Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the house-tops.
‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.
‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’
Matthew’s Gospel account illuminates the nature and challenges of authentic Christian discipleship. Aware of the dangers and persecution that await his followers, Jesus endeavours to reassure and comfort them not to be afraid. Jesus warned them “I am sending you out like sheep into the wolves … and you will be hated because of my name” (Matt 10:16-23), fully aware that many would be martyred in his name. In this sense they were true Christian witnesses – for the term witness derives from the Greek martyros, meaning to die for one’s beliefs.
“Be not afraid” of enemies he assures them, for while they may harm the body they cannot kill the soul. By placing one’s trust and faith in God, one will always be sustained and comforted by him. Jesus declares to his followers that his Father cares even for the fate of sparrows, let alone for them, who he knows intimately.
Jesus implores his disciples not to whisper the Good News or to be covert in their mission. Rather, the Good News must be proclaimed from the “roof-tops”. The promise that he gives to his followers is that if they declare themselves publicly and unashamedly for him, he will do the same in the presence of his Father. He will intercede on their behalf so that salvation may be theirs. Jesus’ message resonates with us today. Just as his followers were urged to be courageous and forthright in their discipleship, we must do the same. We must not succumb to peer pressure or popular opinion. Rather, we must have the courage of our Christian convictions to oppose what we know to be wrong. We must declare that there are some non-negotiable truths which can never be compromised. We too will also be persecuted because of our Christian beliefs, but we can find both solace and comfort in Jesus’ assurance “be not afraid“.
Director of Mission and Identity