Happy Friday the 13th; be thankful that superstitions are false and let’s celebrate that by reading Matthew 10 today.
So, remember yesterday how Christ commanded us to pray and ask God to send laborers into the harvest? What did Jesus do here in Matthew 10? He sent his disciples out into the harvest. This entire chapter is about that. It described Christ’s sending of the twelve (vv. 1-4) and his instructions to them about their task (vv. 5-42).
A few of Christ’s instructions in this passage are specific to this task and this group of the twelve. Specifically, his command to go only to “the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 6), the authority he gave them to do miracles (v. 1, 8), and his command not to bring anything with them (vv. 9-15).
Most of what Jesus said in this chapter, however, seems to be intended for all followers of Christ at any time. For instance, his warning of persecutions and legal problems (vv. 18-20) seems to look beyond this specific ministry assignment to how those doing evangelism in any age will be treated.
There is a lot that could be discussed here, but I want to focus on one thing Jesus said in particular. In verse 23a: “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” I appreciate much about the ministry and teaching of Dr. John Piper 1, but this is one area where he is wrong. I have heard him more than once talk about how Christians should go to places where other Christians are being martyred and persecuted for Christ. In other words, according to Piper, we should send Christian missionaries to places that are killing Christians. If they die, so be it. But Christ here commands his disciples on mission to leave when they are met with persecution. He even commanded us to pronounce a curse on the place that persecutes us (v. 14). The direct teaching of Jesus is to trust God in persecution if it comes, but get away from it if you can.
This is the pattern we see in the book of Acts. When Herod intended to kill Peter but God miraculously delivered Peter from prison, Peter “left for another place” (Acts 12:17). When Paul and his companions were persecuted for Christ in one city, they usually left that city for another. See Acts 13:50-51 for one example of this. In that passage they even “shook the dust off their feet” in verse 51 just as Jesus commanded here in Matt 10:14. So I think it is wrong for Piper to encourage missionaries to go where there is persecution because his advice is contrary to the teaching of Jesus and the example of the apostles.
Jesus told us not to fear persecution (v. 19). He told us that those who are persecuted are “blessed” and told those who experience persecution that “great is your reward in heaven” (5:10-12). Persecution for Christ is a fact of life for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. It may be God’s will for us at some point, too. If that is the case, we should trust God as we go through it. But there is a difference between being met with persecution as you serve Christ and courting persecution in an area that you know to be hostile to the gospel.
I realize that these are not the warmest devotional thoughts you’ll ever read, but careful attention and obedience to Christ’s instructions are an important part of discipleship. I encourage you to close your time with the Lord this morning by praying for brothers and sisters of ours in Christ who are under persecution to be able to escape it and, if they cannot, to have God’s grace as they endure it.
- This is not the only thing I think Piper is wrong about but it is the only one I’m writing about today.