Gospel of Matt. structure: Introduction, Conclusion, Five Major Discourses/Sermons w/ corresponding narrative material. The first major discourse is the Sermon on the Mount (life of the disciples of Jesus Christ). The second is the Sermon on Mission (cost of discipleship/following Jesus Christ).
In its March 2017 issue, The Atlantic, an online magazine, published an article titled, “Instamom, The enviable, highly profitable life of Amber Fillerup Clark, perfect mother and social-media influencer.” Amber is 26 years old, and now lives in Manhattan with her husband and two young children. She has 1.3 million Instagram followers, 227,000 YouTube fans, and 250,000 monthly blog readers. She launched her blog, Barefoot Blonde, in 2010. The article says that she wasn’t intending to make Barefoot Blonde a career. She created the site while she was volunteering at an orphanage in Fiji. The initial purpose was to update her family back home in Utah. But when she returned home, she transitioned the site to posting style inspirations and musings on college life.
Now, even though you may not have heard of her before, she is internet royalty. The article defines her as a “relatable influencer,” someone whom hundreds of thousands of women trust as a friend and whom companies pay handsomely to name-drop their products. In 2014 the Barefoot Blonde brand became profitable enough for her husband to quit law school and become a “blog husband.” Though she wouldn’t say what their annual income is, the agency that represents them said that bloggers at her level can earn between $1M and $6M a year. What is it that has attracted so many people to follow her? “She has adhered,” the journalist writes, “to a deceptively simple formula:”
Beautiful pictures of herself—she has the golden locks, lithe frame, and wholesome femininity associated with prom queens who date quarterbacks—paired with breezy diary entries that read like texts from a best friend.
One of Amber’s fans, a 29 year-old woman who lives with her husband and infant son in Charleston, SC, said that she looks to Amber to help her become a better version of herself. On Amber’s recommendation, this woman has bought nail polish, camera gear, sports drinks, healthy snacks, and her husband even bought her a spinning bike because Amber takes spinning and she swore that’s what would work for her too.
Amber Fillerup Clark is squarely situated in the current cultural phenomenon of becoming “instafamous.” Philip Lorish of New City Commons points out that being instafamous is big business. The social-media influencer market is projected to grow from $500 million in 2015 to at least $5 billion in 2020. Here is Mrs. Fillerup Clark the instamom, who is instafamous and instarich because she has found out how to be a relatable influencer on social-media by painting the picture of a desirable life that so many other women want.
I know what’s going on in the minds of some of us in here. How can I get to be instafamous? How do I get in on that $5 billion market by 2020? Who do I need to start taking pictures of and posting? I don’t even need the instafamous thing to last forever! If I could just get two to three years of making $1 to $6 million, I’d be good! What audience can I influence on my way to instafame? Well there wasn’t any Instagram, Snapchat, or blogs in Jesus’ day, but we find ourselves at a spot in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus’ disciples—the twelve apostles in particular—could become drunk with instafame. Our text is in the middle of the second major discourse or sermon by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. And Matthew has already pointed out in this book the way that Jesus’ fame spread through Jerusalem and the surrounding region as large crowds followed him.
Look at this. The setup for this second major discourse is the first verse of chapter 10,
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.
The setup for this discourse is a passing on of Jesus’ authority to his apostles. What we think should naturally follow is that these guys become big shots. They should become instafamously the big men in Jerusalem. They have authority over unclean spirits. They are able, at least for a time, to do what Jesus has been doing. Their message was Jesus’ message, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (). He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons (). What would you do if God said to you, “I’m giving you my power over creation?” If he said, “I’m giving you the power that I have to fix what’s broken in the world in such a way that it operates outside of the laws of nature?” “I’m giving you the power to do the miraculous.” What would you be thinking?
