Jesus continued to prepare His disciples for the task ahead.
They had been given the breathtaking honor of being the messengers of God to a dying world, but it wasn’t going to be easy. In a world full of toxic sin and rebellion, God’s holy truth brings anger, rejection, even violence. Jesus said:
“‘Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in Heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 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. A man’s enemy will be the members of his own household.’”
Wow. In this world, it is often easy to convince ourselves that we can be neutral. We can sit on the fence and keep ourselves outside of the Epic Battle. Jesus is saying we can’t. If we deny Him, if we fail to stand for Him, we have chosen to disown Him. The consequence for doing so is far worse than the persecution we could experience here on earth. The choice is steep…it is a sword, creating divisions right through the heart of families. But it must be made. Christ is the first loyalty.
“‘Anyone who loves his father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will find it.’”
It is interesting that Jesus mentioned a cross…this story came before He went to His death. Crucifixion was such an awful form of death that it was the metaphor Jesus chose to explain how seriously a believer must take his walk. There has to be a death in this life in order to take up life in Christ. Yet this loss is not a promise of endless suffering. It comes with the immediate promise of a life that is better than anything we can imagine. The awards are going to be amazing.
The faithful ones who choose the way of Christ will be a blessing to everyone who receives their message:
“‘He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives the One who sent Me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive prophets reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is My disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.’”
Jesus was well aware that there was a great task ahead for Himself and His disciples. It would include loss and suffering and death. Unlike the stories you would normally hear about kings or lesser gods, Jesus stepped forward and took the brunt of the blow for us. He saw at every point along the way that the shame of this world was something to scorn, and He knew that His Father was going to make all things new. That is the hope we are meant to live by as well.