Fitted for Hard Times (1 of 3)

Please read Matthew 10:1-15 in your Bible.  Part One: The Conditions of Discipleship

Fitted for Hard Times (1)Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

In the white collar world of professional businessmen, there has been a lot of popular press written on the subject of leadership.  In the Bible, a lot is said about discipleship and service.  How’s that for an illustration of the clash of cultures?

The subject of discipleship, of training and being trained in following Jesus, is so important we’ll devote the next three weeks to studying Jesus’ method of discipleship in Matthew 10.  It is a rich vein of teaching, so we are going to sink a deep shaft into it.

To stimulate our thinking, it want to share a few insights into the subject of discipleship, representing varied viewpoints.

Nineteenth century Danish theologian Soren Kierkagaard wrote, “I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, “If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.”  Kierkagaard’s comment?  “And no one laughed.”

The reformer Martin Luther wrote, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

American evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “It is better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people. But it is harder.”

These three men all observed, in their different ways, the essential nature of discipleship in the Christian life.  Real belief is manifest in spiritual growth, as haphazard as it may look from the outside.  There is no choice in this matter; Jesus’ followers are disciples or they follow someone else.

CONTEXT: In Matthew 9, Jesus has called Matthew to be a disciple.  He is the last one to be called to follow Jesus.  Then, at the end of the chapter, Jesus looked compassionately on the crowd gathered before Him and urged His disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more workers in the field.  These two chapters have a focus on Jesus’ disciples, His partners in ministry.

Jesus prepared His disciples for service and witness.

  1. To be a disciple you must first be named as one of His people (vs. 2-4).

The Twelve are named four times in the New Testament.  The four lists are here in Matthew 10, Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13; there is no listing in John.

This is the only time in Matthew and Mark they are called APOSTLES. The word itself has a specific meaning: “messenger, envoy, ambassador.”  Hebrews 13:1 refers to Jesus as an APOSTLE.

When the word came into use as a title for a church officer, its meaning widened.  At first, only the Twelve were called Apostles.  Then Paul and five others were called APOSTLES.  Then leaders over groups of churches got the title.

Regardless of one’s title, every believer is first called by God.  We are saved because God decided to offer salvation to us.  Here are some general observations about the original twelve Apostles.

– The Twelve were all laymen; there were no priests among them.

– They were not chosen because they gave Jesus any advantage.

– They were a mix of personalities w/ some opposites.  (For example, the opposing political views of Matthew the tax collector versus Simon the Zealot, the opposite personalities of Peter and the “Sons of Thunder” versus “Doubting Thomas.”)

– They were called to follow Jesus, they didn’t volunteer.  Some of Jesus’ followers did volunteer, but they are not called APOSTLES.

The Apostles were ordinary men whom God empowered to extra-ordinary things.  They were so important to the plan of God that Revelation 21:14 tells us that the foundation stones of the heavenly city are inscribed with their names!

  1. To be a disciple you must come under Jesus’ authority (v. 1)

JESUS CALLED HIS DISCIPLES TO HIM: Jesus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, called each of these men individually.  It was His decision that made them disciples; it was their decision to accept.

To be CALLED is to be invited by God to accept His will.  Everyone is CALLED to be saved.  In 2 Peter 2:9 we are told it is God’s will that no one should perish, that all should repent.  This is a universal calling.

Those who accept God’s call to salvation receive an additional calling to do a specific kind of ministry in a specific time and place.  In the modern Church we have mistakenly used the language of “calling” for professional church leaders.  That is unbiblical.  All disciples are CALLED to minister for Jesus.

HE…GAVE THEM AUTHORITY = On this occasion, Jesus delegated to the Twelve His AUTHORITY to do two things in particular.  One: TO DRIVE OUT EVIL (“unclean”) SPIRITS.  These spirits are in opposition to God.  They do evil and tempt people to do evil.  They were to be driven out because their evil is toxic to humans, separating their victims from God.

Two: TO HEAL EVERY DISEASE AND ILLNESS.  As Jesus gave the Twelve AUTHORITY to do these two different things, it is plain that not every physical illness is a result of demonic activity.  Matthew Henry’s comment is good: “The design of the gospel is to conquer the devil and cure the world.”  Last week we saw Jesus doing both these things in Luke 4.

On other occasions (i.e., Matthew 19:28) Jesus’ delegated authority would take other forms.  What’s important for us here is to note that His disciples do not exercise their own authority.  Instead, they minister under His.

  1. As a disciple you must do service and witness at the same time (vs. 5-8).

Jesus sent out the Twelve after giving them INSTRUCTIONS.  This is a potent word, used in a variety of situations: the commands given by military leaders to their subordinates, the rules or principles given by a teacher to their students, and the word of a king or emperor as laws put upon the people.