Into this situation, Jesus doesn’t speak to them about being on top and being highly regarded by others. He doesn’t speak to them about fame or fortune. He doesn’t speak to them about being on top and having other people’s acclaim. He speaks to them about suffering, being disregarded and disdained by others. He says to them, don’t think that you’re going to be celebrated. Don’t find your satisfaction there. Instead, celebrate the fact that you are highly valued by your Father in heaven. Celebrate the fact that your Father loves you deeply. His message to them is an anti-instafamous message. If the Sermon on the Mount was about the life of discipleship. This second one is the Sermon on Mission, and it is about the cost of discipleship. Here are the three things we’re going to talk about, Duplication, Dread, and Division.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Jesus says in vv. 24-25 that a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough that the disciple be like his teacher, and the servant become like his master. He is saying to his disciples in no uncertain terms, you all are to be like me. There should be some duplication going on.
Interestingly enough, you can think of examples in life when students surpass their teachers. They can surpass their teacher in fame and in ability and in accomplishments. In fact, it is often the case where a teacher will say to a student, “I want you to be better than me.” “I want you do more than I’ve done.” “I want you to go further than I’ve gone.” Jesus says, “No, no, no. Y’all can’t get past me. It will be enough if you’re like me!”
The instamom has 1.3 million Instagram followers because people want to be like her. They’re drawn to the image she portrays of marriage and motherhood. They aspire to be like her so they pay attention to what she says and how she lives. We get that. Whatever we think about instamoms, we understand the aspiration to be like someone we admire. Kids want jerseys with the name and number of their favorite athlete. They put posters on their bedroom walls of the people in the public eye that they look up to. Musicians have other artists whose craft inspires them. Leaders have other leaders whom they look up to and want to learn from. In fact, you can’t actually go through life without saying, “I’ve learned from him. I learned from her. I watched the way she carried herself in the middle of a difficult situation, and I said, ‘I want to be like that.’” My point is that duplication and imitation are intricately woven into the fabric of what it means to be human.
So Jesus says, “It’s enough for the student to be like his teacher.” I’m the teacher and you’re the student. And those who follow me want to be like me. Now watch this. How do you get to be a disciple? Jesus is not saying, “Here’s the way to get on my good side. Be like me. Be like me and you and I will be good to go.” You get to be a disciple, a student of Jesus, by responding to his message. The message that has been repeated multiple times in the Gospel of Matthew already, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is not simply live life by the motto WWJD. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but the first and necessary thing is to turn to God by repentance and faith.
Let me tell you why this is necessary. Repentance and faith are necessary because the life of duplication, imitating Jesus is often undesirable. Stanley Haurewas put it well when he said of the apostles,
“To be a follower of Jesus has not made them wealthy, powerful, or secure in this life… They find out that they cannot promise people that Jesus will make his followers well-off, worry free, successful, or any other worldly good.”
Jesus tells them, “If people have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household?” Do you hear what he’s asking them? I have come proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven. I have been backing up my proclamation with action. I have been healing many. I’ve been casting out demons. I’ve cleansed lepers. And even though crowds have been following me, I face growing opposition. People are saying that I’m doing the devil’s work. People say that I cast out demons by the prince of demons. If they say this about me as I do good, what do you expect them to say about you when you imitate me? You’d better not be in this for the acclaim! You’d better not be following me because you like attention and adulation. You will serve people for their good, and you’ll be maligned for it because you’re associated with me.
What Jesus says here is almost beyond belief. If we’re honest, it’s too much for us to bear. I’d rather read past this. Can I skip ? Can we move on to something that sounds bette? We’d rather not press into the implications of Jesus’s words here for our lives. Because, if I’m honest, I like people to say nice things about me. I like for people to say, “Good job.” I like to be recognized and acknowledged by others. And Jesus says if you’re in it for that, you’re in it for the wrong reason. In fact, what you should be expecting is the opposite. You should be expecting to do good and suffer for it. This is a hard message.
