Our passage for today is taken from the New Testament, it’s Matthew 10:24-31. The background is that Jesus knew that for his followers there would be hard times to come; times when they would be criticised, ridiculed and rejected. They may experience opposition, persecution and abuse. Even family and friends may turn against them.
The task to which they were called was demanding and, on their own, they would be vulnerable. In fact, Jesus had earlier told them “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”. (Mt 10:16)
He was being brutally honest, but he was also being realistic in what may lie ahead. In other words, they could face both physical and emotional opposition.
We can perhaps imagine how the Disciples may have been feeling when they heard what may lie ahead. How would we be feeling if we were in their shoes? Concerned, apprehensive, or even frightened?
So, to help them, and us, because fear in one form or another is an emotion that we all experience, Jesus says, “do not be afraid”.
So important is the message that in this passage He doesn’t just say it once, he reinforces it three times in the space of only five verses, “do not be afraid”. (Matthew 10: 26,28,31)
Do not be afraid, because God’s power is greater than anything they, or we, may ever encounter.
Do not be afraid, because we are valued by God. How much does God value us? Jesus illustrates this by saying “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father” (10:29)
If the tiny sparrow, which the world considers to be almost worthless, is important to God, then how much more do we matter.
Do not be afraid, because God cares for all His people and knows them so well that “even the very hairs of your head are numbered” (Mt 10: 30). Every detail, every aspect of our lives is of concern to God.
This call to banish fears and have faith in God at all times and in every situation is found throughout scripture. God, himself repeats it over and over again because He knows that as humans, we can be susceptible to fear. Faith can weaken, and so God encourages His people.
He told Joshua, “This is my command, be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. (Joshua 1:9).
He told Isaiah, (43:1) ‘Israel, the Lord who created you says,“Do not be afraid, I will save you. I have called you by name, you are mine”.
In John’s account of the Gospel he tells us that Jesus comforted His disciples saying,“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.(John 14:27).
From time to time and for different reasons our settled and contented lives can be upset. Just think of the times in which we are living now.
But at any time, there can be concerns and worries about so many things in life, whether it’s personal life, family life or even church life - our discipleship. There can be times when we may feel that we are struggling with faith and can become discouraged.What we have to face may even frighten us.
When speaking of being afraid, the 19th century Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me”.
So then, when we are unsure, when we are worried, when we are frightened, let us remember Christ prays for us, He hold us up in prayer. Then let us hold on to Jesus’ call to disciples of all ages, “do not be afraid”.
“Do not be afraid”, because we have a God who is always with us, beside us, in all situations we encounter.“Do not be afraid”.
Let us pray,
Loving Lord, we come to you, our God who cares for us and who cares about us. While friends and even some of our own family may fail us and disappoint us, You never do.
We come in thanksgiving, knowing that you are present with us now. We come in gratitude that You have been with us in times of anxiety, uncertainly and even fear in the past. We pray, with confidence, knowing that you will be with us in the times that lie ahead.
Gracious God, we come in wonder of your care and faithfulness to us, because we confess that, at times, we are not the most caring or faithful of people. We let you down, we can forget about others. Forgive us we pray.
As we give thanks for the life of Jesus, your Son, we pray that his life may shape our lives that we may show his caring, his concern and his love for others. It is, in his name we pray.
Amen, and may God’s blessing and care be on each one of us, today and always.