This emphasis on service and witness means the object of ministry is not self or other believers, but others, and particularly the LOST.  In this case Jesus’ command was to minister only to their fellow Jews: the Gentiles and Samaritans would be reached at another time.  Jesus’ command to GO… TO THE LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL fulfilled the Old Testament promises that a Messiah would be sent to Israel.  This is an example to us that ministry is not about gratifying self, but is focused on meeting the needs of others.

Our ministry of witness is to PREACH…THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NEAR.  Repentance is the response for which we’re aiming as we witness, because repentance is necessary for salvation (Mark 6:12).  THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN refers to the people of God, distinguished by true faith.

To say t KINGDOM is NEAR means two things.  One, it is close enough to be recognized by those who have faith and the Spirit to see it.  Two, that a decision is demanded: don’t procrastinate.  The KINGDOM is NEAR in time; the opportunity to join it is now.

Our ministry of service is to relieve all kinds of distress.  SICK…DEAD…LEPROSY…DEMONS are a representative sample of all the kinds of ills human beings can suffer.  Jesus gave His disciples AUTHORITY over them all!  Following the example of the Apostles, we are to provide the material and spiritual service that results in healing other’s suffering.  The Apostles returned later and testified that they had received power to accomplish these works of service.

Witness and service are to be given generously.  As Jesus said, “FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.”  God gives to us with grace and generosity; it reveals a lot about the true state of our faith when we don’t show that same kind of grace and generosity to others.  In this, the apostles were to follow God’s example and thereby set an example for us to follow.  This instruction also helps us avoid the temptation to build our own ”empire” instead of building God’s Kingdom.

  1. As a disciple you must depend on God, not yourself (vs. 9-11).

This requires you to not trust in your worldly resources.  There is a personal reason Jesus gave this command: the Apostles were to trust God to provide for their material needs.  To teach them this, Jesus instructed them to take no provisions for themselves: no money, no bag for carrying an extra tunic or sandals, nor even a staff.  If they took it along, they were depending on their own resources, not on God.  The phrase TAKE ALONG meant “procure.”  It was about going out to get all the stuff a person might need for a life on the road.

Jesus had a theological reason for this teaching.  If you and I do only the things we know we can do, then we get the glory.  On the other hand, if we do the things that only God could do, He gets the glory.

Jesus had two practical reasons.  First, if you know you’re going to depend on others for all your material needs, you have an obvious motive for ministry.  If your next meal depends on you witnessing, you’ve got some urgency in your belly that doesn’t depend on “willpower.”

Second, this was a short-term “training” mission, not an extended trip.  They were not going to the Gentiles or Samaritans.  There was no need for the extensive preparations that a lengthier journey would require.  Ministry was the priority.

Disciples trust God to equip them through the people He has prepared.  Notice the principle behind Jesus’ instruction in vs. 9-11: worthiness.  The worker is a worthy person.  FOR THE WORKER IS WORTHY OF HIS KEEP.  Those who sacrifice themselves to do the work of ministry deserve our support.

The worker is to search for a WORTHY PERSON to supply His needs and stick with them.  The worthiness of this person would be spirituality first and material support second.  Also, because the Apostles would be associating with that person throughout their stay, their worthiness would be measured by their reputation in the community: would association with them help or hinder their witness?  Jesus told them to STAY AT HIS HOUSE UNTIL YOU LEAVE.  It would be tempting to “trade up” to a nicer house or better food, but that would be ungrateful to someone who’d been generous and might have impaired the reputation of the Apostles.

  1. As a disciple you must practice peace and judgment (vs. 11-15).

Begin new relationships with peace, but be prepared to render judgment.  Remember that the home in this example belongs to a WORTHY PERSON, so it is reasonable to expect a peaceful greeting.

The first step, then, is to give the household a peaceful GREETING (12).  In Jewish culture, that was “Peace to this house” or “Shalom.”

The second step was determined by the response of the household.  If they responded to the greeting of PEACE with PEACE, then they were deserving of PEACE.  In that case, the Apostles were to STAY AT THAT HOUSE until they left, and allow their PEACE to REST ON IT too.

On the other hand, if they responded to the greeting of PEACE by not welcoming them or not listening to them (v. 14), then the Apostles were to LET their PEACE RETURN to them and shake the dust of that house or town off their feet.  In Jewish culture, shaking the dust off one’s feet or clothing was a nonverbal curse (Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 18:6).  For example, it was their habit to shake the dust off before entering Gentile lands so as not to carry any of the soil of the Promised Land with them.  Before leaving Gentile lands, they would shake the dust off to avoid bringing any of that unclean soil with them into the Promised Land.  This was a curse that would come to pass ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.

Realize that not everyone will accept your witness and service.  These instructions make the most sense when we remember Jesus was preparing His disciples for the possibility of rejection and acceptance.  He was sending them out of the safety of their group and the world was as likely to show them the back of its hand as offer a hand in fellowship.

His other purpose is to demonstrate this is serious business.  To reject God’s ambassadors is a rejection of God; to reject God is to put one’s self under a curse that will come to full and deadly fruition on Judgment Day.  As Jesus explained in verse 40, “HE WHO RECEIVES YOU RECEIVES ME, AND HE WHO RECEIVES ME RECEIVES THE ONE WHO SENT ME.”

