Matthew 10:17-11:1 (NKJV)
17 “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26 “Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27 ” Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 ” Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34 ” Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. 40 ” He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” NKJ Matthew 11:1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.
The widespread rejection of Jesus’ apostles which we heard about in today’s reading would not take place during this first sending, but it would certainly take place later, and at various times until the end of the world. Peter and John would be the first to be arrested, interrogated, and beaten. James would be the first apostle to be put to death. And countless other Christians, both ministers and laity, would be unjustly targeted and brutally tortured and killed within the next three hundred years. During much of that time, there would be nowhere in the world where it would be safe to be a Christian.
And yet Jesus promises divine help to give an answer and to make the good confession. He assures His Christians that they matter to Him, even when it looks like they’ve been abandoned, and that He will be their Avenger, too, though not at once.
This is the way it must be on this earth. Those who confess Christ must be made to resemble Him, first before God, through faith, in perfect righteousness and holiness; then before men, through confession, in great humility and shame. No one and nothing can come before Him—not our families, not even our own life. But the rewards He promises after this life are so great that they cannot be compared with these present sufferings. This is why we commemorate the martyrs of every age, that we may be encouraged by their example and trained to imitate it.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, strengthen us to confess You before men. Grant us wisdom and a mouth to speak, that Your name may be glorified and Your Church edified through Your Spirit’s work in us. Amen.