The apostle Peter, following Jesus, says the exact thing in his letter. He says to servants,
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
It is a gracious thing in the sight of God for the people of God to do good in this world and suffer for it. These are hard words but God doesn’t want us to be in the dark. He doesn’t want us to live having to guess about what the hearts and minds of Jesus’s disciples is centered on. It’s not centered on admiration, it’s centered on faithfulness to him. So, in a very real sense, Jesus’s disciples share in his authority, his mission, and his suffering. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you can’t serve more than he served. You can’t minister more than he ministered. And you can’t suffer more than he suffered. It is enough that the disciple become like his teacher.
But God doesn’t want us to be in the dark. He doesn’t want us to live having to guess about what the hearts and minds of Jesus’s disciples is centered on. It’s not centered on admiration, it’s centered on faithfulness to him. So, in a very real sense, Jesus’s disciples share in his authority, his mission, and his suffering. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you can’t serve more than he served. You can’t minister more than he ministered. And you can’t suffer more than he suffered. It is enough that the disciple become like his teacher.
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Jesus moves from talking about duplication to talking about dread in vv. 26-33. That is, he moves from talking about their growth in imitating him to telling them that this should result in the right kind of fear. In one sense, the disciple’s life should be free of fear. He says in v. 26, “Therefore, don’t become fearful of them.” Who’s the “them?” It’s those people who will respond to the way the disciples imitate Jesus by persecution and disdain. Don’t be gripped by fear, Jesus says to them, because I’ve given you a long term vision. Don’t be afraid because, as Dan Dorini puts it, the truth will emerge and triumph. There’s nothing that has been hidden that will not be revealed, or secret that will not be made known.
Politicians get in trouble all the time because they often have two faces. They often have a public face and a private face. There are things that they’ll say in private that are not meant to be said in public. And when something they only meant for private ears is broadcast in public, they end of facing all kinds of backlash. Let me ask you this. Have you ever confided in someone with a secret that you didn’t want to get out? “I’m going to tell you this, but you’ve got to promise that you won’t say anything to anyone.” Then you find out that your business is all over the streets because people can’t keep a secret. The Christian version of that is…
Jesus says, not simply one little secret that you don’t want to get out there, but every evil thought, every evil deed, every wrong thing will come out into the light. So don’t let the fear of reprisal prevent you from sharing my words, my truth with others. “What I say to you in the darkness, you say in the light. What you hear me whisper in your hear, preach on the rooftops.” Then, for the second time in vv. 26-33 he says don’t be afraid. “Do not fear those who kill the body, but have no ability to kill the soul. Rather, fear the one who has the ability to destroy soul and body in hell.” This is where the rubber meets the road. How often is it the case that the things we are willing to say is driven by our concern for the way people will respond to us? This is a daily reality for us in life just generally speaking. But specifically in this text, Jesus is talking about imitating him by repeating his message loudly. Not literally shouting, but willingly and boldly being guided in our speech by what God says in his word.
This is another aspect of duplication. In our Scripture reading from , we heard Isaiah prophesy about the Messiah, about the Christ. A shoot was going to come forth from the stump of Jesse, and branch from his roots shall bear fruit. What did Isaiah say about him?
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
Jesus’s delight is in the fear of the Lord, how much more then does he want his disciples to delight in the fear of the Lord? He wants you and I to have a right perspective on life. It looks like people have all the control. There is always a war going on somewhere in the world. You cannot watch the news without hearing of someone being killed by someone else. What’s even more, Christians are still being persecuted and killed in several parts of the world simply because they profess faith in Jesus Christ. It looks like God is not in control. But that’s not the truth. Jesus says the way to overcome the fear of death is with the fear of God. No matter what it looks like, there’s only one boss in the world, and it’s not a president, it’s not a king, it’s not a general, it’s Jesus!
