Prepared to be Wise and Innocent / Matthew 9:35–10:20 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 14th 2020 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 14th 2020: Season of Pentecost / Matthew 9:35–10:20 "Prepared to be Wise and Innocent"
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
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 names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Below is audio of the sermon as preach to the Catechumens and their families on the day of Confirmation of Baptism June 14th 2020.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. During that first Holy Week leading up to Jesus’ Crucifixion on Good Friday Jesus spent time teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem. And As He was doing this “the scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him … for they perceived that [Jesus] had told [the Parable of the Wicked Tenants] against them, but they feared the people. So they watched [Jesus] and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch Him in something He said, so as to deliver Him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked [Jesus], “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But [Jesus] perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch [Jesus] in what He said, but marveling at His answer they became silent.” St. Peter would have been right there witnessing Jesus’ interactions with these Men and in today’s Gospel reading which took place earlier in the three years when they were traveling with, and learning from, Jesus, we see Jesus say to Peter and to the rest of the disciples that they should be careful because He is “sending [them] out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so [He says to them] be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” At first it might strike you as a kind of odd thing to say but perhaps we can make a bit more sense of it today.
Years later a more mature in the faith St. Peter encourages the Christian saying, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them [those who cause you to suffer for doing good], nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.”
When you keep these words in mind from Peter and you think about all the times that people tried to trip Jesus up by asking Him hard questions about God and faith, tried to create a gotcha moment only to fail then the things that Jesus says in the Gospel today start to make more sense because Peter is being commanded by Jesus to go about being a Christian in a particular way, but it’s not just that Jesus is telling Peter to engage with the wolves of the World with words, Jesus is also showing Peter and the rest of the disciples how it is done by Jesus’ own actions like we saw with the question of paying taxes to Caesar. When it comes to Jesus the Christian is not left with a “do as I say not as I do” kind of religious instruction. Jesus truly does everything well in word and deed. What He says and what He does are perfectly aligned. Peter and the other disciples are witnesses to that and for their part they succeed and fail in following Jesus’ teaching and example. Peter, who stood near Jesus as Jesus during Holy Week answers the hard question about paying taxes, latter that same week personally fails to make a defense for the hope that is in him, when after Jesus had been arrested Peter is questioned about Jesus. This line of questioning doesn’t go well for Peter.
Remember how it was when, “Peter was below in the courtyard [of the High Priests house and], one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But [Peter] denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again [Peter] denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And [Peter] broke down and wept.”
When put to the test that day St. Peter who was very confident fails. Yet Peter also learns from his failures as we have seen in the readings over the last number of weeks. He becomes a great champion of the Christian faith and he is actually able to make a good defense to anyone who asks him for a reason for the hope that is in him. Today at Mount Olive four of our young people are having their Baptism Confirmed. And I talked with a couple of them, as I was teaching them, about St. Peter; how he failed, and how Jesus forgave Peter and how Peter then grew in his faith. We need to remember this for ourselves. The Christian life can sometimes feel like, and literally be like, one where we surrounded by wolves. There will be people who will try to trip you up like the tried with Jesus and in those gotcha moments we might end up being more like St. Peter than Jesus. For the young Christian or the Christian who is new to the faith regardless of age it is good not to become discouraged when we fail to perfectly defend our faith to others. Stay focused on the fact that you are still growing and learning in the faith and that Jesus is there to lift you back up and forgive you when things do go poorly. The mature Christian with solid roots will still at times fail, sometimes often fail, in their defence of their faith in Christ and will likewise need forgiveness.
So consider what Jesus says to you today when He says, “if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town,” and “do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Whether you are online or in person there will be times when it is perfectly fine to just stop talking to someone when it has changed from a conversation into a fight. Also when you most need to defend yourself as a Christian the Holy Spirit will be there providing you with what you need in that hour. I guess the big thing to remember is that if someone seems ticked off at you over your faith in Jesus it isn’t really you that they are likely mad at. Most often they are mad at God for some reason and because you are right there you’re the one who get the brunt of their wrath and anger. Remember Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
Of course it is always easier to defend your faith, to make a good confession of your faith when you know it well and have studied it. Today for our catechumens, our confirmands, they have arrived at a milestone in their Christian growth, but it is an early milestone, the road of growth and development and knowledge and confidence continues. They have not arrived at their final destination, they have arrived at the gas station, and they have many, many more miles to go in their life in Christ Jesus. Now all analogies eventually break down so you can’t push this one too far but you could think of Holy Communion as having your gas tank filled along the way by Jesus Himself. It’s hard to travel very far if your gas tank is running on fumes or is empty. Today our catechumens, our confirmands, are being granted admittance to the Sacrament of the Altar. Today they will receive the forgiveness of their sins in a tangible way, Jesus for them; the same Jesus who always made a perfect defence of His faith even in the face of danger, even in the face of death, even in the midst of wolves of the World.
So what does it mean to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves?” First don’t pretend that the World loves you as a Christian, it doesn’t. However, no matter how grim or dark or dangerous the World becomes around us we are still called to be honest and vulnerable enough to engage others in conversation about the hope that is in us, Christ Jesus our Lord. So we live in the World with our eyes open; we don’t hide from it, and when we are surrounded by the wolves of the World we need to remember that we are not alone, Jesus is with us, the Holy Spirit is with us and will give us what we need to say, and we are safely in God the Father’s Hand even if violence is done against us or we are not respected in the way others are. When you have that you don’t need gold or silver or copper or a lot of money or bitcoins or whatever. Understanding this and living in it is wisdom.
Belonging to Jesus, being baptised into Him, actually brings peace to you which the World cannot give and it also potentially brings peace to others, when people around you accept you as a Christian the peace of Christ will be extended to them. Remember we are to defend our faith to others with gentleness and respect without violence. Having this peace, forgiveness and honesty in life even in the face of your sins and failures is the innocence Jesus is talking about. As Jesus says, “in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart [Jesus says]; I have overcome the world.”
Therefore be strong in your faith no matter what comes your way, with a strength that finds it’s resilience in Christ Jesus and His forgiveness. Never stop learning from Jesus, continue to learn from the life and words of men like St. Peter as recorded in the Bible. Young or old, as ones who are new to The Faith, or ones who are long time follows of Christ Jesus continue to grow and learn: Read Scripture, listen to sermon, attend the Divine Service and other Services of the Church, carry on memorizing the Catechism and study the Book of Concord. There is always more to discover, to understand, to contemplate. The life of faith continues until The Day we are in Christ in Eternity and there it will carry on forever without the wolves of this World and the ones who try to trip you up in the defence of your faith. Remember Jesus has answered all questions well, rest in Him as you grow in The Faith. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 20:19-26
 1 Peter 3:13–17
 Mark 14:66–72
 John 21:15-19
 John 15:18
 John 14:27
 John 16:33