. In fact his name nearly synonymous with courage and bravery. Both the North and the South acknowledged this. Little kids grew up wanting to be like Stonewall Jackson. He became a household name.
i. “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.... That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” Stonewall Jackson
i. Expect persecution.
ii. Don’t live in fear.
iii. We now live in a day and age when we need to think seriously about what it means to be a Christian in the 21st Century. We are like sheep among wolves, and the wolves are only getting hungrier.
1. What does it mean to not live in fear?
a. Does it mean stockpiling and self-defense classes? Maybe… But much more I think it means we pray for boldness and clarity and conviction and compassion.
b. While the wolves religion, government, family, and society howl and attack and persecute, let us trust in a sovereign God who cares more about us than He does the sparrows.
c. He is a God competent and able and coming back with a rod of iron.
d. The Son of Man will come. But will we be ready and will we be faithful in the meantime?
2. “Studdard Kennedy was a chaplain during World War II. He was often thrust into the frontlines of battle, ministering in the places of danger to his life. One day as he was going through France, he wrote a letter to his son, who was about ten years old.
a. “The first prayer I want my son to say for me is not, ‘God, keep Daddy safe,’ but ‘God make Daddy brave. And if he has hard thing to do, make him strong to do them.’
b. Son, life and death do not matter. But right and wrong do. Daddy dead is still Daddy still, but Daddy dishonored before God is something too awful for words. I suppose you would like to pray for safety too, and Mother would like that, I’m sure. Well, put it in afterwards, for it really doesn’t matter nearly as much as doing what is right.”
a. “whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
i. Some of you may remember that name. He was one of the founders of Youth for Christ, along with Billy Graham. And he was believed at that time to be the greatest of the preachers. Billy was kind of the second preacher. He was the great mind, he was the great presence, he had all the drama. He had it all--brilliant mind, all of that, and he became a great preacher and a great evangelist and preached to stadiums full of people and he was carrying the weight of that kind of Graham/Templeton duo in the early years. And people fell at his feet. People loved to listen to him. He was...he was basically targeted for massive success.
ii. Little by little it began to surface that he misrepresented Scripture. And he began to a little more, a little more out about what he thought about Scripture. It all came to a culmination when he wrote a book. The title of the book is a biography of his spiritual journey, and the title is Farewell to God by Charles Templeton. He ended up a journalist in Canada, a novelist, writer, television personality; Farewell to God.
iii. He first professed faith in 1936 and became an evangelist that same year. In 1945 he met Billy Graham and the two became friends, rooming and ministering together during a 1946 YFC evangelistic tour in Europe.
iv. But by 1948 Templeton’s life and worldview were beginning to go in a different direction than Graham’s. Doubts about the Christian faith were solidifying as he planned to enter Princeton Theological Seminary. Less than a decade later (1957), he would publicly declare that he had become an agnostic.
v. In his 1996 memoir, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith, Templeton recounted a conversation with Graham in Montreat prior to entering seminary:
1. They discussed the Bible, and Templeton now rejected it.
vi. Fifty years later, Lee Strobel had an opportunity to interview Templeton, who had just a couple of more years to live. He was in his 80s and suffering from Alzheimer’s, but still a clear conversation parter. In A Case for Faith, Strobel recounts the ending of their wide-ranging conversation.
vii. “And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question—but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.
viii. Templeton’s body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.
ix. “He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
x. I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
xi. “Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .
xii. “ . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’
xiii. “Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”
xiv. That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!”
xv. With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept. . . .
xvi. Templeton fought to compose himself. I could tell it wasn’t like him to lose control in front of a stranger. He sighed deeply and wiped away a tear. After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively. Finally, quietly but adamantly, he insisted: “Enough of that.”
V. The Gospel.