Surely Jesus’ teachings and actions bring extreme responses. The words of this particular passage come on the heels of the Sermon on the Mount, some healings, and the call of the
twelve. This is Jesus’ rst set of teachings, and they scarcely offer an encouraging pep talk. “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!” “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” I could go on, but the picture is quite clear. Jesus demands everything of the disciples and, by inference, of us.
Living as we do in a culture that prizes individual worth, where we choose our words carefully when speaking to one another, these words shock us. Does Jesus really mean all that he declares? His words utterly confront. The gentle Jesus meek and mild, full of grace and mercy, surely holds much more appeal. Yet the truth is, we cannot and dare not domesticate him, reducing him to some form of niceness.
Jesus confronts. He confronted then, and he confronts us still. He confronted the complicity of religious leaders collab- orating with power. He confronts our easy conformity to the particularities of culture. He confronted all the ways in which people were excluded by gender, purity sanctions, or race. He confronts us today as we struggle with the issues of asylum seekers and religious intolerance. He confronted those who no longer put God rst in their lives—even over family. And he confronts us with that same question he put to Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15). Discipleship is costly. It demands our all!
Jesus, revelation of God, teach us your ways and sustain us as we try to follow you. Forgive our inadequacies, and guide us this day. Amen.
Implicit in the story of Hagar and Ishmael is the threat to Isaac and to God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah. The psalmist captures the terror by unnamed forms of destruction that may threaten an individual or people. Paul raises the specter of that most universal threat—death—but does so within the context of the new life won by Christ’s resurrection. Matthew describes various ways in which the enemies of Jesus threaten his disciples because of their association with him.
• Read Genesis 21:8-21. When have you felt burdened and outcast? What was your experience of God’s hearing you where you were?
• Read Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17. Do you pray in the confidence that God hears and will answer your pleas? If not, how could you learn to pray in that manner?
• Read Romans 6:1b-11. Paul speaks of dying to self and rising with Christ. How has your Christian faith given you a sense of freedom from sin?
• Read Matthew 10:24-39. What makes God’s presence real to you? How does God’s intimate knowledge of you—the number of hairs on your head—make you feel?
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