Matthew 10:26-31, Sunday 21st June

One of the things we have enjoyed doing over the last few months in lockdown is getting together with a group of friends on a video call every couple of weeks and having a ‘Pub Quiz’.  It’s a lot of fun although it turns out that Lucie and I are not very good at pub quizzes – I think our best result was coming in third place, unfortunately that was on a week when there were only three teams!

Thankfully it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun taking part and it’s a great feeling when you are the only person who knows an obscure and completely useless piece of trivia!  With that in mind I thought I’d give you a quick Bible Trivia Quiz Question: What is the most common command in the Bible?

If you’ve read today’s Bible reading you’ll have a clue to this one – it’s nothing to do with rules and regulations, it’s not even anything to do with love.  The most common command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”.  Hundreds of times throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, when God speaks to people he says “Do not be afraid”.

In our fairly short Bible reading from Matthew chapter 10 Jesus says “Do not be afraid” three times, and to understand why that is we need to step back a little and look at what is going on when Jesus is speaking to his disciples. 

Jesus and his disciples have been travelling around for a while now and word is spreading about the wonderful and amazing things that Jesus is doing.  However this means that more and more people are coming to him and at the end of chapter 9 Jesus said those well known words  “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”.

And so at the beginning of chapter 10 Jesus calls together the 12 disciples and he gives them the power to do all that he has been doing – teaching, healing, driving out demons, everything.  And he sends them out in pairs into the towns and villages to do this in his name.

But in the big motivational speech which he gives to the disciples before they set off on this already pretty terrifying adventure, he tells them “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves…be on your guard…you will be arrested…you will be betrayed…you will be persecuted in my name.”  You can imagine, I’m sure, just how comforted the disciples would have been by this!

And that is why, in today’s passage, Jesus says three times “Do not be afraid”.  First he says do not be afraid, you are not on your own.  Jesus reassures his friends that he is with them, even in the darkness.  Then he says do not be afraid, they are not all powerful. Jesus reminds his friends that whatever power their persecutors may have is nothing compared to God’s power which can conquer even the power of death. 

And finally he says do not be afraid, you are precious to God.  Jesus points out that God cares for each and every sparrow, which are sold two a penny in the market, so how much more does he care for them, his children.  Even the number of hairs on their head is known to God, Jesus says.

The world is a scary place at the moment.  But whatever may trouble us, whatever anxieties may lurk in some dark corner of our mind, if we follow him then we too can hear those reassuring words of Jesus – do not be afraid, you are not on your own.  Do not be afraid, that which you fear is not all powerful.  Do not be afraid, you are precious to God.

And if we can take those words to heart then we, the Church, the people of God, the followers of Jesus Christ will be able to share God’s love in every town and every village without fear. 

Amen.

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