Reading through Matthew 10, you find Jesus sending His disciples out with a message: “The kingdom in near.” They were given authority by Jesus to drive out demons, heal the sick and even raise the dead back to life! It’s important to notice that they were sent to “the lost sheep of Israel” with their message, not yet to the uttermost parts.
They were sent to proclaim THE kingdom to a people who were awaiting THE kingdom – people who should have known their own history and had numerous festivals and observances geared to remind them of God’s rescue and provision and promise. And yet, Jesus knew that when it really came down to it, when “the kingdom of heaven has come near”, when more than they could have ever hoped or dreamed of was finally being given – they were going to reject it.
He warned His disciples that they’d feel the brunt of this rejection. Phrases like “sheep among wolves”, “be on your guard”, & “when they arrest you…” don’t exactly paint a very welcoming picture for those who were bringing good news! Jesus warned of brothers betraying brothers and fathers turning over their sons to be put to death because of Him.
I wonder if the church has forgotten the “sheep among wolves” nature of why we are here. When we complain that the world doesn’t make room for us or show us the proper respect a religious institution like the church deserves (“They even schedule baseball on Sunday!”), is that even a little bit shrewd or innocent? Or is it more selfish and pouty? Instead of going “like sheep among wolves”, are we merely planting ourselves like rocks in a pond then complaining that it’s wet and mossy?
Let’s not forget that even though we have been given the greatest news any man could ever share, it is news that requires sacrifice – so many will not want to hear it. We have to give them a reason to listen – and the courage to live the truth even when they don’t.