February 6 – Matthew 10:32-39

Here at the start of the year is a great time to do a check in conversation with your group, just to see how things are going and assess any helpful changes you might make. If you haven’t already made use of it, here’s a discussion out of Acts 2 that can guide that conversation.
In our passage this week Jesus asserts that citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is fundamentally costly. That’s not to say it comes with zero benefits, but we need to forget the memberships we’re most accustomed to; this is no Netflix or sorority. Membership in the kingdom demands your entire self, including what may feel most precious: your comfort, security, and control. And yet it also comes with a promise, that those who lose their lives for Jesus’ sake will receive them back from his hands.

Last week we saw Jesus travel to Capernaum at the start of his Galilean Ministry (Matt. 4:12-17). Here in chapter 10, Jesus is coaching his twelve apostles as he prepares to send them out into the Galilean countryside proclaiming the gospel. He’ll send them out again following his death and resurrection (Matt. 28:16-20), so this is their training ground both for future ministry and for experiencing Jesus’ own rejection and death.

Violent resistance to those who bring the good news of Jesus’ reign is not all that surprising. Commentator R.T. France points out “These are not just some unfortunate side-effects of [their] mission. The very purpose of Jesus’ coming is ‘not peace but a sword,’ because the message of God’s kingship is one which always has and always will lead to violent response from those who are threatened by it.”

Yet Jesus doesn’t advocate for a two-sided resistance. Followers of Jesus aren’t called to turn against their families and see them as enemies. Instead, as Jesus’ disciples follow him, others will resist them as enemies. Ultimately, Jesus’ way is not hostility towards one’s enemies but loving them in the face of their hostility.

Another point of clarification: the word “worthy” in v.37-38 might trouble you. Protestants naturally flinch at the idea of earning salvation, and rightly so. But the way Jesus uses “worthy” here is like Paul in Phil. 1:27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel.” This is not “worthy” as in earning but as in befitting; we can’t possibly live lives suitable for receiving the gospel (cf. 1 John 1:8), but we are called to live lives suitable to the gospel we have already received by grace.

And amid the all-consuming cost of following Jesus, we aren’t without hope. In our discussion we’ll turn to this comforting truth, that Jesus asks nothing of us that he has not already given for us. Check out Matthew 13:53-58 (cf. Mark 3:21 and John 7:3-5)—Jesus’ own family rejected him. When Jesus invites us to take up our cross, he beckons with a nail-scarred hand.

To be fair, Jesus’ warning of suffering is no easy pill to swallow. If we’ve reduced the gospel to a mere ticket to heaven, the high cost of following Jesus will be difficult for us to grasp or accept. We may wonder, why would Jesus ask me to suffer?

But perhaps in our suffering we can take joy in a special sort of comradery with our savior, knowing that he uniquely understands our trials, has himself carried them for our sake, and is with us by his Spirit in every millisecond of our difficulty. Jesus tells us that all this cost is worth it because, in losing our mortal lives, we find true life in him.

Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read Matthew 10:32-39 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• Why do you think following Jesus leads to this sort of suffering?

• How does Jesus’ own life exemplify what he speaks about here?

• How can Jesus’ suffering give us hope during our suffering?

• What about this passage is convicting to you?

• Following Jesus is hard, but how might that difficulty actually help us grow in our faith?