“The Greatest Danger to the Best, Comes from Second Best

Matthew 10:32-42

Jesus has been preparing His disciples for going out to do the things that He had been doing. Jesus gave His disciples the details of the kingdom in His Sermon on the Mount. He then spent time showing them how to share the Good News with words and with healing and with driving out demons. In chapter 10 Jesus gives His disciples the power to heal and drive out demons along with a pep talk of what to expect. 

Last week we read how the disciples were to expect opposition and persecution. The world didn’t like Jesus and treated Him with disdain so the disciples should expect similar treatment. Yet, Jesus told them not to fear, the world may not like them, but they needed to keep their focus on the Kingdom, God had their back. 

In today’s Scripture, Jesus continues to give the disciples more insight in order to prepare them for their task. In today’s verses Jesus shares the type of attitude His disciples should strive for to keep them focused.

The first type of attitude that was needed was boldness. The threat of ridicule, banishment from one’s family, imprisonment and even death were what the disciples were about to face. With those options, the disciples were told to be like doves but doves with the willingness to confess Jesus. 

Now let’s face it, denial would have been an easy way out, don’t you think? 

Being threatened with losing one’s family or death, 

one may quickly question whether this new way was worth it. Remember, they are just starting out. 

They don’t have the luxury of checking out the Scriptures on their cell phone for encouragement. But even for those of us who do, Jesus doesn’t mince words. If we chose to deny Christ here on earth, Jesus will deny us when we stand before the Father in heaven. 

Okay, personal check time – 

If you were taken to court today on the conviction of being a Christian, 

a follower of Jesus Christ, 

would there be enough evidence to convict you?

There is no such thing as a “secret” Christian. 

I know many people who tell me their faith is a personal matter. According to Matthew 10:32-33, if we don’t admit and proclaim our faith to others, Jesus will not acknowledge us before God. 

Tough stuff.

This next verse 34 is intriguing,  

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.”

Really? Isn’t Jesus the “Prince of Peace?”

What about everything we just read in Matthew 5-7, wasn’t that a message of peace?

Yes and Yes. 

Jesus is the Prince of Peace and His message is a message of peace, however, in this world, this message of peace is radical and divides those who choose to follow it against those who choose to reject it. It is this division between the two choices that explains why Jesus did not come to bring peace, but to bring a sword. This sword of choices was the dividing factor. Jesus was calling disciples to a devotion that needed to be greater than spouse, mother, father, and child. Jesus knew there would come times when His presence would divide rather than unify. 

This is where the concept of idolatry arises. 

Whenever we put something, 

no matter what, 

before our devotion to Christ, 

we have created an idol. 

For Christians, the greatest danger of idolatry doesn’t come from what is bad. We recognize evil, things that are contrary to good and often choose not to idolize them. It is when we have something good in our lives, like a cushy job, comfortable lifestyle, or a loving family relationship. When we hold on to that good with more devotion than Jesus we have created an idol. The greatest danger to the best comes from second best.

Then comes verse 38, another tough concept to follow. 

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Let’s not take this verse out of context. When a person in Jesus’ day “took up their cross,” they were not simply going through a difficult time or trouble, or hampered with physical ailment. The ancient Roman cross was not something you were handed and then had an option to put down once you figured things out, negotiated a deal or were healed. Once you were given a cross, it meant you were going to die. 

No ifs, ands or buts. 

This is the first mention of the cross in Matthew’s Gospel and the mention of this word must have been disturbing for the disciples. Crucifixion was not a word mentioned in polite company and although it was not an uncommon site in Roman Palestine it was still not a subject they often discussed. 

In the following verse Jesus states, 

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

As disciples of Christ we are called to live in a paradox. We are to follow after Jesus, die to ourselves and be willing to die for the cause of the Gospel. Jesus sets the bar high. You see, a Christian who shuns the cross misses the mark and a crossbearer who does not follow Jesus equally misses the mark. 

This is tough stuff.

Jesus closes on a positive note. He assures His disciples that it would not be all doom, there would be those who would receive them. The Message of the Gospel would be understood and accepted and that is why Jesus was sending them out as witnesses. 

Remember, the harvest is plentiful. When the disciples were welcomed it was though Jesus too was being welcomed. When we reach out and support one of God’s disciples Jesus said we too shall receive the same reward as the disciple. Whether we send money on a monthly basis or simply offer them something as insignificant as a cold cup of water, anything done to support God’s people, will be seen as meaningful in God’s eye. I would like to elaborate on this concept for a bit. Taking care of God’s disciples, someone doing something specifically in God’s name, doesn’t have to be something big. The example of a cup of water given, when the person will soon be thirsty again may seem insignificant yet God claims is meaningful, should make us rethink how we support our missionaries. 

I served two years as a missionary in Bolivia and recall one time when a group of volunteers came to help us with a building project. I taught high school science in the jungle outside Santa Cruz and we needed some repairs to our school. A group of volunteers came down to help. There were mostly men who came, but one woman decided to come with her husband. She remarked how insignificant she felt because she didn’t have any building skills. When asked what she could do she remarked she was a hairdresser and that was about it. 

About it! 

The very next day the missionaries had a hair salon of sorts set up and this woman had appointments for the rest of the time the team was there. 

Do you know how long it had been since many of the missionaries had their hair done?  

Do you know how wonderful they felt after getting a new “Do?” One missionary stated she felt like herself again. Insignificant? Maybe. 

A deal breaker for those who needed a haircut. 

Before this woman went home she shared how blessed she felt to be able to offer something to the missionaries and how she never thought it would happen. When she went home she did not feel insignificant. 

Jesus was sending out His disciples, knowing they were about to face difficult situations, but preparing them to give and to receive so that all of those who chose to follow would be rewarded. 

Here’s the deal as I see it. 

When we choose to follow Jesus, it is an all in kind of deal. Out with self, in with Christ. 

It’s an all in decision and by doing so, we immediately invite division. 

A division between those who choose to follow and those who don’t. 

Expect the division and be like doves. 

Change the “d” to “l” and make it love. 

Remember, it’s the message they do not like, dust off your shoes, and keep going. Whether you are the message bearer or you are receiving a message bearer, reach out with what you have 


even something as insignificant as a glass of water, 

given in the name of Jesus is seen as 

a gift from and to God. 

The toughest part of this message is that those who choose to follow Jesus, must also take up the cross, and be willing to die to self and die for the sake of the Gospel. 

Jim Eliot – missionary to the Auca Indians in South America who, along with four other missionaries, was killed by those Indians they sought to bring the Gospel, put it this way,

“He is no fool who 

gives what he cannot keep 

to gain 

that which he cannot lose.”

Not many, if any of us, will be called to give our lives for our faith. 

Yet all of us are called to share the Gospel, the Good News, and to give what we have to those who are in need. And should those who follow Jesus be called to die, we are reminded today as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper that death is not the final answer. Jesus conquered death so that each of us may have eternal life.