puts it this way,
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Why? Jesus gives two reasons in vv. 28-29. The Lord can destroy body and soul in hell. This is fear for the persecutors, not for the disciples. This fear is for those who don’t respond favorably to Jesus’ message. Those who fear people more than the Lord lay a snare because the Lord gets the last word. The second reason is in v. 29, and this one is for Jesus’ disciples. “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of those sparrows falls to the ground apart from your Father. And you all, even the hairs of your head are numbered.” When was the last time you noticed a sparrow dying? For some of us in here, like me, I’m not going to ask when was the last time you noticed the number of hairs on your head. The point Jesus is making with his disciples is that your heavenly Father has a deep concern about details in this world that you don’t even stop to think about. So, he says for the third time in v. 31, “Fear not. Don’t you realize that you’re of more value than many sparrows?” Don’t you realize how deep the Father’s love for you is? Don’t you realize where the center of your joy must be? I call my disciples into this world to be on mission with me and for me. And that means serving others by bringing the healing message of the gospel by word and deed together into broken people and broken places. But the center of your rest cannot be the praise of people. Because the gospel is not good news until it is received and believed by people. And when it is rejected by people, that rejection often brings hostility along with it. Therefore, your center must be in the deep and abiding love of your Father in heaven.
Jesus presses this point even further in the last few verses of our text. These are perhaps the most difficult for us to really embrace. Jesus goes from talking about duplication, to dread, and now to division. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And yet, he says to his disciples in v. 34,
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Understand the immediate context. There was an expectation in Israel that when the Messiah came he would usher in an era of peace, prosperity, and faithfulness. The mountains would drip sweet wine, and the hills would flow with sweet wine Amos said in 9:13. The Lord was going to restore the fortunes of Israel and they would plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. They would never be uprooted again. Jesus has come saying, “The kingdom of heaven is upon you.” He’s is healing and restoring people by the finger of God. He gives this authority to his apostles. So, the era of peace and prosperity must have started.
Jesus has to clarify things for his people. When the kingdom comes, it first comes with a sword. As Dan Doriani points out, this isn’t the sword of judgement, it’s the sword of choice. It brings division between those who accept his message and those who reject it. The truth divides. The truth separates. And this separation arises in the most intimate of places. The hard fact is that loyalty to Jesus Christ brings division. Everything in me wants to soften this, but I can’t.
Jesus isn’t anti-peace. We heard him say in the beatitudes, , “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” My disciples pursue peace, Jesus says. They pursue reconciliation and wholeness in relationships. But they do it because of the truth that Jesus has spoken, not in spite of it. His people don’t pursue fake peace. They hold tightly to his word, and that means in spite of seeking peace, there will often be division – even within households. The words that Jesus says in vv. 34-39 remind me of Jesus’ questions to Peter in the Gospel of . Peter had denied Jesus three times when Jesus was on trial before his crucifixion. Now the resurrected Jesus is going to restore Peter. So, he asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” It’s interesting that as Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times, Jesus tells him that this love will result in persecution.
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus is still saying follow me. Love me more than anything and anyone. Yes, there will be division even in families, but don’t be afraid. The only way to find your life is to lose it for my sake. If you follow me, you will have a cross to bear. What happens on the cross? Death happens on the cross. We have taken the sting out of the cross. Not intentionally, but it’s so at the center of the Christian life that it is our jewelry. But understand, when Jesus is talking about the cross in that day, that was not a pleasant thought. The only thing that could come to their minds when he says, “Take up your cross and follow me,” is the thought of what they had seen. People being executed and writhing in pain and screaming as they die. If you follow me, Jesus says, you’ll have a cross to bear. There will be death. The life of following me isn’t the road to instafame. It’s not the road to super-success and your best life in the here and now. But it is the life that every single solitary soul that has ever walked the face of this earth needs to have. And it is the life that Jesus has secured for you and I when he took up his own cross. It is the life that he has secured for you and I to have the right to be called children of God, to be adopted by the Father into his family. Never to be cast out or forsaken. It is the life that we get to partake of as we turn our attention to this table, as we remember Jesus cross...
So that our lives would be fastened to his. So that our peace, our joy, our hope, would be centered in him...