When we listen to these words from Matthew’s gospel, we are listening in on Jesus’ counsel to his twelve disciples as he prepares to send them out to proclaim the kingdom news. And we are listening in as Matthew uses these words of Jesus’ to reassure his readers in their witness for the gospel. And we are, in fact, listening too to the voice of God, speaking to us today in the Word of God, offering us comfort and inspiration to help us face the difficulties of being a Christian in today’s world.
What is it that Jesus is saying to the twelve, and that Matthew is saying to his community, and that God is saying to us today? It is this: Do… not… be… afraid.
The message is repeated three times in this short text:
(1) Do not be afraid… because “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known” (v.26). Eventually, says Jesus, everything will be out in the open; everyone will know how things really are. The secret motives and intentions of human hearts will be revealed. That which is true and right will stand, and that which is false and evil will fall away. Love and Truth will triumph in the end, so don’t be afraid, even when things seem to turn against you.
(2) Do not be afraid… because the evil that human beings inflict on you, the words by which they try to hurt you, even their persecution of you, are temporary, not eternal. Don’t be intimidated by their threats; don’t be silenced by their bullying; don’t be troubled when they impugn your motives or smear your reputation or threaten you or hurt you. In the balance of things, it means nothing. Save your fear for God, who holds your life in his hands.
(3) Do not be afraid… because God is holding you in love. God loves you more than anything. You are of infinitely more value to God than even the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, which God so carefully looks after and tends. Nothing will ever be able to separate you from that love. So don’t be afraid.
These words of Jesus, I believe, have implications far beyond their immediate context. They are spoken to the twelve as they prepare to go out to preach the good news Jesus has shared with them. They are spoken, too, to the earliest followers of Jesus by the evangelist Matthew. And they are spoken to us, not only when we meet resistance from others because we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, but whenever we find ourselves experiencing difficulty, danger, or fear.
God’s word to us in every circumstance is this:
“I am your light and your salvation. Do not be afraid.
I am the strength of your life. Do not be afraid.
I am with you always. Do not be afraid.”
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