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(Part 48)


July 15, 2013
Today’s gospel: Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the only hope for peace in the world, says something striking: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. 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; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’” (Mt 10:34-36).

Some people in the Church think that to proclaim and follow Jesus will result in just nice relationships and warm fellowship. They are those who just want to be nice, friendly, accommodating, liberal, not wanting to offend, being politically correct. They say, why can’t we all just get along, and proceed to not do or say anything that others might find offensive. But in fact, since fallen human nature will result in some, if not many, rejecting the gospel of Jesus, those who proclaim it should be ready to be challenged, opposed, persecuted. If they then persist, as they should, in proclaiming the one true gospel of Jesus Christ, then there will be strife and division. Unfortunately, such divisions will affect spouses, families, best friends, church co-workers, etc.

Having rid his disciples of just some nice, fuzzy, romantic emotions about mission work, Jesus now lays down the hard demands on one who is sent. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37). We are to love God with our whole being. Everyone else comes second. God loves the world so much that he gave His only Son to suffer and die for us, to win our salvation. A great manifestation of our love for Jesus is to obey the commission to proclaim the gospel, so that many more would be saved. Jesus and the attendant work of evangelization are thus more important than family. Jesus of course does not intend family members not to be loved or to be neglected. But they are not to come in the way of the mission Jesus sends us on, as often family becomes our excuse for not doing mission.

Jesus goes further: “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:38). If we truly follow Jesus, he leads us all the way to the cross, which is our privilege to embrace. We are to give our all, even unto death. We are to undergo suffering just as he would. Jesus knows that a great obstacle to mission is comfort, convenience, and a reluctance to suffer pain. On the other hand, the great prod to mission and holiness is suffering for the cause of Christ.

Such a call is of course very difficult and challenging. Not many are willing to give their all, even to God. It is so necessary for Jesus’ disciples to understand what this whole call is all about. We all want a good life, and this is in fact what keeps some people from wholeheartedly responding to Jesus’ call, as they pursue what they believe to be the good life, all on their own and on their own strength. Many times they then find themselves lost on the wrong paths. Jesus proclaims the seemingly contradictory truth: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39). Only in Jesus, only in expending ourselves in his service, only in dying to self and our own desires and agenda, will we ever find true life.

We are called to represent Jesus, to carry on his very work, to be his ambassadors. We stand in his place and we speak for him. Though many will not honor the work we do and the words we proclaim, those who do so will be greatly privileged. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Mt 10:40). If only those we try to evangelize realize what a great honor and privilege it is for them, that when they receive those sent, then they receive Jesus himself, and God who sent him.

Thus those people who receive those sent will be rewarded. No matter how small their deed, if they manifest welcome to those whom Jesus sends out, then they will be rewarded. “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple--amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt 10:42). Oh, if only those being evangelized will recognize who it is that stands before them, and show them even the smallest kindness, they would be greatly blessed.

Those who are sent must be witnesses. They witness through their silent holiness of life and through their verbal proclamation of the gospel. Thus such a witness must be one who is “righteous” and “a prophet” (Mt 10:41). To be righteous is to walk along the path of holiness. To be a prophet is to speak in the name of God, in particular here, to proclaim the gospel.

“When Jesus finished giving these commands to his twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.” (Mt 11:1). Jesus gives the same command to us today. Only now, Jesus is already in heaven, and we are the ones to go and preach the good news in every town.

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