Though we come peaceably to witness and serve, there is no guarantee we will be received peaceably.  When people make up their own minds, their response is their responsibility, not ours.

Jesus prepared His disciples for service and witness.

We observed earlier the Twelve were called to follow Jesus, they did not volunteer.  The difference between the two is instructive:

  • Disciples surrender their rights in service to their master, but volunteers retain their rights and some are quite likely to bellyache at perceived violations of their rights.
  • Discipleship is an act of complete self-sacrifice while volunteers offer only a portion of their resources, often what they can easily spare.
  • Discipleship is a way of life while volunteerism is more like a hobby; something we enjoy but is not central to our survival or growth.
  • Disciples live to serve while volunteers expect to be rewarded for their service.

While it is true that the church needs workers, God calls all of us to be disciples.  The difference between the two makes all the difference.  A person can be a volunteer in the church without being a disciple, but a disciple will always be a gracious volunteer.

 

Part Two: The Cost of Discipleship

Part Three: The Courage to be a Disciple

 

RESOURCES:

Message #1321

http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/d/discipleship.htm

The Matthew Henry Commentary, Matthew Henry

Authority Redeemed

Authority Redeemed_vfinal (1)(Image by James Best, (C) 2019, https://www.behance.net/gallery/82544295/Sermon-Illustrations-2019.)

Please read Ephesians 5:21-6:9 in your Bible of choice.

“Benjamin West was just trying to be a good babysitter for his little sister Sally. While his mother was out, Benjamin found some bottles of colored ink and proceeded to paint Sally’s portrait. But by the time Mrs. West returned, ink blots stained the table, chairs, and floor. Benjamin’s mother surveyed the mess without a word until she saw the picture. Picking it up she exclaimed, “Why, it’s Sally!” She bent down and kissed her young son.
“In 1763, when he was 25 years old, Benjamin West was selected as history painter to England’s King George III. He became one of the most celebrated artists of his day. Commenting on his start as an artist, he said, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.” Her encouragement did far more than a rebuke ever could have done.
“It’s easy to notice the wrong in a child, but difficult to look beyond an innocent offense to see an act of creativity and love. What a challenge to raise our children according to God’s standards, knowing when to say, ‘It’s a mess!’ and when to say, ‘Why, it’s Sally!’” -D. C. McCasland at https://www.preceptaustin.org/ephesians_sermon_illustrations_6

CONTEXT = In Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus demonstrated that our relationship with God trumps family, church, and all human relationships.  In v. 21, Paul reminds us that mutual submission is to characterize all relationships in the Church.  Our other relationships flow from our relationships to God and the Church.

Notice a pattern in the three sections of our passage; Paul addresses the follower first, the leader second: the marriage section begins with the word WIVES, the parenting section begins with the word CHILDREN, and the slavery section begins with the word SLAVES.  The Greek adds the article before the noun, but is otherwise exactly the same.  Listing the subordinate member first may be Paul’s way to equalizing their status a bit.

Authority is redeemed when leaders and followers live as disciples of Jesus.

  1. In redeemed marriages, the cultural model was challenged and changed.

In redeemed marriages, wives were to submit to the husband’s authority.  Verse 22 plainly states WIVES, SUBMIT TO YOUR HUSBANDS AS TO THE LORD.  No one would seriously claim equality with Christ.  (Although, Romans 8:17 tells us we are CO-HEIRS WITH CHRIST.)  Paul considered submission a “given” and offered this example to illustrate the principle.  He didn’t argue against the cultural norm, but redeemed it.

An equally plain statement was made in verse 24: NOW AS THE CHURCH SUBMITS TO CHRIST, SO ALSO WIVES SHOULD SUBMIT TO THEIR HUSBANDS IN EVERYTHING.  Paul was always an advocate of order and here he calls for orderly marital relations by bringing an end to competition between husband and wife.  The standard he describes here is theological as it is based on the Church’s submission to Christ, and it is total, as the word EVERYTHING indicates.

In verse 33 Paul added respect to submission: THE WIFE MUST RESPECT HER HUSBAND.  This does not mean that RESPECT only goes one way.  Paul’s inspired command challenged a culture where the wife’s only recourse was passive-aggressive forms of disrespect.  RESPECT is commanded for all relationships in the church: 1 Peter 2:17 said, SHOW PROPER RESPECT TO EVERYONE: LOVE THE BROTHERHOOD OF BELIEVERS, FEAR GOD, HONOR THE KING.

In redeemed marriages husbands were to temper the exercise of their authority.  The command to love appears in verse 25; HUSBANDS, LOVE YOUR WIVES, JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH.  Paul directly opposed a Grecian culture that had removed love from marriage and a Roman culture that had made marriage a revolving door.  He held husbands to the highest possible standard of love; the same love that Christ showed His Church, as described in detail in vs. 26-27.

