Adverse Side Effects
Have you ever actually listened to those advertisements for various drugs on television? While we are looking at images of someone happily chopping wood, cooking, playing with their children, or romantically gazing into the eyes of their significant other while walking down the beach, there is a brief positive statement about the benefits of a particular drug. Then, for the next twenty seconds, we hear a constant flow of warnings about reasons why you should not take this drug. We hear about sleeplessness, blood pressure spikes or drops, anxiety and depression, suicidal thoughts, irritability, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, and the list goes on. So, for a $100,000 dollar commercial, approximately $65,000 of the cost goes towards telling you why you shouldn’t take it.
In Matthew 10, after Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out to the villages on a limited assignment to proclaim the kingdom to the lost sheep of Israel, He basically does the same thing. For thirty-six verses, He warns them of the opposition and persecution that they will face. Now Jesus isn’t worried about being sued. Instead, He is letting the disciples know what lies ahead of them and then gives them instruction and encouragement on how to deal with it. He assures them that the Holy Spirit will guide them in what to say and do and that they are not going out alone. This is what we often focus on when we read this passage.
Word & Deed
However, as I was studying this passage last week, I was particularly struck by His detailed instructions for how they were to proclaim the coming of the kingdom. First of all they were to proclaim verbally that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This was a proclamation of word. Secondly they were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. This was a proclamation of deed, as well as an attestation of the truth of their words. People would know that their words were true by their accompanying deeds. One did not go without the other.
We are often prone to doing one or the other, depending on our personality. If we are gifted in verbal sparring, or are just kind of wordy in general, we are going to lean towards the verbal proclamation and interaction. We will lean towards telling people what they are doing wrong and why their lives are miserable. Then we drop the gospel hammer on them. If you are one who has a special relish for getting punched in the face, I strongly recommend this path.
On the other hand, if we are the silent or shy types, we will lean towards the proclamation through deeds. We are big on mercy ministry and all the stuff that comes from that. Now, I am all for deeds of mercy. However, because of the relatively silent nature of it, the recipients can often miss the gospel truth that undergirds and motivates it.
As Jesus instructed the disciples, we must be willing to engage them in both word and deed. The deeds make clear to the recipients that we are driven by love, not only for God, but for those we are ministering to. The miraculous signs that Jesus authorized them to do were all loving acts. No holes opening up in the ground, swallowing up scoffers. No boulders dropping on top of the Pharisees. It was just healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons. As it was for the twelve, when we perform deeds of proclamation in love, our verbal proclamation can be heard in its fullness.
Opposition & Judgment
To be sure, there is judgment included in the proclamation for those who reject it. Jesus spends a great deal of time detailing all the ways that people will still oppose and persecute them for their message. As He said at the end of the chapter, those who deny Him will be denied by Jesus before the Father. Those who attack and persecute the disciples without repentance are doing the same to Jesus, and they will reap the consequences of their rejection eternally. However, the message in word and deed that the disciples were to proclaim was one of love, mercy, and deliverance for all those who will receive it.
Opposition, suffering, or persecution of various stripes for our faith will inevitably come, if we are faithful to proclaim it. Jesus never uses words like if or maybe in this passage. He uses definitive language, words like when and will. However, when it comes, let’s make sure we are suffering for the right reasons. There is no great satisfaction to be found in suffering for being a jerk. Let’s be consumed and driven by love, acting in humility, and proclaim the gospel in both word and deed to those God brings to us.