“Do Not Fear”

Matthew 10:16-31

Last week Matthew told how Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the Good News and how He gave them the power to heal and drive out evil spirits. 

I encouraged those of you who were here to “Go” as well  and share the Gospel or live the Gospel wherever you found yourself. 

Now whether or not you did so intentionally 

is between you and God at this point, 

since no one has shared with me otherwise. 

But as a side note, 

wherever we go and whatever we say 

is a testimony to something 

because people notice. 


we are being observed by those with whom we come in contact, 

good or bad. 

A saying I remember hearing, 

“Be alert, 

You may be the only Jesus some people ever see.”

Today’s Scripture tells us that Jesus had to prepare His disciples for what they were going to experience. Jesus knew that even though He was sending His disciples out to do wonderful miracles, they would face persecution. There is something wrong with that picture. 

Why would the world hate someone who was healing and bringing peace? 

Yet Jesus warns them that their good deeds would bring them difficulties. Jesus described the situation like sheep being sent out into the midst of wolves. 

Not very encouraging words, do you think? 

Jesus tells His disciples to go out and follow His example by healing and preaching the Good News and by the way, you can’t take anything with you and be prepared for people to persecute you. Can you imagine what the disciples could have been thinking at this point? 

“What have I gotten myself into?”

Or perhaps they chose to look at this picture on a more positive side. In nature there are far more sheep than wolves. 

Jesus also tells His disciples that despite their vulnerable position, they were not to use any forms of power to defend themselves. Instead, they were to remain as harmless as doves, though wise as serpents. 

What does that mean exactly? 

In nature, doves are attacked only by their enemies and they do their best to stay out of harm’s way. We are told by Jesus that we should use wisdom and if possible, keep from attracting trouble in the first place. At best, avoid difficulties without compromise. Serpents on the other hand are attacked by most everyone and they must use creativity and sneakiness to survive. 

This analogy lends itself to the fact that doves remain harmless, we are called to do no harm. Even though Jesus warns that the disciples would experience persecution in both the civic arena and the religious arena. They would be taken to court and they would be persecuted in the synagogue. Not only that, they would be brought before governors and kings for Jesus’ sake. 

Think about it! 

It sounds horrendous but actually what an amazing opportunity! 

The gospel would have a voice before the highest people in their world. And who would be presenting this message? A group of despised and illiterate people! They were the ones healing and doing amazing miracles. Christ was using the insignificant to make a statement. 

What hope for the majority of insignificant people around them! 

They may endure persecution but their testimony for Jesus’ sake would bring the Good News to religious and civic persecutors and to the Gentiles. By mentioning the Gentiles, Jesus was suggesting His wider mission to all the world. 

Okay, stop for a moment and soak in what is happening. Picture in your mind a group of men who have been traveling around with Jesus. 

Dirty feet, plain clothed and most likely a bit disheveled in comparison to the upper class Jews of society. On one hand Jesus has given them amazing powers. They were being told they can go out into the cities and heal the sick, make the lame walk, the blind to see, what power! The good news was something they had believed and sharing this was exciting. 

However, the idea of persecution put a damper on things. What do you mean going to court? 

Lower class Jews didn’t fare well when they were brought to court. It took prestige and money to keep you from being convicted. Both of which they did not have.  

A conundrum.

However, Jesus continues in verse 19 to explain that they need not worry because when they were brought before rulers, God would defend them and speak for them. 

Okay, these disciples had spent time with Jesus. They had listened intently on the mountain as He taught. They had the words to share the Good News and the ability to do miracles, but when it came to defending themselves against the sneaky serpents, in court, that is when they began to worry. But Jesus tells them not to worry. They were to trust that God, in that moment, would speak through them even if they were unprepared. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were supposed to share the gospel, tell someone about Jesus and were at a loss for words? Even the most seasoned minister has been there. Here is what I have discovered. I remember numerous times, especially on the mission field, when I stepped out of my comfort zone and told someone about my faith and how Jesus makes a difference in my life and could do so in their life too. 

I recall thinking about the experience afterwards and questioning if I said the right words or put the details out there so they would understand. If you think it’s difficult at home, think of how difficult it feels when you have to speak another language. Yet, time after time what has come back to me is the exact words I chose or the method of explanation was not as important as the prayer that was said for the recipient to understand that God loved them and wanted them to become one of His children. What I have noticed is my words are not as important as the recipient’s hearing. God has a way of reshaping what I say so that the listener hears what is needed. That is the prayer we should offer. Jesus puts it this way in verse 20, “but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” is what will be heard. 

Notice Jesus had given His disciples the lessons and the words to share. 

He had been teaching them what was needed to bring the Good News to those who needed it. We have it written in chapters 5-7 of Matthew. Jesus wanted them and us to take what we know and believe and share it. Then let the Spirit of God determine the outcome. 

Jesus continues with His description of the extent of persecution that His disciples would experience. The preaching of the gospel would not only be divisive in the city square, it would divide families. This was harsh for those who were listening. The concept of family for the Jewish person in Jesus’ day was deep. One’s genealogy was significant. Everything done was done within the family structure. From how you survived on a daily basis, to where you stood in the temple, to even the person you would marry, was dependent upon the family. Dividing a family was devastating. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus goes on to say the disciples needed to be prepared to face being put to death, for His name’s sake. 