As verse 25 is the maximum standard for love, verse 28 is the minimum: IN THIS SAME WAY, HUSBANDS OUGHT TO LOVE THEIR WIVES AS THEIR OWN BODIES.  HE WHO LOVES HIS WIFE LOVES HIMSELF.  Paul’s appeal was directed at men, who tend to be self-centered.  But they can be counted on to care for themselves.  In this sense, the husband is to love his wife no less than he loves himself.  Paul is not herein approving self-centeredness, he is effectively saying, “If loving your wife the way Christ love the Church seems too difficult at the moment, then at least show here as much care and you show self-care.

  1. In redeemed families, the cultural model was challenged and changed.

In redeemed families, children (a term which included people of elementary age to early 20s) were to honor and obey their parents. (vs. 1-3)  A qualifier is given: IN THE LORD. Obedience is best realized in the context of our relationship with Christ, subject to Him.

A reason is given: FOR THIS IS RIGHT.  Obedience to one’s parents is simply the correct way to treat them.  SUBMIT is not as strong a word as OBEY.

Another reason is given: honoring one’s parents is one of the Ten Commandments, the only one with a promise attached; long and productive life.  Thus, a motive for honoring your parents is for your own blessing.

Obedience characterizes the childhood years and fades when our kids become adults.  However, the command to HONOR one’s parents is a life-long directive.

In redeemed families, fathers were to temper the exercise of their authority.  (The Greek word for FATHERS could also be translated as “parents.”)  Specifically, FATHERS were not to EXASPERATE their children.  Children can become exasperated when their will is thwarted; that is natural and is not the responsibility of the parent.  The child is morally responsible for their exasperation on that occasion.

However, exasperation also appears when authority is abused or unfairly applied; when parents are insensitive to the feelings of their children, being legalistic or harsh.  Instead of exasperation, fathers are to give TRAINING AND INSTRUCTION based on the Lord’s teachings.  Parents are to teach the biblical and moral reasons behind the rules so their children’s hearts are attuned to the Lord.

This affirms the teaching set forth in Deuteronomy 6:7, that the family is the primary means of instruction in the faith.  God puts families together (Psalm 68:6) for several reasons; it is the basic social unit of civilized life.

  1. In redeemed households, the practice of slavery was challenged and changed.

In redeemed households, slaves were to obey their masters.  It is estimated that 35% of the people in the Roman Empire were slaves.  Slavery then was practiced in significantly different ways than it was practiced here, but it was no more humane.

Paul qualified obedience 5 ways.

– WITH RESPECT.

– WITH…FEAR.

– WITH SINCERITY OF HEART.

– AS YOU WOULD OBEY CHRIST

– WHOLEHEARTEDLY or “with goodwill.”

Paul explained the depth of obedience.  It is not superficial, but supernatural.  First, obedience is given even when the master is NOT watching, when it will not guarantee a favorable outcome.  Second, obedience is to be given because doing so earns us an eternal REWARD, not the earthly reward of the master’s FAVOR.

In redeemed households, masters were to treat their slaves with respect out of fear of their MASTER IN HEAVEN.  For Paul to command slave owners to have this kind of attitude was directly contrary to the attitudes and actions of non-Christian slave owners; very radical of Paul.  Notice that even though there is a huge inequality between masters and slaves, masters were ordered to treat their slaves IN THE SAME WAY that the slaves were to treat the masters!  This implies an equality of RESPECT, FEAR, and SINCERITY.

There is a theological reason for this deferential treatment of slaves; SINCE YOU KNOW THAT HE WHO IS BOTH THEIR MASTER AND YOURS IS IN HEAVEN, AND THERE IS NO FAVORITISM WITH HIM.  You could understand if a slave or master felt that God showed FAVORITISM, but Paul assures us that is not the case.  This fits perfectly with Paul’s important statement about equality in God’s sight: THERE IS NEITHER JEW NOR GREEK, SLAVE NOR FREE, MALE NOR FEMALE, FOR YOU ARE ONE IN CHRIST JESUS (Galatians 8:28).  In the Old Testament slavery was regulated in a comparatively more benevolent way, but Paul’s teaching here goes beyond that.  He’s saying that in Christ – in every way that really counts – slaves and masters are equals.  Mutual respect should characterize their relationship as well.  A master is not allowed to use threatening or abusive behavior toward his slaves.  His authority is tempered by the love of Christ in his heart.

Authority is redeemed when leaders and followers live as disciples of Jesus.

Throughout this section, Paul wrote candidly about the culture within which he lived.  He did not approve the culture’s practices, nor did he express disapproval.  This is true even in the section on slavery.

Instead, he challenged the Christians in that culture.  Those who follow Jesus Christ were to live to a higher standard, one that was divine in origin.  When the worldly culture left wives no other recourse but passive-aggressiveness, God called wives to win love with respectful submission.  When the worldly culture gave the husband unlimited authority, God’s word challenged husbands to temper their authority with love.

