In today’s Biblenotes.email we reflect on a couple of verses from chapter ten of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus has called his disciples and is preparing to send them out into the world. Can you imagine how they might have felt at this point? They have witnessed Jesus’ teaching. They have seen him raise a dead girl and heal a sick woman. They have seen him heal the blind and the mute. Now Jesus gives his disciples “authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (10:1). What a daunting prospect! I can imagine their nervousness at emulating their master in the world. Before they leave, though, Jesus gives them careful instructions about what they should and shouldn’t do, and how they should respond to the world.
We join Jesus and the disciples at a particularly challenging point in his teaching:
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
I often see a highly decorated car parked outside the station when I walk home after catching my train back from work. It’s covered with all manner of decorations and signs. It’s rather distinctive! It’s not every day one sees such a vibrantly decorated car. Indeed, these days even car stickers seem few and far between. It used to be common to see stickers boasting of National Trust membership, or RSPB membership, or advising that the driver’s other car was, for example, a tractor. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think there are as many of these around as there used to be. I don’t think it’s because fewer people are members of organisations. Is it because people don’t feel to proclaim their membership? Who knows!
In the verses above Jesus explains why it is so important that we do not keep our membership of his family secret, but proclaim it widely. Whoever tells people that they know Jesus, that they have put their trust in him, that they follow him and that they love him, Jesus will do the same for them when we encounter God on the day of our judgement. Jesus will proudly tell his father that here stands someone whom he loves, because this person has trusted him, followed him, loved him, honoured him and respected him. As a consequence, this person can have confidence knowing that after their earthly death, eternal life in God’s new creation will be their reward.
Conversely, those who do not proclaim their relationship with Jesus, or even deny knowing him, can expect Jesus to do the same with them when they find themselves stood before God on the day of judgement. “Do you know this person?” God the Father will ask his son. “No, I don’t,” the response will come. “This persons hasn’t trusted me, followed me, loved me, honoured me and respected me.” What are the consequences of that? Eternal separation from God, and denial of a place in God’s new creation. To put it in a word: death.
Challenging words from Jesus.
Do we boast of our love for Christ? Do we tell everyone who will listen that we are followers of Christ? When someone asks us, “you’re a Christian, aren’t you?” do we proudly respond, “yes, I am,” or do we try to avoid answering, change the subject, or even deny our faith?
For many living today, publicly accepting that they are followers of Christ can result in mockery, persecution, arrest, or even death. I wonder how I would respond if I found myself facing death if I proclaimed my faith in Christ? I hope that I would have the courage and the strength to proudly assert my faith, but how hard must it be to proclaim Christ if doing so could result in death. When there are people confronting this reality each and every day, it puts into perspective the challenges of those who live in countries where proclaiming Christ may lead merely to mockery or ridicule.
Ultimately, as Christians we take an eternal perspective on life and our existence. Proclaiming our faith might sometimes be tricky or make us feel uncomfortable, but by doing so we have the hope that Jesus will declare that we have acknowledged him before his Father, ensuring that we might spend eternity with him after our earthly deaths.
Question for reflection: How do I respond when people speak about Jesus? Do I proclaim him as my Lord, or do I avoid getting drawn into the conversation?
Visit the Open Doors website to find out how you can support those who suffer persecution and discrimination for their faith.
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