24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor is a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master. If the master of the house was called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, because there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without the knowledge and consent of your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Everyone who confesses me before others, I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:24-33

Last Sunday we talked about what America needs and heard that America needs you to proclaim law and gospel because the fields are ripe for the harvest.  Today, Jesus encourages us in this harvest work, but is also real about this harvest work.  Christians may expect persecution for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and may actually get powerfully stung in the process.

A few weeks ago Jenna was running in our neighborhood and a hornet came up behind her and stung her in the leg.  It hurt and itched for days.  Don’t you think she will be on her guard the next time she runs in that area?  When something hurts you once, you’re extremely cautious to go there again.  Pain is a great teacher!  When we talk with someone and the conversation turns into a painful discussion we learn quickly what conversations are pain free and which ones aren’t.  I can talk about weather, traffic and Covid-19 and no one gets upset.  But, if we bring up “hot-button” topics like homosexuality, racism, gun control and abortion these topics will polarize and sting people. 

That’s what Jesus said would happen when he sent his disciples into the harvest field of souls with the greatest message of all time.  He said some would welcome them and support them in their work, but that others would hate them, persecute them, arrest, and even kill them!  If they would remain faithful to God’s Word about sin before a holy God and forgiveness through Jesus, they were going to get stung.

We are in the disciples’ sandals today.  We learn from Jesus and are sent out into the Dallas area.  You may not fear being arrested or killed for wearing a “I love Jesus T-shirt,” but you know the bites and stings that you’ve experienced sticking up for God’s Word in his harvest field of souls.  You stick up for Jesus and people may love you, or they may never treat you the same way again, or resolve to make your life miserable by destroying your property or reputation.  So, let’s just say it: Sharing the truth of God’s Word can become the conversation you’re scared to have because you don’t want to be stung.  But, Jesus says:

Don’t Let the Sting Stop the Harvest!

The Sting of Persecution

You know the stings Jesus is talking about. If the master of the house was called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! Think of a conversation you’re nervous about having: lovingly share what God’s Word says in an honest and caring way about someone’s sin or false belief.  You’ll feel the sting Jesus is talking about.  You know it is a necessary conversation to have for the sake of their relationship with God, because you love them, you love your own soul, and you love God’s Word. But you fear the sting!  Think of Jesus.  If the Son of God faithfully proclaimed the Word to the world and was called the prince of demons (Beelzebul), how much less will some think of you!

It is that threat of the sting of rejection and persecution that causes us to fear.  When we talk about having open and honest conversations, we treasure the idea that these conversation might take place without negative or violent reactions.   Jesus tells us we are not guaranteed a safe zone when we share God’s Word.  We don’t know how anyone will react, and it gets worse if our experience has told us that they might very well have a negative reaction. Satan would love to have such fear keep you quiet the rest of your life!

I don’t recall anybody calling me the devil to my face for sharing what God’s Word says about a situation, but Jesus tells me not to be afraid of what anyone calls me, but in the end, what Jesus calls me.  Especially when it comes to a sin-infected world, people are happy to praise you for being moral, as long as it lines up with their definition of morality.  They might praise you for your faith, as long as you don’t expect them to believe like you do. In a spiritually blind world people get it wrong. This is certainly true of the people that called Jesus Beelzebul, put a crown of thorns on his head and crucified him.  You may not have called Jesus, “The Prince of Devils,” but all too often your sins have lined you up with the devil.  For these sins we repent and then take Jesus at his word when he prayed, Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Jesus loved them with every breath to the end. That’s what mattered in the end.  Jesus would not let The Sting Stop the Harvest gathered for his Father in heaven even in the face of the sting of persecution.  That’s because Jesus also knows

The Sting of Power

You are his disciples, his students, his servants. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor is a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master. Our loving Master came as the Light of Truth into a world covered in the darkness of sin, unbelief and ignorance.  However, he did not fear that world and what it would say and do to him.  He loved that world to death with the power of his forgiveness!  26 “So do not be afraid of them, because there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops.  It is the powerful love of Jesus revealed in his Words and Actions to people who are living in the darkness of sin that sets them free.  It is this love that has been made known to us, and needs to be shared with a dying world!  It is the love of souls for us to eagerly look for the right place and the right time to point people to Jesus.  Our love for them carefully chooses words to point them to Jesus, nevertheless a love that refuses to be silent until Jesus has been proclaimed from the rooftops!  It is the power of Jesus’ love that is greater than the powerful sting of evil that causes fear.  It’s the way of our Master and Savior.

After all, how much sting does the power of evil people really have?  It is the power of Jesus’ words that really matter.  Just look at the results!  32 “Everyone who confesses me before others, I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.  Some of you have confessed Jesus to others and endured difficult situations.  Some might think of you as their greatest enemy and as evil as Satan, but Jesus calls you a faithful servant.  Jesus knows the power of the gospel you share is more powerful than the sting of the power of evil people.

This isn’t to say that Jesus fails to recognize the sting of persecution and power from people we might experience.  Indeed, the greater the persecution and more dangerous the sting we might endure for our faith in Jesus.  But, Jesus says it point blank, 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  The sting of persecution and evil power is limited.  Yes, it can cause us great suffering, but it is limited by the power of God.  They cannot touch the soul.  They cannot persecute eternally in hell.  The persecution of this world is only like a hornet sting. What would you rather face, the sting of a hornet or the sting of a six foot long fire ant?  I’ll take the hornet. Yes, it hurts.  Yes, it causes fear.  Yes, it breaks our sense of safety.  But, it is temporary.  The sting of the fire ant is fatal.  That is, unless Jesus came and crushed his head!  Yes, God’s judgment on unbelief is way more powerful.  Only God can condemn.  Only God saves.  The devil will never send anyone into hell.  So, our sinful nature must be beat down by the fear of God’s punishment, but our New Man in Christ stands in “fear”—that is awe and respect for God’s amazing love for us.  God’s love for us and them has no limits.  Our confidence is to live eternally in God’s presence who is Almighty and Eternal Love!

Don’t let your eyes get big and adrenaline soar when you see persecution and power of people who are caught in sin.  Instead, watch that power shrink to nothing in the presence of our Big God!  Much like a nest of hornets fall to the ground when you spray them with wasp spray.  Listen how Jesus drives away all fear: 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without the knowledge and consent of your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. I love this passage and have used it often with people in the hospital.  I’m sure you’ve seen the misfortunate sparrow on the side of the road who has had the unfortunate run in with a car.  And even if you haven’t noticed them, God has.  And if God knows about those birds who are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more doesn’t he care for you, since he already sent Jesus to die for you, and save your soul!  So, don’t let the sting stop the harvest!

Jesus knows the harvest is great.  He also knows about hornets that might be lurking in the fields.  That’s why he came.  To save us from the sting of sin, death and the devil.  He also came to be stung by death and rise again as our dear Savior who has all power over death.  So, Don’t Let the Sting of Persecution and the Power of people stop you from the harvest.  You are protected by God.  You have the gospel to make you bold to confess Jesus!  Proclaim it from the rooftops!  “Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O grave is your victory?  Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Proclaim Jesus and Don’t Let the Sting Stop the Harvest! Amen!