“Do Not Fear What They Fear”

(Matthew 10:24-33 –Pentecost 5 – July 5, 2020)

Matthew 10:24-33 – 24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27Whatever 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. 32Therefore 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.”

Dear redeemed in the name of Jesus Christ:

What do you fear? These days, many are fearful of a virus that has brought sickness and death to many. Many are fearful of how this will affect the economy and a number of other things in life. Even more than the question of what people might fear, often it is whom they fear. We can find ways to deal with an inanimate virus, on one hand; but people – who can deal with the fearful ways of sinful humans when all too often they choose to act in ways that bring harm to others?

We remember the time when God gave King David a choice of punishments for Israel, due to sin. Would the King choose 7 years of famine, 3 months of fleeing before enemies, or a 3 day plague that would sweep through the land? David responded: “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” So God sent a plague on Israel that killed 70,000 men (2 Samuel 24:12-14).

What do you fear? Whom do you fear? We remember another time when God consoled the prophet Isaiah in a time of great fear. Due to ongoing sins in Israel, God had let enemies come to their door. There were threats of political conspiracy, oppression, violence, and destruction. Yet in the face of their enemies, God told His prophet and His faithful people: “Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He will become a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:12-14).

What do you fear? Whom do you fear? It is good to be reminded of where our godly fear should be placed. To fear threatening circumstances and people is to let them rule over us as if they were gods, as if they were ultimately in control of our life. But to fear the living God is to bow before Him in repentance for our sin, trusting the forgiveness and salvation He has won for us by the blood of His own Son, Jesus Christ. Then as God told Isaiah, to have such holy fear before Him is to know Him as our Sanctuary. The holy fear of faith is to know Him as our loving God and Savior, who is the one in ultimately in control of all things for our good – not only for this life but for all eternity.

Therefore let us borrow those words which God spoke to Isaiah and all His faithful long ago, as we consider our theme: “Do Not Fear What They Fear.” Here as Jesus prepares His faithful to live as His witnesses in an often threatening world, He dispels our fears by reminding us: 1) You stand with Jesus in His truth; 2) You stand with Jesus in eternal life.

1) You stand with Jesus in His truth

Jesus was about to send His disciples out among the people to proclaim: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (vs. 7). It was good news for sinners. God sent His Son into the world win salvation for all people! The King of heaven had come to His subjects, who had rebelled against Him by their sins; and He had come to win their forgiveness and offer them peace. He would pay for that peace with His own blood on the cross. But before He sent His disciples out as ambassadors of His peace, Jesus warned that their message would not always be well received. In the course of their ministry they would be persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed. Why? Because they stood with Jesus in His truth, as faithful ambassadors of His Word.

Here Jesus tells them ahead of time that all of this should come as no surprise. He says: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!” (vs. 24-25).

We belong to Jesus’ household – His Church, His Kingdom of Grace – because He has redeemed us by His blood and called us to Himself by faith. So our highest aim as His disciples is to be like Him, as our Teacher and Lord. But we should not expect to have it better than He did in this world. After all His faithful teaching of the truth of God, His enemies accused Him of teaching by the father of lies, Satan. When He drove out demons by the finger of God, they said: “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Luke 11:15). After all of Jesus’ speaking the truth in love to sinners, preaching good news of the salvation He had come to win for them, inviting them into His Kingdom by faith, His enemies managed to find so much fault with Him that they nailed Him to a cross.

If Jesus was so despised and rejected for the truth He preached, should we expect any different? In a world convinced of its wisdom in teaching a self-creating universe, we will be despised for teaching that the one true God is Creator of all, and therefore all people are accountable to Him. In a world that insists there is no absolute truth, that all beliefs and lifestyles are equally valid, we will be rejected for preaching repentance and faith in Jesus as the only Savior of sinners.

We are ambassadors of the King of heaven, imploring fellow sinners to be reconciled to Him. As such, the message we bring is peaceful and loving; but it is not neutral. As any soldier who has fought on a battlefield can tell you, there is no neutral ground. You cannot stand in the middle and be on both sides, not if you care for what is good and true, not if you are fighting for true freedom.

But as Scripture teaches, our struggle is not against flesh and blood; it is against all the dark powers of Satan, that evil tyrant who holds the world under his rule by his lies (Ephesians 6:12). Satan hates Jesus and His truth; more than that, he fears Jesus and His truth. By the Word of Jesus, demons were cast out. By the work of Jesus, this world’s evil ruler himself is cast out (John 12:31). Satan rightly dreads that final Word of Jesus, by which he will be consigned to eternal torment in hell. The evil foe hates and fears Christ; therefore, he wants to do all he can to silence His truth.

