Matthew 10:21-23 (NIV) “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Jesus is helping His disciples to understand that as they follow in His footsteps, they will inevitably find themselves swimming upstream against the philosophies of the world, and against those of the Jewish religion. And just as Jesus Himself was a target of persecution, so will His followers be if they are true to what He was and is. This persecution would not only come from the governmental structures and from strangers, but also, shockingly, from family members.
These apostles, staunch followers of Jesus though they were, were understandably dismayed by this forecast. After all, who wants to have everybody, even your own family, turn against you? That was when Jesus assured them that those who stand firm to the end, standing strong even when they are persecuted or thrown out of town, will ultimately be saved. It will be worth it all in the end.
However, as He was sending them out, they needed to take one more hint from Jesus’ own playbook. If persecution broke out against them, they were instructed to not stand and fight, but to simply move on. They didn’t need to become combative and continue to invite persecution on themselves. There was plenty of fruit out there that was ripe and ready to be harvested. So, if resistance was encountered from one individual, or in one household or town, simply move on to the next person, the next household, the next town, and see if the fruit there is ripe enough to harvest.
And finally, the ultimate reassurance was that the entire responsibility for the harvest was not on their shoulders. Instead, Jesus would be coming along behind them, securing the crop that had already been harvested, harvesting the crops that were planted by the apostles and which had ripened in the intervening time, and even pronouncing God’s judgment on those who still remained unresponsive.
All that those apostles were really responsible to do was to go steadfastly into the fields, reap the harvest that was ripe, and keep moving. They would be held responsible for continuing until they had fulfilled their calling, even when persecution forced them to move on.
It is the same for disciples of Jesus today. We are not responsible for ripening the fruit; we are simply responsible to be on the lookout everywhere we go for fruit that is ripe. We are not responsible to make seeds grow, but to plant seeds of the gospel everywhere by showing God’s love to others, and by sharing our stories of how Jesus has transformed our lives. And we should never become combative; we need to simply retreat if strong opposition arises, trusting God to do all that can be done to cause any seeds that we have dropped in the process to grow.
Father, we often do think that it is all up to us, and so grow intimidated and fearful of being witnesses for Your kingdom. We tend to disregard, or at least minimize, the supernatural elements of what we have been called to do, and so struggle to do everything in our own strength. Help us to be faithful and always active in OUR part of the process, and leave to You that part that only YOU can do. Amen.