25 June 2017

Matthew 10:24-39

“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (v. 39)

Psalm: Psalm 86


Today is the day on which ministers, both presbyters and deacons, are received into Full Connexion at the Methodist Conference and ordained, so a passage from Matthew 10 is very appropriate. Here Jesus gathers the twelve, gives them authority and sends them out (Matthew 10:1-23). They are appointed by name (see Isaiah 43) as today's newly-ordained ministers are.

Jesus gives detailed instructions and warnings about the perils of their mission. Compare this with the demands of Methodist ministry as listed in the ordinals in the Methodist Worship Book on pages 302 (presbyters) and 317 (deacons). In Matthew's Gospel, it is all set in the urgency of apocalyptic expectation - see verse 23, for example.

Today's passage starts at verse 24; verses 24-25 emphasising the newly-commissioned disciples' role as Jesus' representatives. In verses 26 onwards, Jesus encourages them to be bold in speaking for him and about him, and assures them of God's close, personal attention to them as individuals.

There is an emphasis on the very common biblical theme "do not be afraid". It is a thread running through both the Old and the New Testaments, and you can probably think of many instances. Ministry, mission, life itself, can be scary. Awareness of one's mortality and vulnerability can freeze the spirit. The wonderful gifts of consciousness and knowledge of our mortality are frightening things with which to cope. The loving care and eternal promises of God need to be repeatedly held before the disciple. And in the closing verses of today's passage, Jesus reminds us of the serious and scary impact of encountering God in Christ. Such holiness and righteousness, utterly good though they are, can bring division, even among close relations and friends. And the passage ends with the most demanding call on faith: to let go of life because that is the way to find it.

Today's psalm, 86, is a classic statement of trust in God in the face of life's sheer scariness. We are utterly dependent on the Lord. And Fred Kaan's hymn God, when I came into this life is a brilliant exploration of realistic personal commitment, particularly appropriate for this day.

To Ponder

  • As you pray for those being ordained today, consider what your Christian commitment means for the way you will live your life this week.
  • How does the apocalyptic flavour of Matthew 10 help or hinder you in responding to the call of God in Christ on your life?