Bonhoeffer :: Chapter 24 The Suffering of the Messengers
Ok. It feels as though it has been a little bit since we have been in Bonhoeffer. The last few times we have read about Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as he begins to send them out to spread the message of the Kingdom. The sermon on the Mount gave the disciples a model: this is what it will mean to be a disciple. Now Jesus is asking them to fullfill their commission.
Jesus doesn’t just tell the disciples to go out, however, he tells them how to go, what to say, and even what their results will be. And as we found out last time, those results will not always be to out liking. Jesus tells us that as disciples we will know persecution and opposition. But he comforts us by telling us that we are persecuted by because we are like him and he was persecuted. Our goal as Christians, as we discovered last time, is to be like Jesus. “It is enough for the disciple that he is like his master” Jesus said, and so we find success in being persecuted as Jesus was.
Lets continue reading from Jesus’ instructions.
26Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.33But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
34"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35For 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'; 36and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Place yourself again in the shoes of a disciple. We are being given instructions and are about to be sent out. And probably, if the disciples are like us, Jesus is starting to worry them a little with all this talk about being brought before Kings and being scourged in Synagogues. But Jesus continues on the theme of our persecution. In fact, He finds it necessary to say “Do not fear” three times in a row. Now I don’t know about you, but when someone finds it necessary to tell me repeatedly not to be afraid, I start to worry that there is something to be afraid of. But Jesus doesn’t just tell the disciples not to be afraid of those who would persecute them, he tells them to be afraid of the right things. Fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul.
This strikes to the heart of what it means to be disciples. We see the world through different eyes. What normal people would fear is not to dismay us but instead we are to fear what is really most dangerous, even though most people cannot see it. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” and “the weapons of are warfare are not carnal”, these are the battle-cries of a disciple. Jesus is not looking for a nonresistant people, he is looking for warriors who will recognise who the true enemy is and where the battle truly lies.
But I can imagine being even more afraid at this news. Jesus is saying, persecution isn’t scary, Satan is scary.
The disciples need reassurance and comfort and Jesus offers two assurances. First, the father is watching us and cares for us. Not even a sparrow can fall without his notice and Jesus assures us that we are of more value than the sparrows. Secondly, Jesus promises that he will call us his if we will call him ours. Whoever confesses Jesus before men will be acknowledged by Jesus in Heaven. This is a comfort and it is a choice. Confess Jesus before men and risk the persecution that will follow or be silent and choose a far greater danger. Jesus calls us to see with the eyes of faith what is really scary.
Jesus acknowledges that this talk is unsettling and scary. If you are looking for a soft and cuddly savior who doesn’t upset anyone, You have picked the wrong candidate. Jesus didn’t come to confirm the status quo, he came to upset it. He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. Jesus gives one example of this disruption that he brings. No longer is the family bond supreme: Jesus is supreme. Jesus will split families. We are accustomed to thinking of love for our family as an unquestioned good, and yet Jesus says that it may render us unworthy to be disciples.
Jesus has words for everyone: parents must allow their children to transfer their obligations and allegiances to Him. Children must give up relying on their parents and must rely on God instead. Everyone must follow Jesus, everyone has a cross to bear.
I would like to close and challenge you with this thought. I have heard the thought expressed that the command that children are to obey their parents is the immutable and primary way in which children and parents are to relate. It is true that it is vitally important for children, especially as they are young, to learn to be obedient to their parents. But if parents insist on a relationship characterized by command and obedience from their children as they become adults, I believe that they prevent their children from relating first and primarily in obedience to Jesus. The cross that Jesus gives your children may not be the one you would choose. And yet if your children have grown to adulthood and a relationship with Jesus they are responsible to first and foremost be obedient to Jesus.
Can we love our family too much? Jesus says we can. By God’s grace may each of us this week know two things. Whom we should fear and whom we should serve.