Frightened Animals: A Sent Tale

Who knew my spirit animal was so anticlimactic?

In the book of Matthew, it seems like an understatement that we have the privilege to see the greatest teacher and healer of all time on display. From the momentous Sermon on the Mount to the endless string of healings that followed Him wherever He went, one has to wonder what it would have been like to follow Him? To see and be truly uplifted and awestruck by how great He was? I think that may have been the point ole’ Matthew was gunning for. To show just who He was, what He did, and what He wanted of His followers. Ultimately, while it seems redundant, what He wanted was for us to follow Him. But what is the most significant job for His follower to partake of? Being sent.

In Matthew 9:36-38, after all the teachings and miracles, we get to see a bird’s eye view of what Jesus was thinking. After all this, He was left with these thoughts. “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

This in a nutshell is what we are called to do. In fact, after Matthew names all His disciples in 10:2-4, we see that Jesus’ response to such musings was that He “sent out” (10:5) His disciples. And that’s where we get our problem, isn’t it? That’s where many of us run into a dilemma of inconvenience when following Him. It’s interesting that what disheartened Jesus so much was that He had sheep that were far off. The reason it is interesting is because we as people are continually called sheep right and left by Jesus throughout His time on earth. In fact, vs. 6 once again discusses those who are His lost sheep. And finally, in vs. 16 we see He summarizes His thoughts by stating, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

If you haven’t noticed it yet, there are a lot of animal references in this text. Too many in fact for a simple article. The one I want to point out specifically is that Jesus has called His followers (disciples) sheep, who are to go out likewise to search for the sheep that are lost. Is this a simple request He asks? Not entirely, because the Lord admits there are wolves to beware of. Here is the crux of this lesson. We, as His sheep and followers, are called to go out to a world where danger does in fact abound, but to be sent nonetheless. It doesn’t take an expert to establish that sheep are frequently mentioned as being frightened and perhaps dumb creatures in need of guidance, and above all a Shepherd.

Where am I going with this? I guess I am just trying to justify the fact that being sent can be a frightening experience for some, especially sheep like me. In our Wednesday Bible class, I have been privileged enough to study with and help prep the teens to get to a point in our walk with Christ to go out and spread the Gospel. But may I be frank with you? While I have got to the point in my life that it is relatively easy to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ, approaching someone or one on one studies just freak me out. How do you think it felt for the future apostles? Jesus in this chapter warns that they will be rejected (14-15), persecuted (16-18), hated (23), and perhaps rejected, sent away, and hated by their own family (21-22, 34-37). While many of us in our lives are blessed enough not to be in a situation of such hurt and death when it comes to being sent, still the notion of rejection and resentment from loved ones can be fearful.

What’s a frightened animal like I to do, when courage regarding such important tasks seems absent? The answer is simple. Jesus three times in this chapter gives a simple command, “do not fear” (26, 28, 31). Do not fear! Is that an easy command? For some (and assuredly the disciples here) that may not have been the case. But today I want to briefly share 3 reasons why this command to not fear is so prevalent, according to Matthew 10. First, because the task is great. Those sheep out there are lost and alone, and will be far more frightened one day if we fail to take action. Second, because there is One far more frightening, God Himself (28). Is there anyone more awesome and in control as He? I thought not. Lastly, because He cares far more for you than any creature, all whom He provides for (29-31). Is there any better assurance?

Now, I think this is a fantastic chapter for YOU to check out when that fear and uncertainty of being sent creeps up. But just know this, if we truly are His followers, His disciples, and His found sheep, we must be sent in order to search out those far less fortunate animals.

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