When the culture gave children no protections, God promised a long life to those who obeyed their parents.  When the culture gave fathers absolute authority, God commanded them to be sensitive to the feelings of their children, in keeping with the ultimate aim of bringing them to maturity in life and faith.

When the culture put slaves at the absolute bottom rung of the social ladder, God commanded them to render service to their master by the measure of the service they owed Jesus Christ.  When masters were given the authority of life and death, God commanded them to treat their slaves just as their heavenly Father treated them.

I believe we trivialize this passage when we search for legalisms.  There’s something much more profound at work here than settling the question of who’s in charge.  In this passage, the existing culture is merely noted as inadequate.  God revealed to Paul that there is a higher standard to which God’s people are called.  The principle behind the teaching on all three kinds of relationships is made obvious in verse twenty-one: SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER OUT OF REVERENCE FOR CHRIST.  That is the portion of the passage that applies to all relationships and is portable to all situations.  If we seek to know how to order our marital relationships, family relationships, and work relationships, we must start there and find ways to apply the general principle to our unique situations.

 

RESOURCES:

Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Ephesians, Clinton E. Arnold

Breathe in Peace

Please read John 20:19-23.

Jesus Exiting the Tomb

It’s been nearly a week since the world saw images of the cathedral Notre-Dame engulfed in flames.  As you are no doubt aware, there has been no shortage of reactions to the fire and opinions about rebuilding the historic building.

On one side you have the architectural experts who have already submitted unsolicited opinions that the cathedral should be renovated to reflect modern, politically correct sensibilities.  I heard one man condemn the cathedral as oppressive to non-Christians and non-whites.  His solution sounded to me like a kind of “religious mall” that accommodated worshippers of all faiths and no faith at all.

Chowderheaded notions like that betray the sad state of the PC crowd.  To have these thoughts, let alone express them in a public forum, is ridiculous.

On the other side I offer Mel Lawrenz, Minister-at-Large at Elmbrook Church and director of The Brook Network.  He wrote, “Notre-Dame de Paris is a church building, but also a landmark of civilization whose construction was started 858 years ago, taking 200 years to build. When its construction began, Paris only had 100,000 residents.

“What do the great cathedrals represent? Churches are built to facilitate worship. A church is a gathering place for the people of God. They stream to

it from the surrounding neighborhoods, and so enjoy a connection with each other, the basic movement that forms community and society.

“When I saw Notre-Dame burning what came to my mind was the great loss of this symbol, but also the fires burning up our civilization today.  Philosophies that deny the possibility of truth, the abnegation of morality and ethics, the devaluing of community and the descent into lonely isolationism. Churches settling for superficial sentimentalism and church leaders trading integrity for fame. Government leaders forgetting the very idea of selfless service. The laziness of crude social communication. There are dozens of fires smoldering among us, and none of us know when [one] will flare up & make us less civilized.

“A mason who worked on the beginnings of Notre Dame in AD 1160 knew he would not see it completed, nor his apprentice son, nor his son, nor his son. They all worked on something that God and the world could see 200 years after it was started. The most important things we work on in our lives will never be completed within our lifetimes.  And the most important things we will build are not buildings.”

<https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/04/the-notre-dame-fire-civilization-burning/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&spMailingID=59057872&spUserID=MTI3ODAxOTkxODkwS0&spJobID=1622644128&spReportId=MTYyMjY0NDEyOAS2&gt;

The resurrected Jesus replaced His disciples’ fear with peace, joy, the Holy Spirit, and authority.

  1. They were afraid of the Jews.

They were afraid even though Peter and John had already seen the empty tomb (vs. 1-9) and Mary of Magdala had seen Jesus Himself (10-18).  If they’d understood from the evidence and eyewitness Jesus was raised from the dead what reason did they have to be afraid?

Clearly, they didn’t understand.    Peter and John saw only the empty tomb; they didn’t see Jesus.  This was evidence they’d misinterpreted.  They may have been concerned that the Romans or Jewish leaders were convinced Jesus’ body had been stolen, they would likely be blamed, sought out and arrested.   Without His body they had no way of proving their innocence on a grave-robbing charge, a crime that met with severe penalty: death.  The empty tomb may have added to their fears, not diminished them.

Mark 16:11 says the disciples found Mary of Magdala’s account to be unbelievable.  To be fair, Mark 16:12-13 says they didn’t believe the testimony of two others who said they’d met Jesus walking in t country.  This is nothing new; in the gospels Jesus rebukes the disciples several times for their being slow to believe (Luke 24:25).

Their fear was demonstrated in two ways (19).  One, they were gathered together, possibly believing there was strength in numbers.  Of course, they gathered for reasons other than fear; surely grief bound them together as well.

Two, they had locked the doors.  The motive for doing this is specified as FEAR OF THE JEWS.  John’s reference to THE JEWS probably meant the Jewish religious and civil authorities; the Sanhedrin.  What did the disciples fear THE JEWS would do to them?  Probably some version of what they’d done to Jesus, perhaps more quietly.