‘Til death? What was going on here? 

Fortunately those of us living in America do not have a direct connection to being put to death for our faith. But for those living in Jerusalem and Palestine during the time Jesus walked on earth, being put to death was a common occurrence. The Roman government was in control. And Caesar was not a benevolent dictator. The disciples to whom Jesus was speaking had a vision of what the Messiah would be like and it went something like this. An offspring of King David would come and His throne would be established in a kingdom that would last forever. These men hadn’t caught on to a “heavenly” kingdom. In their minds they were looking forward to a kingdom where God ruled, here on earth. 

The Messiah would conquer the Roman government and they would be free. They were prepared to die for such a kingdom. Eventually they would come to understand they were destined for a heavenly kingdom and would die a martyr’s death.

Most Christians since the ascension of Jesus Christ have endured persecution in economic and social arenas and since the writing of this gospel literally millions have given their lives faithfully for the Gospel.

Jesus then goes from death to warning them that they will be hated for His name’s sake. How strange that those who live by the kingdom expectations given in Matthew 5-7 would be the recipients of hatred. Yet, Jesus himself, the only sinless man ever to live, was hated enough to be crucified. 

In verse 22, Jesus encourages them to endure to the end, to weather the storm of persecution. If they endured to the end they would be saved. 

Although the disciples may not have understood the full extent of what Jesus was saying, they had experienced many miracles, one of which was raising a child from the dead. Jesus definitely had their attention and they had decided to follow Him, hook, line and sinker. 

Jesus does offer His followers an out. Jesus doesn’t expect His disciples to seek martyrdom or to run towards persecution. He tells them in verse 23, should they find persecution in one city, leave it. Flee to another place. Then Jesus says something that at first reading sounds confusing, He said, 

“Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Could Jesus really mean that He would return to this earth before the disciples would make it through all the cities of Israel? This has been interpreted differently by different scholars. Eugene Peterson puts it like this in The Message, 

“But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”

Good advice for us today, quitters never win and winners never quit. We will never run out of options before the Son of Man arrives. 



The question of “Why should the disciples expect persecution?” is answered in the following verses 24-25. Basically, the disciples shouldn’t expect to be treated any differently than Jesus was treated. Jesus had already been called Satan. It couldn’t get much worse for His disciples. As we seek to be more like Jesus we should remember that in doing so the world will retaliate. 

> Jesus warns His disciples of persecution in order to give them a heads up and then He tells them not to fear, but to be bold in telling the gospel. Expect opposition, of all kinds and rather than succumbing to fear, have confidence that the truth will prevail. 

Despite the danger of persecution they can preach with boldness. 

Don’t allow the bully to win. 


If persecution or the threat of persecution keeps us from sharing the Good News or sharing God’s Word, then Satan has won a victory. Think about it, Paul tells us in Romans 10:17,

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

If Satan can keep us in fear so we don’t share the message, then how will others come to faith? 

Jesus provides hope in order for us not to be intimidated. Jesus claims in verse 26,

“…for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” 

Eventually everything will come out in the open. We may have to wait, but everyone will know how things really are. 

Jesus also made a point to tell His disciples that His Message was one that should be shouted from the mountain tops. Everyone should hear it, make it public. 

It wasn’t a secret message that only the inner circle should know. Even if those on the outside may not understand it, they were to hear it. 

Jesus then tells us where our fear should be directed. We should not fear those who can kill the body, but rather fear God, who has control of our soul. The worst thing the world can do is destroy the body, but being a coward before God brings about eternal consequences. 

Easy to say when you are not being persecuted. But in the midst of persecution Jesus knew His disciples would need an encouraging word. 

Jesus reminded His disciples just how much God really did care for them, down to the most minute detail. God cares for the sparrows and God knows just how many hairs we have on our heads. 


God knows us better than our best friend, better than our spouse, better than we know ourselves. Do you know how many hairs are on your head? 

The persecuted easily feel God has forgotten them, Jesus reminds us that we are worth far more than the sparrows and God cares for us. 

The focus of this passage, the message for us today is, 

“Do Not Fear!” 

Jesus states this message three times in the past six verses. I think He repeats it because it is so real. 

Humans fear what other humans think about them. I’m not sure exactly why. This fear arises about the same time as puberty. Have you noticed little children don’t care what other people think? They will wear just about anything, say anything, who cares? 

They decide to try something based on how they feel, not on how others feel around them. 

Parents have to be vigilant and teach their children to “care.” 

Then about the time one begins to notice the opposite sex, it matters, what we wear, where we go, who we hang out with. 

Parents need to be vigilant then as well to teach their children what really matters.  

Humans have the ability to have certain controls over us, should we let them. 

Jesus knew this and He told His disciples to watch out, don’t be caught in the trap of fear of humans. Instead, fear God. And God says, 

share His love, 

share His message, 

regardless of what the world may say or do. 


not easy, 

but with God’s strength anything is possible. 

Let’s pray.