“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020

“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

In many of the Gospel readings during this time of the church year–as is the case in today’s reading–Jesus teaches his followers about the life of discipleship that we Christians are called to live. And this is not an easy life, this life of following Christ. For one thing, the world will be against us. And so, many of the Gospel readings this summer will describe the opposition we will get from the unbelieving world. And that opposition can be brutal, even deadly. But the amazing thing is, even though Jesus knows that people will treat us this way–indeed, he tells us they will treat us this way–even so, he tells us to fear not.

Yesterday summer began. And I have to tell you, we may be in for a long hot summer. Oh, I’m not talking about the weather outside, which generally is sweltering. No, I’m talking about the heat that Jesus will describe in these Gospel readings. Many of them will deal with the hot, adverse conditions we Christians will face for being Christians. For instance, next week we’ll hear Jesus say: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. . . . A person’s enemies will be those of his own household. . . . Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Then later this summer Jesus will say it again: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

These are not easy words. They sound discomforting. They sound disturbing. They sound downright dangerous. And the Gospel reading for today sets the tone. Here Jesus says: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”

Jesus is describing severe persecution. People will hand over their own family members to death, because they belong to Christ. Do you think Jesus is exaggerating? Think again. These words have come to pass many times over the centuries. Christians have been handed over and put to death–even by their own family members–because they have become Christians. The history of the church is written in the blood of the martyrs.

And this persecution, this martyrdom, is still happening in our day, now more than ever. Particularly in Muslim lands, Christians are being murdered and massacred and martyred for the faith. In Sudan, in Nigeria, in Syria, in Iran and Iraq, our brothers and sisters in Christ are being disowned by their families, persecuted and imprisoned, dragged out by mobs, and put to death. It is a dangerous thing to be a Christian. In the past ten years, more than 60,000 Christians in Nigeria have been massacred by Boko Haram and other Islamic terrorists.

But you say, not here in America. And true, Christians are not being put to death in our country. But opposition and hostility can take other forms, less severe. And so in our text today Jesus says that Christians will be maligned and spoken evil of, because we belong to him: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

Oh, about that “Beelzebul” thing: That was a derogatory term Jesus’ enemies used against him, saying that he was in league with the devil. And if they said that about Jesus, the greatest and most holy man who ever lived–if they called Jesus a devil, think of what they’ll call us. The world is going to despise us and malign us and speak evil of us.

And this sort of thing is happening now in our country. Officials in government, politicians, figures in the media and education and the entertainment industry–they have been coming out against Christians because of our beliefs. They ridicule Christians and say we are on the wrong side of history. Well, so be it. We’ll see who was right and who was wrong when the Lord of history returns. But for now, our culture as a whole has turned against the church in a big way. In the last ten years, church attendance and church membership have dropped off dramatically. America is no longer a friendly place for Christians to make their home. And it’s likely to get worse. If you want to get a picture of where America is headed, look at Europe. Western Europe has become extremely secularized and is post-Christian, hostile to any semblance of the historic faith. And that looks like the direction we’re headed, too.

So the world is against us. This is nothing new. Jesus told us this would happen. Hostility, opposition, rejection, ridicule, persecution, even martyrdom. These things happened to Christians back then, they have happened throughout history ever since, they’re happening now, and they will continue to happen as long as we are in the world.

But notice, Jesus also says: “Have no fear of them.” Huh? What? What are you saying, Jesus? Don’t you know what they can do to us? They can ruin our reputation. They can make life very difficult for us. We could lose our job or lose our friends for being a Christian. Family members may turn against us. Better to keep quiet, don’t you think? Better to lay low and not disturb the status quo. Don’t rock the boat, if you know what I mean.

But then Jesus himself was pretty much of a boat-rocker. And look where that got him. It got him nailed to a cross. It got him killed. And we don’t want that.

No, of course we don’t. We don’t go seeking out martyrdom. Nobody likes to undergo suffering. We don’t enjoy it. Even Jesus himself prayed and asked that if there was any other way than going to the cross, that’s what he would prefer. But there was no other way. Only the Son of God suffering and dying for us sinners could win our salvation. That’s what Jesus was sent to do. And so that is what he did.

So we don’t seek out suffering. But if it comes, it comes. If suffering and persecution are what we must endure because we belong to Christ, then so be it. It comes with the territory. But what beautiful territory it is! It is the kingdom of God that Christ has brought us into. And that is why Jesus can tell us, “Have no fear of them.”

Actually, if there’s anyone we should fear, it’s God. The worst that the world can do to us is to kill us. Far worse, though, would be to be lost for eternity. That’s what would happen to us if we were to turn our backs on God and deny the faith out of fear of persecution. That would be infinitely worse. And so, that is what Jesus warns us against.

Notice, let me say it again: The worst thing is not the persecution itself. That’s not what you should be afraid of. No, the worst thing would be to deny the faith out of fear of persecution. Then you would be lost for eternity. Fear that.

No, you don’t want to give up the faith–and with it, your salvation in Christ. There is nothing more precious than being connected to Christ your Savior. In him, in Christ, you have a sure and certain hope. You have the sure hope of everlasting life, life that conquers death. What could be greater than that? Nothing. This, dear friends, this is God’s free gift to you: eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Persecution pales in significance next to this one great gift.

Christ assures you today of God’s love. Jesus says he will confess you before his Father in heaven. That’s really something, isn’t it? To have Jesus himself speaking up for you before the throne of God? And that’s what he says he will do. It might sound something like this: “Here is my follower Bill or Debbie or Barb or Mike. I died for his sins. Her slate is clean. These are my disciples. They trusted in me for their salvation and not in themselves. Their faith showed itself in how they clung to me in adversity and trusted in the promises I gave them. Their faith was bigger than their fear. Here, Father, let me present them to you.” Brothers and sisters, this is what Jesus will say about you before your Father in heaven! You can’t get a better spokesman than Jesus. So you don’t have to be afraid of speaking about him.

And there’s more. Jesus assures us of the Father’s own love. He says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. . . . Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Bird Lives Matter! Bird lives matter to God. If even the life of a seemingly insignificant little sparrow matters to your Father in heaven, how much more does your life matter to him! If bird lives matter, your life matters a whole bunch more!

Today is Father’s Day. And even we faulty human fathers love our children so very much. How much more, then, does your heavenly Father love you! A whole lot! He loved you so much that he gave his only Son to save you, so that you would not perish but instead will have everlasting life. Listen, your Father took you to be his child in Holy Baptism. You are precious to him. He is committed to you. Trust in him. Your Father loves you more than you can imagine. And the proof of it is in the cross of Christ. If God loved you that much, so as to send his own Son to die for you, surely he will see you through all the troubles of this life.

Dear friends, today Christians all over the world are being hated and persecuted by the enemies of Christ. And yet our Lord Jesus says to us today, “Have no fear of them.” Why? Because your heavenly Father will strengthen you and see you through the long hot summer of this world’s hostility. So, Jesus says, have no fear of them. Instead, have faith in God. His eye is on the sparrow, and you know he watches you. Brothers and sisters, our lives matter, they matter to God. Fear not, for your Father cares for you!

Published in: on June 20, 2020 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: