KEY THOT: Before sending the Twelve on their mission, Jesus warned them to expect persecution: "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles" (Matthew 10:16-18). The disciples had just received the authority from Jesus to engage the spiritual forces of darkness: "(Jesus) gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction" (Matthew 10:1). When we engage Satan and his hosts to set people free from their oppression, we can expect that Satan will not take this lying down--he will raise his opposition as persecution.
Jesus says, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). So, even though Jesus came to bring us inner peace with God, self and others, Satan will stir up opposition and persecution in the world. And that brings us to today's key text: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" ("Matthew 10:34). Satan will stir up opposition from family members: "a person's enemies will be those of his own household." Being disciples means following Christ at all costs--even to the point of losing one's life for Jesus' sake.
In our affluent society (and many like it) where we live in relative peace and prosperity, such discipleship teaching of Jesus is considered "hard sayings". Some have flocked to churches that promise escape from tribulation (rapture) or a Christian life without demands of discipleship. As Christians in Marawi had discovered recently, being identified as a Christian can means instant death.
Nevertheless, if we are to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus came to preach, we will inevitably come into conflict with the kingdom of darkness. If Jesus himself was not spared, then his disciples would not be spared too: "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household" (vv. 24-25). The "how much more" theology is often used to apply to God's blessings, but seldom to persecution.
But remember what Jesus said: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (v.28). The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of men is a snare.
Father, deliver us from fear of death for You have conquered death and even though we may be called to make the ultimate sacrifice, You will not abandon us to Hell. Amen.