  1. Jesus replaced their fears with blessings.

He replaced their fear with peace by being among them (19). Jesus’ means of entry into their locked room is not specified, so we are left to imagine how it happened.  The point is that He STOOD AMONG THEM.  He was with them again!

Surely His presence among them, say nothing of His sudden appearance, would have been startling to already nervous people.  To calm their fears, He pronounced PEACE to them for the first of two times in this passage.  This expression is often used in response to angelic visitations and other situations where a startled, fearful response would be understandable.

He replaced their fear with joy by confirming His identity and His still-human nature (20).  Jesus SHOWED THEM HIS HANDS AND SIDE: two of the three places where His body had been pierced during His crucifixion.  This allowed them to recognize Jesus as a man, not a ghost (see Luke 24:37-39).

We could paraphrase this verse to say, “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw He was the Lord.”  It was really Him!  A small part of their joy may’ve been relief that He wasn’t a ghost, but the major portion must have been that He was not dead.

He replaced their fear with peace by pronouncing peace to them (19+21).  Jesus blessed them with His peace a second time (a reminder of the peace He’d promised them in John 14:27).  Part of this PEACE was an assurance that their story was not over.  Quite the opposite, Jesus was sending them into the world as God the Father had sent Him. The commissioning we see here fits with Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 18, “AS YOU SENT ME INTO THE WORLD I HAVE SENT THEM INTO THE WORLD.”

At that time, this was a typical greeting in the Hebrew language; shalom alekem.  In a situation where they felt anything BUT peace, it was a familiar-sounding and calming blessing.  The fact that Jesus bid them PEACE twice supports the assumption that He appeared suddenly and miraculously among them, startling them.  As this is something people aren’t normally able to do, He also had to reassure them He was a man not a ghost.

He replaced their fear with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them (22).  They would go into the world to continue Jesus’ mission.  As He had, they would carry on under the power of the Holy Spirit.

The matter of Jesus’ breathing on them seems strange to us.  Consider the following:

The sight, sound, and feeling of Jesus’ breath were more proof that He had risen bodily from the dead.  Ghosts do not have breath.

In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word we translate as “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”

Both of them are required for life but are invisible to the naked eye.

This action is meant to remind us of a couple Old Testament passages.  First, Genesis 2:7; how God created humans by breathing THE BREATH OF LIFE into the nostrils of the man He’d created from the dust of the earth.  Second, the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37), where God breathed new life into the dead men’s bones.

We can understand Jesus’ action of breathing on them was a kind of demonstration, given the layers of meaning we have just noted.

He replaced their fear by delegating His authority to them (v. 23). As Jesus’ opponents acknowledged, only God has to power to forgive sins (for example, see Mark 2:7).  Jesus repeatedly exercised this power, demonstrating He was God as well as man.

In this verse He is delegating to His disciples the divine authority to forgive or withhold forgiveness.  The word FORGIVE literally means “to let go, to release.”  In this way it reminds us of the “binding and loosing” promise Jesus made in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18.

The resurrected Jesus replaced His disciples’ fear with peace, joy, the Holy Spirit, and authority.

A mother and her four-year-old daughter were preparing to retire for the night. The child was afraid of the dark. When the light was out, the child caught a glimpse of the moon outside the window. “Mother,” she asked, “is the moon God’s light?”

“Yes,” said the mother.

The next question was, “Will God put out His light and go to sleep?”

The mother replied, “No, my child, God never goes to sleep.”

Then out of the simplicity of a child’s faith, she said that which gave reassurance to the fearful mother, “Well, as long as God is awake, there is no sense both of us staying awake.”

<http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/faith-to-sleep&gt;

Fear is one of the things Easter has done away with.  As we’ve seen this morning, fear has been defeated.  It no longer holds any mastery over us.  In Jesus Christ, our fear of death, in particular, has been put to rest.

The resurrected Jesus Christ relieves us of fear and replaces it with courage based on the peace, authority, joy, and Holy Spirit power.  Yes, fears still arise, but their voice rings false.  The world’s threats are empty.  Because we share in the Resurrection Day victory of Jesus, we shall overcome all our fears.

 

Resources

The Anchor Bible, Raymond E. Brown

Message #180

Zondervan Bible Commentary, David J. Ellis

Do What is Due

(Please read Romans 13:1-7 in your favorite Bible.  I studied the NIV to make these remarks.)

I read the following article at NEWSER.com 

“’If they were going to inconvenience me then I was going to inconvenience them,’ says Nick Stafford of employees at his local DMV, which received 298,745 unrolled pennies weighing 1,548 pounds on Wednesday. Stafford’s payment came after months of butting heads with DMV workers. The Cedar Bluff, Va., man says he attempted to call the Lebanon DMV in September with a ‘30-second question’—an inquiry about registering a new car—but reached a call center in Richmond and was put on hold for more than an hour. He then got a number for the Lebanon DMV through a Freedom of Information Act request, but was told it wasn’t for public use. Employees answered his question, but wouldn’t give up the numbers to nine other local DMVs, Stafford says—so he sued for them.