Sadly, those who belong to Satan’s kingdom are also fearful of the loving Savior and the light of His truth. As Jesus said in John 3:19-20: “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

This is why Jesus was despised and rejected, accused of preaching lies, and finally crucified. The world fears the light of His Word, the truth that exposes sin for what it is and calls sinners to repentance. And though Jesus’ messengers bring His truly good news of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life; yet enemies of Jesus hear bad news and will try to silence His people. This is why, though Jesus’ disciples speak His truth in love, they may be accused of hate speech; and for the sake of faithfulness to His truth, they may face loss of work, loss of family and friends, and so on.

Jesus says: “Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And 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.” (vs. 26-28).

Enemies of Jesus may try to cover and hide His truth by lies and deceit, but He will have His Gospel faithfully preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14). Governments have tried to silence His Word by threatening penalties, imprisonment, and death to those who speak it. They may be able to harm the body, but they cannot harm the soul. Jesus says they actually have more to fear than the believer. For God, whose truth they oppose, is “Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

So 1 Peter 3:14-15 says: “Do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” We have been given a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We have the joy of His salvation and eternal life to share with all people. We can proclaim His truth fearlessly from housetops, pulpits, or wherever God puts us. For it is the truth which sets sinners free from Satan and death; it is the truth which gives eternal life to all who believe.

2) You stand with Jesus in eternal life

As Jesus sent His disciples into the world as ambassadors of His truth, they would face persecution and imprisonment; and many would ultimately face death. Why? They had seen Jesus crucified on the cross, and they had seen Him risen from the dead. They knew He was who He claimed to be, the Lord and Savior of sinners, the giver of eternal life to all who believe. They knew it was a truth worth giving their lives for; they knew they stood with Jesus in eternal life. Likewise, we stand with our living Lord and Savior in His truth; and therefore, we stand with Him in eternal life.

And how precious is our life to God, as He protects us and cares for us each day. Jesus pictures this as He says: Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (vs. 29-31). Tiny sparrows could be sold for almost nothing. An average human head has over 100,000 hairs. Yet not one of these falls to the ground apart from the will of our Father in heaven. If God cares for such tiny things in His creation which may seem insignificant, how much more will He take care of us, whom He has redeemed by the blood of His own Son and made His eternal children through faith!

Just think how valuable each one of us is to God. His love for us in Christ is infinite, without any bounds; and it is all-giving. It is proven by the sacrifice He was willing to make to redeem us to Himself. There we were as children of Adam and Eve, deceived by Satan and fallen in sin; trying in vain to hide from God in fear of His truth and judgment (Genesis 3). Yet in love and mercy He came to us, not to judge and condemn, but to bring us His forgiveness and peace. God sent His beloved Son, born in our flesh and blood, to make the sacrifice by which all our sins are taken away. On the cross, Jesus took all our sin upon Himself. In our place, He felt the fear and dread of the guilty sinner damned under divine wrath. And He took all that away from us. Then having paid the price to ransom us from sin and death, He rose again. In this way, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Through faith in our living Savior, God removes all our fear and gives us His perfect peace; for He presents us to Himself now as His beloved children in Christ, forgiven and holy in His sight.

Jesus says: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (vs. 32-33). As believers, we are confessors of Christ. With the faith created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit we confess that we are saved, not by anything we do, but by all that Jesus has done for us by His perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection.

Already, Jesus is confessing us before His Father in heaven, interceding for us at His Father’s right hand (Romans 8:34). For Jesus’ sake, our Father in heaven looks upon us with infinite love; caring for us as His own dear children, protecting us in body and soul each day, and giving us eternal life. So why should we fear? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

And on the Last Day, when Jesus comes again in all His glory, He will confess us before His Father in heaven. He will fulfill His promise to all the faithful, as He says in Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

Who would exchange the approval of the eternal God for the approval of men? When this world with its empty glory is passing away, how wonderful it will be to hear our Savior welcome us into His everlasting Kingdom of Glory. Jesus will say to us: Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Whatever or whoever may threaten us in this world, let us heed the Word the living Lord has spoken to His faithful through the ages: “Do not fear what they fear” (Isaiah 8:12). You stand with Jesus in His truth; You stand with Jesus eternal life.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.