24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 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!
26 “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. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 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. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.Matthew 10:24-33
When was the last time you got a haircut? Depending where you live and at what level of reopening you are living in, you may not have had the chance for a haircut for months. For some a haircut may seem like a luxury that can be overcome by purchasing a personal set of clippers and watching a few instructional videos online, for some it is a convenience that saves time and prevents feelings of guilt when the inexperienced person cutting your hair turns a trendy fade or pixie cut into something that looks more like a crew cut, for others haircuts may be their livelihood used to keep food on the table and a roof over head, and for some getting a new haircut or wig might be their way to fit in during cancer treatments or to hide a scar. The hair industry in America has grown to cover more than just haircuts. There are now options for blow outs, extensions, beard oil, products to regrow hair or laser hair away just to name a few. And, whether you care what your hair looks like or not, everyone needs a haircut at some point.
Hair may not be your thing, but you do care about something. We all care about something, but when others do not care about what you care about or care about the opposite of what you care about, there are divisions. And, division can be peaceful, but division can also be violent. When violent divisions happen in our lives, we are tempted to quiet down about something we care about or agree with something we do not care for. Of the many divisions you are facing, one rises above the rest as the root cause of all divisions, all threats against peace and all violence. The worst division is between those who believe in Jesus and those who do not. This is not to say that the other divisions in your life are not important. There are many difficult conversations happening right now that are important and need you as a believer in them to bring 22 … “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control,” as Paul wrote in Galatians 5. There are many divisions in your life and the lives of others but claiming Jesus as your Savior and the only Savior of the world causes the most division. Throughout history, today and until Jesus returns, being a Christian causes division, sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent and sometimes even death.
You care about things in your life, but there are few you would face death over. You may not admit to death being your greatest fear and surveys may not calculate death as the thing people fear most, but death is the final division. Death is the unmatched fear for all people because we have no defense against it. Jesus knows how serious death is for you and that death puts what you care about most to the test, but in our reading from Matthew 10, Jesus said, 28 “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.” You can be threatened with death for caring about something, but God is even greater than death. Jesus’ point here is that you and I often fear the threats of people whose most terrible weapon is death, but the one who really deserves to be feared is God who controls what happens to you after death. You and I feel passionately about many causes and we find ourselves on one side or another of many divisions, but there is only one that has consequences beyond this world and this generation’s unique divisive issues. Jesus said, 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” When something you care about or do not care for has tempted, is tempting or might tempt you to disown Jesus because you are afraid, even afraid of death, then you need to be reminded that disowning Jesus will leave you facing death and hell.
God’s response to your fear of death is how much he cares for you. When you are put in a situation that tempts you to disown Jesus, it is evil at work. When you are threatened with anything from an angry face emoji to violence, even death you do not have to be afraid because the One who cares about you, who is not evil, is far more powerful and promises you eternal life. Jesus said, 25 “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” Jesus was threatened and called names that associated him with the work of the devil, and ultimately was put to death, so he understands fully what hardships you face. Yet, he tells you not to be afraid, and he explains why with words so kind and innocent even a young child can appreciate their depth of love. Jesus said, 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” The reason you do not have to fear death and your reason to acknowledge, believe, trust, cling to and share Jesus is his great love for you.
The great division in this world is between those lost in fear of death and those who are saved by God’s grace. The root cause for all the evil, the divisions, violence and death in this world is the sin living in all of us. So, our real enemy is sin, and your sin is only removed by God’s grace in the gift of Jesus’ perfect life sacrificed on the cross in your place and his resurrection guaranteeing your resurrection and eternal life in heaven. God guided Paul to capture this in the words of Romans 5, 15 “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” When the one man, Adam trespassed or crossed over the line by breaking God’s command, he brought sin and death into the world, which has been passed down through every generation including us. “But the gift is not like the trespass.” So then, God’s grace is the one man, Jesus Christ, who remained on God’s side following all of his commands, who always told the truth about himself as the Savior of the world even when it meant death and who gave you the gift of forgiveness and life. And again, Jesus is alive standing in heaven acknowledging you as his own before the Father in heaven, so you can be absolutely sure that you will be in heaven.
God’s great love is meant for all people. You and I have the great joy of knowing what God has done to save us from our sins that divided us from him and one another. His love is also the healing everyone you know needs to hear, to heal the division between them and God so that they do not have to fear death or be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. People you know need to hear about Jesus so that they are not afraid, but hear that they are loved by God, have been rescued from death and have been forgiven for all their sins so that heaven is open to them where they will live in peace and joy forever. When his own people Israel had turned away from God and faced the punishment of being defeated by the nation of Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah kept sharing the true Word of God even when it mean he was beaten and put in handcuffs. His message was not popular, but he had to share it trusting that God would give the gift of faith to some who heard. In Jeremiah 20, the prophet wrote, 9 “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.” You celebrate the liberties you enjoy in this country this weekend with fireworks, let the fire of God’s Word shine bright as well with the message of freedom and life through Jesus.
Whether you care what your hair looks like or not, everyone needs a haircut at some point. Whether someone in your life believes in Jesus or not, everyone needs to hear about his great love for them. God loves you so much that he counts the number of troubles and blessings in your life, the days until you reach heaven and the details of the eternity with him in the joys of heaven. Do not be afraid, God cares enough to count the hairs on your head, he cares far more about you than any of his other creatures and he cared enough to make you a member of his household through Jesus. Amen.