“The suits were dismissed Tuesday, but Stafford ended up getting those numbers, which he posted online. As a further protest, he paid $2,987.45 in sales tax for two cars with pennies—five wheelbarrows full of them. He bought the wheelbarrows for $400 and paid 11 people $10 per hour to break open rolls of pennies over four hours, meaning the scheme cost him $840.

“DMV workers spent 12 hours counting his pennies, which jammed a coin-counting machine. Considering such an enormous task, they were

surprisingly ‘respectful and accommodating,’

Stafford says on his website. Moral of the story, NEVER, ever, tell a slightly rebellious, yet knowledgeable and well informed tax paying citizen… he is not ‘allowed’ to call a phone number that HE is already paying for.”

<Retrieved from http://www.newser.com/story/236811/to-inconvenience-dmv-guy-pays-in-300kpennies.html?utm_source=8at8&utm_medium=email&utm_content=1636199079483677525&utm_campaign=20170113 on 01/13/17.>

Obviously, this man’s vengeful and possibly publicity-driven stunt is NOT the kind of relations we as Christians want to have with our government.  And please, don’t make your tithe or offering in wheelbarrows full of pennies.  Let’s talk first!

Rushing in where angels fear to tread – mixing politics and religion this morning – I felt this was the most appropriate moment all year to look at Romans 13:1-7.  Consider that this week holds a celebration of the civil rights legacy and life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Sanctity of Human Life Day, and the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.  What other week in all of 2017 will evidence the entire spectrum of American political life than this?  In what other week will we be so obviously challenged to be one nation, under God?

Christian, where do we fit in the body politic?  Is there a place at the conference table for people of faith?  I believe God is telling us to be good citizens, exercising our freedom in Christ in responsible, righteous and respectful ways.

  1. The Principle: Voluntary submission to authority.

Let’s set this passage in context.  Paul was a Jew.  He grew up under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. The empire and its officials held the power of life and death, could tax with prejudice, and there was no appeal for most of the decisions handed down.  There were the “one percenters” as always, only 2-5% middle class, and the remaining 94+% of humanity were reduced to subsistence living at or near the level of slavery.  Imagine what it cost Paul to pen these words in the world in which he lived.

The command is to SUBMIT.  In the Greek language in which Romans was written, this word is hupotasso, which means to subject one’s self.  It is a voluntary submission to authority that is typically motivated by a sense of devotion.  This is what you want to do.

This is NOT the word hupakuo, which can also be translated as SUBMIT, but is a submission motivated by a sense of duty.  It may not be what we want to do, but what we have to do.  The distinction is important because motive is one of the key parts of determining the ethics of an action.  Devotion is generally preferable.

There are six reasons to keep this command.

One, it is God who establishes AUTHORITY (1-2).  When we studied the creation chapters in Genesis we learned that God is a God of order.  Creativity is brining order out of chaos.  From the Old Testament prophets we learn that even evil governments bring a kind of order and further that they are instruments in God’s hands.

Two, rebellion brings one under JUDGMENT (2).  The warning is clear and the terms absolute: rebellion against AUTHORITY is rebellion against God.  Rebels bring judgment on themselves.  We will talk later about instances when rebellion may be the most moral choice.

Three, wrong-doing results in fear of authority (3).  The only people who need to FEAR the authorities are persons doing evil.  Think about yourself out driving.  What happens when you see a police car?  Are they merely part of the scenery, just another vehicle on the road?  Or do you immediately check your speedometer, put on the safety belt you forgot before, or give thought to what you might be doing wrong?  Worse, how do you feel when you see the flashing lights behind you?

Four, righteousness brings commendation (3).  Don’t you wish this were true?  Too often it feels like “No good deed goes unpunished.”  Here’s a place we need to trust God rather than our experience and believe that sooner or later, in this life or the next, that our good works will be rewarded.

Fifth, to avoid punishment (4-5).  Wanting to avoid punishment may not be the most unselfish motive in the world, but as it is sufficient to keep us from evil, it’s good enough.  Paul uses very serious language here: Authorities BEAR THE SWORD.  That sounds threatening.  They have the power to punish evil doers.  They are AGENTS OF WRATH.  Whether they are good or evil, God is so powerful He routinely uses them to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.

Sixth, to keep a good CONSCIENCE (5).  The Bible teaches that every person is created with a conscience.  Like other parts of our humanity, the conscience needs development as we mature.  Not everyone’s conscience develops well. The best way to develop and maintain a good CONSCIENCE is to do what is right.

