Don’t Be Afraid!

Sermon preached at Our Savior on July 17, 2011 for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. Sermon text: Matthew 10:24-33

You’ve got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. You’re going to be getting several shots. They will probably hurt. But don’t be afraid! You’re going to the dentist the next day. You’ve got quite a few cavities, most likely. He’ll have to fill them. He’ll give you Novocain, but even getting the Novocain will probably hurt. The fillings will really ache, too, if not during the procedure, definitely after. But don’t be afraid! Then on the next day you’ve got that court date for your speeding ticket. You were going so fast you’ll probably get in a lot of trouble. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got jail time. But don’t be afraid!

Sometimes it seems like someone is trying to comfort you, but that comfort just makes things worse. Sometimes you wish you didn’t know what was going to happen, because then you keep thinking about it. Then it drives you crazy and scares you even more! Sometimes you’d rather be taken by surprise. For some kids, it might be better not to tell them that there’s a shot waiting for them at the doctor’s office. Some people might even preferred to be lied to. “Oh, no, that shot won’t hurt a bit! You won’t even feel it!”

But no matter what you prefer when something unpleasant is going to happen, Jesus did not mince words. He never tried to give the impression that things would be easy for us in our lives. Just the opposite; Jesus warned of the trouble — even the persecution — that we can expect in our lives. He didn’t say it wouldn’t hurt; he told us we can expect pain and suffering. He never said it was no big deal; he said it would be a huge deal for our entire lives. But Jesus did say one thing: don’t be afraid!

How could he say that? How could he say that with the difficulty, with the heartache, with the hell on earth that this world can sometimes be, especially for Christians? Jesus could say that because of who he is. He’s the all-powerful God himself. He can say it because of what he’s done. He’s already rescued us from sin, death, and hell with his life, death, and resurrection. He can say it because of what he will do. He will be with us no matter what, he will rescue us from every evil attack, he will hold us in his love forever. So don’t be afraid! 

 

As I mentioned, Jesus did not sugarcoat things; he didn’t hide the truth. Our text is no exception. It takes place right after Jesus chose his twelve disciples. It’s almost a pep talk about what life is going to be like now that they’ve chosen to follow him. And it’s definitely not going to be roses and sunshine. Listen to what he says before our text: Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me…when you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. (Matt. 10:21-23)

Yikes! Things would be rough for those twelve disciples. And, of course, we can’t help but remember that we are still following Jesus today. He goes on to explain in our text that we shouldn’t be surprised at this. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. (Matt. 10:24) Jesus is our teacher; we are his students. He is our master; we are his servants. We shouldn’t expect to have everything better than him. We’re not above him!

So if some things happened to Jesus, we shouldn’t be surprised when they happen to us. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! (Matt 10:25) Jesus was called all sorts of names; his disciples could expect the same treatment. No one would say, “That Jesus guy is a nut, a demon — but his disciples and followers sure are great people!” No way. The disciples will get the same treatment.

So, this is where Jesus says to watch out because of this, right? This is where he says something like, “So if you don’t want to follow me, now’s the time to turn around!” No. He says, So do not be afraid of them. (Matt. 10:26) Don’t be afraid! Sure, people will hate you. Sure, families will be torn apart because of Jesus and his Word. Sure, you will be persecuted. But don’t be afraid!

How can Jesus say that? Is this some sort of hollow comfort? Are these just words you say to someone in a bad situation, no matter what might happen? No! Jesus means it, and he is one that we know we can trust when he says something. He’s God and man, so he knows all things.

And he tells us that, eventually, all people will know a lot more than they know now. Do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. (Matt. 10:26) In other words, if people think you’re crazy for following Jesus now, the day will come when they will know the truth. If people think that you’re a hateful bigot for actually believing what the Bible says…the time will come. They will find out the truth. Jesus will return to this world on the last day, and then the truth will be clear — even to those who don’t want to believe it now.
That’s all well and good, but…what about the danger that the people who are against Christ and Christians can cause now? They’ll find out the truth later…that’s fine. But they get angry now! And even though people in our country don’t usually get killed for their Christian beliefs, that hasn’t always been the case in this world, and there is no guarantee it will always be the case for us. What if our very life becomes in danger because of our beliefs?

Jesus has an answer for that, too. Don’t be afraid! Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Matt. 10:28) It’s true. People in this world might hate us. They might make fun of us. They might try to ruin everything in our lives, and they might even succeed in it. They might even kill us. But they can’t take our soul. They can never kill that! Don’t be afraid!

But we tend to be a bit short-sighted. Eternity, of course, will last forever. It will make the time we spent on earth seem like the blink of an eye. But we have a hard time seeing that now. Now, we see this world. This world seems like the be-all end-all of everything. We lose the eternal perspective that Jesus has and that the Bible gives us.

So when the opportunity to tell someone else about Jesus comes up, we are tempted to shut our mouths and just be quiet. After all, they might hurt us. They might make fun of us. Our life will be worse if we proclaim Jesus as the Savior and the one and only way to heaven…so we say nothing.

When this world holds onto values and beliefs that go against God’s Word — and believe me there’s plenty of them — Jesus wants us to let our light shine and stand up for the truth. But so often we don’t. So often we are either quiet about our beliefs — we say nothing about what the Bible says — or we simply believe what the world thinks and believes over the Bible. After all, it’ll make our lives easier, right?

And those are just the beliefs and attitudes, what about the actual actions? Sin tempts us on every side every minute of the day. We know we should resist the temptations. We know we should keep our ways pure in all that we do and live for our Savior in everything we do. But let’s face it; it’s easier not to. It’s easier to just do whatever sinful action our greedy little heart desires. It’s more fun, it makes our lives easier, and I’m pretty sure we just get forgiven anyway. So who really cares? Why not just go ahead and keep sinning?

When it comes to that idea, Jesus changes his tone. If that’s how you feel about sin, be afraid! Be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28) If you don’t think sins matter, be afraid! If you think that your faith will just last all on its own even as you keep purposely continuing in sin, be afraid! If you think that there’s no problem focusing on what you want in this world and thinking nothing about eternity, be afraid!

But if you recognize in your heart sin and you hate it, don’t be afraid! If you realize that you can bring nothing worthy to God on your own, don’t be afraid! If you ask God for mercy and forgiveness; don’t be afraid! He loves you more than you can imagine.

As Jesus said in our text, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:29-31) God loves you and cares about you. He proved it in his Son.

God’s only Son, whom he loved, God gave for us. Jesus lived perfectly for us. Jesus suffered and died in our place. Jesus rose to assure us of eternal life. When we look to the cross, our fears melt away. When we look in the empty tomb, our fears are found to be empty. Christ alone has secured our eternity; he has guaranteed us eternal life. He gives us reason to never fear again!

And that makes us live for him now, despite the cost. Yes, following Jesus will bring us earthly consequences. People might not like what we believe and do. They might stop being our friend, they might make fun of us. They might even hurt us or kill us. But since Jesus has taken away our fear, we will proclaim his truth. As he said, What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. (Matt. 10:27)

So live for your Savior boldly! Let your life be a witness for him, no matter what it will bring in this world. Live for the one who died for you. Don’t count the consequences for the one who gave up everything for you. Proclaim the one who wasn’t ashamed to call you his brother or sister, but became like you to rescue you forever. He will reward you more than you could ever imagine. He said, Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (Matt. 10:32)

Let’s acknowledge Jesus our Savior with everything we think, do, and say. Let’s be a bold witness for him in this sinful world. Let’s let our light shine. We will face trouble. We will get hurt. People will hate us and hurt us and they could even kill us. But look to Jesus. And don’t be afraid!

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