Good morning and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. It’s great to be with you again. Firstly, I just want to say a massive thank you to Sam Watson – a new member of the team here – for his awesome reflections yesterday as he spoke about learning to trust in the Father’s provision. If you’ve not yet listened, do check it out on catch up – it was great!
Picking up the thread again today – the passage we have is a continuation of what Sam began to unpack for us yesterday. These are Jesus’ instructions to his disciples before he sent them out in His authority to proclaim the Kingdom.
Our passage today is Matthew 10: 21-42. We are going to focus on verses 38- 39:
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
If yesterday was the excitement and adventure of ‘Go, proclaim the kingdom ’ then today Jesus is bringing the reality of what that will mean for his twelve disciples. He doesn’t try to sugar coat it. Hatred, persecution, being made to flee, threatened with arrest ….threatened with death….He’s spelling out to them the reality of what being a fisher of people actually looked like. Part of me wonders what they felt at this point hearing all of this? Was this what they had signed up for?
Perhaps Jesus knows all of this….being God he would have done of course… which is why, as we see also in today’s passage, He reaffirms that covenantal call – Yes, you will go but the Lord goes with you. You are loved. God cares for you! He’s got you.
And then Jesus kind of brings it all into land…summarising as only Jesus can do. What does it mean to be my disciple? Basically, guys, what I’m asking you do is to be willing to die… to pick up your cross. Jesus uses the image of crucifixion. It sounds harsh to our ears. In a time when the Romans were regularly dishing this out as a form of punishment, this would have been utterly shocking to the disciples’ ears.
Jesus lays the reality bare. As the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote – “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Die to what, Jesus?
To die to maybe our own self. To die to putting our own needs first. To being in control. To having to fix everything. To owning our own future. That is what picking up our cross means. It’s embracing God’s will over our own. It’s saying I’m all in! I’m all yours.
In a podcast I listened to recently, I heard it described this way: that that what Jesus calls us to as His disciples… is a kind of dying that leads to living.
As we’ve reflected on much recently, this is a season of mourning. On a global scale we are mourning the loss of now over a million lives to COVID and counting. For each of us, it has impacted our way of life to the extent that we have known loss. Maybe someone we love. Maybe a job. An idea of what university might be like. A way of seeing people. A way of worshipping in church. Loss.
This is a season where we could go one of two ways – we either step away, check out, throw the towel in and find ourselves becoming more and more detached from God or we choose to really press in to Him, to lean on Him, to take the language of Jesus in John 15 – to abide, to remain in Him.
I don’t believe God has sent COVID but I do believe he can show us something in this crazy season.
Just maybe it’s something that Jesus was trying to illustrate to his disciples 2000 years ago ahead of that epic mission they were about to embark on. Because Jesus knew that as he sent his disciples out… they were going to find themselves in the place of faith. A place where they simply could not do anything unless God turned up, to provide, to protect, to reveal his power. That must have been a pretty challenging and uncomfortable place to be in. To really let go and let God take over.
What about us? Each of us – we are in the place of faith too. We don’t know what the next 6, 12, 18 months could look like. This whole season feels a bit like stepping off a cliff and we are still waiting to hit the bottom.
But it’s in that place where God gives us the gift of faith. Where we simply have to let go of having to have all the answers and sort it – because let’s face it – we can’t. And in that place, an exchange takes place.
In our weakness God reveals his strength. In our darkness we see His light. The life Jesus longs to bring us can only come through death.
Discipleship is an invitation to come follow Him be a part of, work for the beautiful kingdom he is building but with that comes a choice. His way over my way. My life to receive his eternal gift. And it’s in that handover that we know freedom. That we take hold of hope. That we receive life.
Jesus, thank you that you laid down your life for mine. That the life you offer us is richer, fuller and more beautiful that we could ever imagine but that it comes also with a cost. Lord, let us be a people who are willing to count that cost, to die to the areas of our life that we struggle to let go off. Help us to press into your grace this day, and every day. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 10:21-42
‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
‘The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
‘So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
‘“a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’