Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:25b “. . .and the servant as his lord.”
True discipleship entails identification of the closest kind with the Master, which in turn makes the disciple increasingly more like the Master. As believers, we must always seek closer oneness with Jesus in order to become more like Him.
We claim to know this already. We say it so often that the words grow overly familiar, trite and flippant on our lips, yet at the same time, the actual concept has become foreign to our way of living. Jim Petersen well says of our generation of believers, “Thirty years of discipleship programs and we are not discipled.”
We believers may not be as similar to Jesus as we think we are. He ministered directly to the poor and touched the sick. Do we? He prayed a lot, and had true power. Do we? He went on mission to help folks far away? Have we gone? He suffered death on a cross for others. Have we consciously sacrificed anything of consequence or been inconvenienced recently for anyone? I fear our perceived similarity with Christ may be more a figment of our imagination than a true reality.
We all have heroes we want to imitate–athletes, politicians, Godly models. We travel to Springfield, Illinois, to see life through Lincoln’s eyes, to feel what he felt, hoping some of it will rub off on us and make us more like him. We go to Mount Vernon and Valley Forge, wondering, what made a Washington, and whatever it is, can we get some of it here and now for our lives? We often spend more time consciously thinking of imitating other heroes than we do of imitating Jesus.
The stark truth of this harsh reality crashed in on me when I read a quote of pollster George Barna, who recently surveyed many born again Christians about their lifestyles. He reveals a shocking fact, “Not one of the adults we interviewed said that their goal in life was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ or to make disciples of the entire world–or even of their entire block.” We have a huge disconnect between what our lips say and our lives portray about discipleship.
Billy Graham rightly says, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have.” We often try to piecemeal our commitment, thinking it is ultimately expressed in ongoing decisions to give up certain little things now and then, here and there. But commitment entails giving up the will, our total essence, our complete way of thinking. We give up things as the result of a will that’s been totally yielded. The burning passion of our lives should be to share Jesus’ life, to grow so close to Him that we begin to think like Him, and then act like Him.
Matt. 10:25c “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how
much more shall they call them of his household?”
Our relationship with Jesus is more intimate than disciple to master, and servant to lord. He brings us so close to Himself that He deems us family members of His own household. It’s an honor to be in the same family with Jesus. We are proud to be identified with the most beautiful and most important life ever lived. He was misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented, and mistreated. We His people expect no better. It is enough, satisfying, for us to be like Him. Sharing His plight is not a sign of disgrace or of God’s displeasure, but rather a privilege.
They called our precious Savior Beelzebub. Pagan Philistines, inveterate enemies of God’s people, worshiped in their pantheon of gods a deity called Beelzebub (2 Kings 1:2), meaning lord of the flies. They begged him to chase away flies, tormenting creatures in their country. Beelzebub was a filthy, low-life, dunghill deity, lord of all impurity and excrement, the breeding ground of flies.
Idolatry has ever been regarded by God’s people as devil worship (LV 17:7, DT 32:17, PS 106:37, 1 Cor. 10:20). Thus, the Jews transferred the name of this especially despicable god of dung to the lord of demons. It was a term of ultimate derision and contempt, used in place of his more dignified name, Satan.
By calling Jesus Beelzebub, they were saying He was Satan incarnate. They knew Christ had supernatural powers. His miracles were too powerful and obvious to be denied. The only hope to discredit Him was to label His power demonic.
Christ’s power was so strong that He could not be a lieutenant in evil, an underling in villainy, an assistant in crime. Anyone with this much power had to be the lead warlord of darkness, the main power broker, an incarnation of the devil himself. They hated Jesus so much that they not only said He was the devil in person, but used the most virile and derisive term they had ever conveyed on Satan.
Note three truths. First, Jesus ignored taunts. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is rarely true, but did seem to be the case with Jesus. He passed through blasphemies unmoved and unharmed, as through a fog. Despite the insults, Jesus’ life is remembered as the most beautiful ever lived.
Second, Jesus showed unbelievable patience. Which is more amazing, the cruelty of Christ’s abusers, or Christ’s patience toward them? It’s remarkable the earth didn’t open and swallow the taunters. Fire should have fallen from Heaven. A tidal wave should have swept in from the Mediterranean Sea to obliterate them.
Third, those most like the devil are often the ones who paint others as being like Satan. “Takes one to know one” may apply. Bad guys win by convincing society they are good guys and good guys are bad guys. Persecutors of Christians can’t fare well in a culture if they don’t first cast aspersion on us. They must “first dress up those in bear-skins whom they thus bait” (Henry). Their cruelties would never be justified if they did not first turn against us the tide of human opinion.
Decaying cultures think backward thoughts, adopting the reverse of reality. The devilish is deemed divine, the divine devilish, good is bad, bad is good. Saving a baby’s life is bad, killing it good. Sexual purity is prudish, immorality stylish. Open-minded is enlightened, conviction intolerant. The only thing that stays always open is a sewer, an apt picture of what our cultural mind-set is becoming.
Matt. 10:26a “Fear them not therefore:. . .”
The enemies of Jesus have already spoken the worst blasphemies they can ever utter. Nothing they call us–hypocrites, bigots, boring–can ever be worse than being labeled Satan incarnate. “Therefore” fear them not. Our Master survived scorn and abuse worse than we’ll ever experience. “Therefore” fear them not. We have been alerted in advance, trouble is coming. There’s no reason to sense uncertainty or be caught off guard. Forewarned is forearmed, “therefore” fear them not.
When angels in the Bible said “Fear not,” it was a blessing, for it came from the lips of an ambassador from Heaven’s throne room. Jesus saying “Fear not” should have even greater impact, for He is the One who sits on Heaven’s throne.
My Aunt Vickie, youngest of 13, struggled with being the runt of the litter. She released frustration by slapping roosters around. She harassed mean critters into meaner ones. One of her enraged roosters one day leaped on my back, dug his claws into my winter coat and began pecking the back of my head. Grandma came running with a broom, and with swings that would be envied by Mickey Mantle or Mark McGwire beat that rooster off my back, hitting me more times than the rooster. When she told Grandpa to go kill that rooster, he grabbed his double barrel shotgun and told me to come with him. As we headed for the hen house, that rooster came running straight for me. I started to run, but Grandpa grabbed me, telling me to stand still and not be afraid. At the moment, the only thought scarier than that rooster was Grandpa with his double barrel shotgun. As the rooster started to leap at me, Grandpa kicked it like a football and sent it flying. It hit the ground running, with Grandpa and me in hot pursuit. Once we cornered it at the fence, Grandpa took aim, but had forgotten his glasses. The first shot blew off the rooster’s legs. A flopping rooster is not a pleasant sight. The second shot blew off its head and put it out of its misery. That night, we had fried chicken for supper.
Fear them not. Our Father defeated their rooster. Someday we’ll have fried devil for supper; in the meantime he’s wounded, flopping wherever he can. Our team won, our God reigns. We do our duty, leaving outcomes to Him. John Knox gave as the secret of his success, “I stay in prayer until I’m so afraid of God I can’t be afraid of anyone else.” Amen. Fear God and fear sin, but don’t fear them.