In Matthew 10, Jesus is preparing his disciples to go out on their first mission trip. The 12 will head to the towns of Israel to proclaim the kingdom of God just as Christ had been doing from chapters 5-9. And as Jesus gives his disciples their instructions, he has some things to say to them that are vital for our lives.
As Jesus sent his disciples out, it is unlikely that he was expecting they would face major persecution. At that time, people were primarily fascinated by Jesus and his ministry, and his followers were not yet being arrested, flogged, or executed. But, as Jesus taught his disciples here, he also taught them for the further future, when such would be the result of Christian witness.
As Jesus warned the disciples that men would hate them on his account, Jesus also told the disciples where to properly place their fear.
Matthew 10:28 – And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus warns that the disciples ought not allow themselves to fear the one who can kill the body alone. All sorts of people can do that. Soldiers can do that. Angry townspeople can do that. Wild animals can do that. But this is not where our proper fear lies.
Jesus tells the disciples that they should fear the one who has the power over their eternal souls. Of course, this is Jesus telling the disciples to fear God and not man. The fear of man can cause us to hide from telling the truth. The fear of man can keep us from going and proclaiming God’s kingdom as he has commanded. The fear of man eats at our souls and leads us deeply into sin.
Jesus wants his disciples to fear God. I do not think that Jesus is telling the disciples to have a terror of God, to fear that he will be cruel to them. God is always just and good. But the disciples are to have a proper respect for God. They are to grasp that God is holy where they are not. And that understanding should lead the disciples to tremble before God with awe and respect. And, for sure, the disciples should fear to oppose God.
Jesus is calling his disciples, as they launch out on their first mission trip, that they must be thinking in terms of God instead of man, of eternity instead of the temporary. These men are to remember that the work they do is not about their popularity or their physical safety. The work they do is not about their present-day success. The work they do is for the honor of the God who created them. And the work they do is about forever.
Christians, we need this reminder. WE live in a world that seems so solid, so stable, so unchanging. But if we stop to think for just a moment, we know that all that we see in our lives—the computers, the phones, the cars, the buildings—will pass away. No political movement has been eternal. No nation’s borders have stayed the same forever. No army is undefeatable. No human being lives beyond our allotted life span. We live in a very fragile world. WE live in a world that is passing away. To live for the present alone is to live as a fool. To live with a mind set on eternity is wise and honoring to the Lord.
Christian, think eternally. Live for forever. Fear God instead of man. Live to honor God more than you live to have comfort and safety. This life is passing. God is eternal and his holy judgment is eternal.