Jesus said, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name.”
Occasionally I see a tv commercial for the First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls. When describing their service, there is mention of great praise music and an uplifting message from the pastor.
When I read this Gospel passage, I thought to myself, “How can I preach an uplifting message with this material?”Many years ago I left my little home in Granbury to move to Dallas to be close to family. In trying to find a new job, I looked into several things. One of them was sort of like a traveling salesman. I know, it’s hard to picture me as a salesman!
The ad in the paper said I was going to have great fun and make lots of money. OK, sign me up, I said!
I was directed to a storefront in a part of town I knew nothing about. I drove there, and walked in to apply for the job. As I sat and waited, I heard lots of shouting and cheering in another room. I later learned this was the morning pep rally for the salesforce. They were excited! I got excited! Then I learned what the selling was all about.
Three of us applicants were put with an experienced salesman who was fired up for the day. The sales involved driving around and going into businesses trying to sell cheap electronics from the trunk of his car. I quickly figured out that this was not the job for me.
The salesman I was with refused to take me back to my car, so I bailed out after a couple of stops and called a friend for a ride.
Rather than holding a pep rally for the twelve Apostles, Jesus was preparing them for a much tougher job. It did not sound like a fun job, but the one thing I learned from my short time in the trunk sales job was that, if it were the right job, one could learn to endure the short term hardships to keep the end goal in sight.
We know from the later stories that their lives were not to be easy. Jesus told them they would be hated and persecuted. Jesus was preparing them for the worst. Unlike the Pharisees who were greeting in the market place, and wore the fine vestments, the Apostles would be treated harshly by many.
He tells the apostles they will be persecuted, and hated, and maligned. There will be accusations and betrayal.
He starts out by saying, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.” This does not sound very promising, does it?
How in the world did this religion of Christianity survive so long? Jesus is not making it sound like fun at all! If this were some made up myth it would not have lasted more than a generation.
Why has it lasted? Because the Spirit of Jesus lives within us! This is because we are baptized and have been given the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has not gone silent as with the prophets of other religions. He speaks to us today in many ways. His works continue as well. People are healed, both physically and spiritually in his holy Name.
And there is the hope of everlasting life, which all Christians have. If it were not true, this hope would have died out long ago. It continues because it is true.
Jesus warned his apostles, and so warns us, that being his ambassadors in this world can cause us pain, but as he also taught, it can bring great joy, as well.
Being a follower of Jesus brings us peace in the face of these hardships. Even when we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus, he can bring us the peace that is beyond understanding.
At the end, Jesus declares that the one who endures will be saved. The salvation that we pray for is a salvation from everlasting death. Without Jesus that is the fate of all people, but with Jesus, there is everlasting life.
St. Paul wrote that, “surely has the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.” This free gift of salvation is a free gift to anyone willing to accept it. Those who reject this gift will surely die.
The Apostles were charged with spreading the Good News of this salvation to the whole world. There mission has not ceased. We are the inheritors of their mission. Now, it’s up to us to spread the Good News.
How do we do that? There is a simple way to think about it:
Make a friend, be a friend, bring your friend to Church, which is the Body of Christ.
Some do that with ease, others not so much, but it is critical to future of the church. Don’t worry about what to say, just be open to telling someone else about your faith. You are the Apostles of today, so be a missionary wherever you are, living your faith and following Jesus unto everlasting life.