Christianity 201

January 25, 2014

The Public Speech and the Private Speech

When I was much younger, I was taught that on some issues, Christian leaders have a public position and a private position. I’ve seen this play out many times, but while I appreciate that sometimes you don’t want to get too deep into issues with people who aren’t matured enough spiritually to absorb all the nuances of those issues, there is a danger of hypocrisy if your public and private position can be conceived of as being opposites.

Anyway, I’m not sure how we got into all that, but today, I want to think about the words Jesus shared as part of his public ministry and the words shared strictly to his disciples. By this I mean The Twelve — as compared to the disciples in general which may have involved about 70 regulars, or the great multitude we only have quantified as 5,000 men who attended his gatherings elsewhere.

In the small group we were part of last fall, we looked at what is usually termed The Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. But Jesus seems to have other things reserved for the disciples in Matthew 10.  Anything that’s scripture here at C201 usually appears in green, but today we’ll revert to the more common custom of having the words of Jesus in red.

5…“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Some quick notes:

Verse 5/6 is not a universal prescription; inclusion in Jesus’ ministry will widen in the New Testament arc, just as it does in the Old Testament arc.

Verses 9 – 15 contain what is often called “The Person of Peace Principle.” You can read more about this in reference to church planting or in terms of starting any kind of ministry.

Verses 16 – 20 offer these disciples a promise that if they don’t know what to say God will give them words. (I often think of the phrase in Psalm 81, “Open your mouth and I will fill it;” though the context there is quite different!) What’s interesting here is that God promises the Holy Spirit will supply them the words, but at this point the Holy Spirit just rested on people. How much more the disciples would be able to speak with boldness when they were filled with the Spirit in Acts 2.

The remainder of the chapter begins what some call “the hard sayings of Jesus,” though being sent out without a change of clothes or money to buy food doesn’t sound like a cakewalk, either. I’ve heard stories about missions trips where pairs of people — often young people — are dropped off in a town in a foreign country with minimal money for a 24 hour period.  I’m not sure how I feel about this particular discipleship tactic, but two things strike me immediately. First, you would tend to look for that person of peace, and secondly you would tend to need the Holy Spirit’s help in a fresh way.

I’m sure some of Jesus’ disciples were equally nervous as they went out on their way.

Matthew Henry says, “This chapter is an ordination sermon, which our Lord Jesus preached, when he advanced his twelve disciples to the degree and dignity of apostles.” In succeeding chapters we hear these disciples report back successes, but also challenges they faced.

Note: A seemingly parallel section to today’s reading is found in Luke 10, but there it is directed to the seventy-two, not the twelve.


  1. Of note Paul is verse 40, which might be the key to the Kingdom. Anyone who welcomes, is hospitable to, listens to, honours you welcomes Jesus and the Father and will be rewarded fot that -verses 41, 42. Study the gospel of John and this principle will be found to be central to the gospel even in the passage in John about born from above.

    Comment by ghartwell2014 — January 25, 2014 @ 7:36 pm | Reply

    • Yes! Thank you for that comment. On the one hand, they are told they are being sent as sheep among wolves (v. 16), but on the other hand, there is the promise — and I think we can take this anticipated possibility as a promise — that they will also find others who will receive them and welcome them and bring them into “a worthy home.” (vv. 11-13).

      I’m also reminded of the song we once sang, Freely Freely. The title line says,
      Freely freely you have received; freely freely give.
      from verse eight,
      but then the next line begins,
      Go in my name

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 25, 2014 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

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