Paul expresses a realistic but radical view of authority that follows the teaching of Jesus.  Its “realistic” in the sense of being practical and reflects the universal human experience that life is easier and better when we SUBMIT to the authorities God has put in place over us.  Its “radical” in the sense that he uses unconditional language and calls followers of Jesus to a standard that seems impractical in the world as we have experienced it.

I believe this passage elaborates the principle Paul set forth in the preceding verse: DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD. (Romans 12:21)  There is another thing we need to remember.  Scripture must be combined with other Scripture to form beliefs that validate all of the parts.  If this were the only passage that spoke to the believer’s relation to authority, then these unconditional statements would be more troubling.  We’ll talk more on that later.  We must also remember that Paul is not just talking about governmental authorities, but all persons who have an authoritative role in our lives.  From parents to presidents, submitting to authority figures is part of our devotion to God.

  1. An application of the principle: taxes.

Taxes have always been a sore subject.

Paul offers 3 reasons a disciple must pay taxes.

First, AUTHORITIES ARE GOD’S SERVANTS (6).  SERVANTS can also be translated as “ministers.”  This means that like a priest, the governing authorities represent God in the world.  They function in His role of bringing order to chaos.  It may help us to think of God delegating some of His supreme authority to these people so their governing actions bring about His will in the world.

Second, GIVE THEIR FULL TIME TO GOVERNING (6).  Not only do the AUTHORITIES deserve our cooperation, they deserve our support.  One reason we pay taxes is the very practical reason that it enables those who govern to work FULL TIME at their governing.  This is similar to what God commanded for the support of the priests in the Old Testament.  They did not do any other work to support themselves and did not own land.  The nation of Israel gave offerings to God and the offerings supported the priests.

Third, GIVE EVERYONE WHAT YOU OWE HIM (7).  This is an expansion of the principle of taxes being given to support authorities.  Paul is generalizing the principle, saying, “In the same way you should pay the taxes you owe to the government, you pay the worker what his labor is worth, not whatever you feel you can afford.”

This is about money, but it is also, as Paul makes clear, about all kinds of obligations.  Note that along with TAXES and REVENUE, he also mentions RESPECT and HONOR.  It makes sense that these emotional components would accompany submission that is based on devotion, not duty.  So, for example, being in compliance with your TAXES and REVENUE is good, but that’s not the whole picture of submission to authorities.  A true follower of Jesus will also show RESPECT and give HONOR to those who lead.

  1. The test of the principle: evil government.

It feels like Paul is only writing about an ideal situation, a government that is good.  Remember what I said about the Roman government and life in his culture.  Know that Paul personally suffered beatings and imprisonment at the hands of governmental authorities.  This is personal, not philosophical or theological.  If anyone had motive to resist the government, Paul did.  But he taught just the opposite.

Remember the teaching of Jesus that supported this radical submission.  For example, Roman soldiers could order civilians to carry their kits up to a mile.  Those who refused could be killed on the spot.  Commenting on this, Jesus said, “IF SOMEONE FORCES YOU TO GO ONE MILE, GO WITH HIM TWO.” (Matthew 5:41)  He also affirmed the duty of citizens to pay their taxes and obey the authorities.  On the other hand, He also confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the system that oppressed the poor (see Matthew 23:2-3 as an example).

Notice Paul wrote about governments not cultures nor any other kind of human system.  Understand Paul’s teaching here is consistent with what he taught elsewhere (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Titus 3:1) and in agreement with Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17).

Reconcile this teaching with the actions of the apostles.  When he was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter respectfully refused to obey their order to speak the name of Jesus no more.  He said to those religious leaders, “WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.” (Acts 5:29)  When we put all this together, the teaching is clear but maybe a bit more complicated: Our default attitude is to respectfully SUBMIT to the authorities in our life until they make demands that are contrary to the will of God.  Like Peter, we must obey God first and lesser authorities second.

This is simple in theory but more complicated in practice because of our tendency toward self-deception and excuse-making.  We need to be certain of our facts and our motives before we take on city hall or any other AUTHORITY God has put in the world.

Note the key word in the first point: VOLUNTARY.  Though it is mandated by God’s law and man’s law, submission is still voluntary.  Also in his reference to the conscience in verse 5, Paul reminds us that this whole subject is on an individual level.

Historically, this is an essential point for us as Baptists; every individual’s right and responsibility to weigh his own conscience against the demands of the governing authorities.  While in the short term we may have to answer to human authorities, in the long term we will definitely have to answer to God as our Righteous Judge.  For those of us who know that, we are more motivated to please our Heavenly Judge than any earthly one.

We have seen in the Bible that God is telling us to be good citizens, exercising our freedom in Christ in responsible, righteous and respectful ways.

As we conclude, may I remind you that this is not a philosophical discussion in all places in the world?  We need to be in prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world who live under governments that sponsor or at least tolerate violent persecution of Christians.

I mention all this to give us a little perspective. While it is easy to let politics drive us apart, we need to remember that there are more important matters to bring us together.  For example, equality of opportunity, justice, and affirmation of life are goals that all Americans should support in our common political life.