Matthew 10:16-33 depicts both a warning and a description of what has happened and continues to happen to the messengers of the Gospel. We are sent out like sheep among wolves. We are, in a way, defenseless because we renounce any use of violence. There are wolves out there eager to destroy us because, despite our message of love, justice and peace, we are seen as a threat to their activities and ambitions. We are to be clever or wise as snakes and innocent as doves. We are to be as inventive and creative as we can be in dealing with the world; but innocent, not in the sense of being immature but in the sense of being completely free of even any suspicion of wrongdoing.
As has happened so many times and continues to happen, followers of Christ, simply because they are His followers and for no other reason, will be hauled into court, will be the victims of intimidation and torture. This is our opportunity to give witness to Christ and everything that the Gospel stands for. When we are ‘handed over’ we are not to be anxious what to say. “You will be given what you are to say.” [Matt. 10:19]. The enemies of the Gospel have no ultimate answer to truth, love and justice. The words of Jesus are sad because they are true. The following of Christ can break up families. They betray each other, hand each other over. Once baptized, we enter a new family with new obligations. Our commitment to God, to love, to truth, to justice, to freedom transcends obligations that arise from blood relations. I cannot obey a father who tells me to violate the Gospel; I cannot cooperate with a brother who urges me to do evil. It involves painful choices but the opposite would be, in the long run, worse.
“You will be hated by all on account of me.” [Matt. 10:22] It is a saying we can sometimes find difficult to accept. It is difficult to understand that the following of the loving and loveable Jesus can create such hostility and hatred.
Jesus reminded the apostles that He was not asking them to do something that He Himself had not already experienced. Since men persecuted Jesus while He was on earth, why should we expect anything different (Matt: 24-25)? He told them that they did not need to fear the religious leaders. All that humanity can do is kill the body but God is able to destroy both body and soul. He will never condemn one of His own children (Roman 8:1).