Matthew: First Mission: Jesus’ Promise Of Persecution

Memory Verse: Matthew 10:16

10:16, 23-25 Persecution Is Imminent

  • 10:16a Jesus is sending His disciples out on their first mission. He tells them that He is sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. The disciple easily understood what this meant. In this scenario the sheep is the one in danger. Wolves attack sheep. Wolves kill sheep. Wolves eat sheep. His disciples already have determined enemies. They are being sent on a mission in a dangerous environment. Because of the dangers they will face, Jesus tells them to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”—this is a simple command for us to act properly in the face of persecution so that in the midst of persecution we will proclaim, glorify and fulfill God’s purposes.
  • 10:16b Wise as serpents—in scripture, serpents are not usually seen as good. But it is common for an animal to be used both in a bad and good way. Here we are told to have this good characteristic. In general, snakes are not the animal of choice. Who likes them? Many of them are dangerous. Many people will kill them if they come in contact with them (or near their house or family). You could say that snakes live in a “hostile environment”. Jesus just told the disciples that they are going to be in a hostile environment (sheep among wolves). Therefore, because of this hostile environment, snakes have to be wise. They have to be shrewd. The need a sharp sense of judgement. They pay attention, watch and can’t afford to be careless. In the same way, we need to have this sense of judgement as we enter our hostile environments preaching the Gospel. A second aspect of this “wisdom” it to cause the disciples to keep from becoming “slothful” out of their timid, cautious and circumspect characteristics that comes when facing danger.
    Proverbs 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 15:5; 16:21; 18:15; 22:3; 27:12
  • 10:16c Harmless as doves—they have no real defense or offense. They are not going to fight back. They aren’t seeking to hurt others, take advantage of others, nor are they attacking others. A dove gets taken advantage of. They easily put themselves in danger that is seems silly or stupid. A dove is vulnerable. It isn’t fearful. It doesn’t go into hiding. As a messenger of the gospel “harm” shouldn’t be characteristic of who we are. Though people will mock, hate and hurt us because of the gospel, we shouldn’t fight back. To apply this to our lives we have to understand that God uses suffering for the advancement of the gospel. May we be harmless.
  • 10:23 Jesus gives an example of being wise and harmless. He tells the disciples if they are persecuted in one city, they should flee to another city—they are not required to stay and be persecuted to the death if there is opportunity for them to preach elsewhere. Then Jesus tells them that they will not have “gone over the cities of Israel” before “the Son of man be come”—Jesus’ exact meaning and time is not known with surety, it could refer to His second coming or a more immediate event.
  • 10:24-25 Jesus tells His disciples that they should not expect to be treated better by the world than He is. He tells them that the “disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord”—both of these are an inferior position, therefore they won’t be treated as superior by others. It is sufficient for the disciple to be like his master and the servant to be like his lord—you can’t expect more. Therefore, if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub—(“Lord of the flies” or “Lord of dung”), how much more shall they call them of his household? Jesus is obviously referring to Himself as the Master and Lord and tells His disciples that they can expect the same type of persecution or worse.
    Matthew 9:34; 12:22-28; Luke 11:15; John 15:20

10:17-22 Persecution From Authorities, Family And Mankind

  • 10:17-18a Persecution from authorities: Jesus goes on to warn His disciples of persecution that they will face one day. It seems that this is a warning not just for this mission, but missions to come—meaning these type of things will happen to Jesus’ followers as they serve Him in the world. Jesus tells them to “beware of men” because they will deliver them up to the councils and scourge them in their synagogues. The disciples were to be “on alert” because some of the Jews whom they were going to reach would hand them over to be trialled in their courts. The trial would take place in the synagogues where they could be beaten with a whip or scourge up to thirty-nine times.
    Acts 4:1-22; 2 Corinthians 11:24
  • 10:18b Next, Jesus gives warning also about future missions when they have gone beyond the Jews and are also reaching the gentiles. For Jesus’ sake, they will be brought before governors and kings—Jewish and non-Jewish governmental authorities. When they are brought before these authorities to bear witness to the authorities and the Gentiles. Jesus is tell his disciples that suffering will be part of the process of spreading the gospel.
    Acts 12:1-4; 14:5
  • 10:19-20 When Jesus’ disciples are deliver you up to the hostile authorities, they don’t need to take thought or be anxious about what they are going to say or how they are going to say it. They don’t need to give any forethought about the content of their defense, but instead they are to trust that God, their Father, will give them what they should speak at that time through His Holy Spirit. They will be divinely inspired to be a testimony.
  • 10:21 Persecution from family: Persecution doesn’t only come from hostile governments but also from within our own families. Jesus told His disciples that brother will deliver up the brother, the father the child, the children their parents and cause them to be put to death. Following Jesus could disrupt your family life. You could be banished by your family, disinherited, beaten, mocked, betrayed and even killed.
  • 10:22 Persecution from mankind: Finally, Jesus tells His disciples that they can expect widespread persecution from mankind in general. They can expect to be hated by all men for Jesus’ name’s sake. Their persecution, as well as ours, will arise because we are followers of Jesus. But we are to be loyal and persevere—everyone who endures to the end shall be saved—meaning that they will be in the presence of the Lord forever. Believers aren’t saved because they persevere but they persevere because they are saved—thus enduring persecution by the power of God.
    1 Peter 1:5

Review Questions

  • What is the environment the disciples are being sent into like?
  • What is Jesus’ advice for the disciples?
  • What is an example that Jesus gives?
  • Who will the disciples be persecuted by?
  • What types of persecution that they will face?

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