How many times does Jesus say, do not be afraid, in this chapter? 3 times.
First, in v26–
26 “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…
31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Let’s look at the context for each of these 3 verses.
v26 – Why is Jesus telling us not to be afraid? The verse begins with a conjunction “so.” SO, do not be afraid of them. Because of the conjunction, we have to look at the verses that just preceded it to understand why we are not to be afraid. Who is them and what are they doing that makes us fearful?
Let’s read v21-25.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Be-el-zebub, how much more the members of his household!
1) The first reason not to be afraid is because Jesus was hated first.
Jesus says, don’t be afraid of people who betray you because of their hatred for Jesus. It looks like they hate you, but actually, Jesus says, they are hating me. The hatred will be so severe that even within families, there will be splits and tensions that could result in one side killing the other. Then, he reminds them, remember, I, Jesus, was called Be-el-zebub. Or the prince of demons. Or Satan. It’s the religious leaders who called Jesus, the Son of God, Satan. And I’m the teacher and you are the students so expect the same. So don’t be afraid of being hated. Life is not a popularity contest. Don’t fear persecution. Don’t fear being called all kinds of names and having terrible motives attributed to you by religious people who think they know better.
This same context applies to the second time Jesus tells us not to be afraid. It’s almost as if Jesus knows telling us once is not enough. He knows that we are not going to take what he said to heart the first time. So he says the same thing again – do not be afraid of people.
2) The second reason not to be afraid is because the worst people can do to you is to kill your physical body.
28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…
What’s the worst that they can do to you? They can kill you. I don’t know Jesus–getting killed sounds pretty bad if you ask me. Losing your life was a reality for these disciples living in the first century. In fact, most of these 12 would eventually lose their lives. After Jesus died and resurrected, the Roman Empire cracked down on Christians because they were seen as a threat to national security. Even though their leader was dead, it seemed like Christians were getting bolder and bolder. Some were crucified. Some were burned at the stake. Others were devoured by lions. We can’t forget the sacrifices of those who walked before us. They believed in Christ, His deity, which was proved by his resurrection, they believed it so much that they were willing to give up their very lives. So Jesus encourages us, don’t fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Don’t be afraid of losing your life for my sake.
Jesus follows this line of argument in v34–
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Whoever loses his life–this is not a figurative losing of life. This is actual life and death. Those who are willing to lose their lives literally, if need be, they get it. They have found true, spiritual life. They’re not afraid of losing a few years on earth. They get it. This is in stark contrast to those who clutch onto their lives and who are unwilling to let go. They don’t get it.
Jesus prefaces v38 about losing life and therefore finding it with a discussion about worth. v34–Jesus comes into a family and immediately two factions form. There is division. One side loves Jesus and will do anything that He asks them to do. The other side hates Jesus. What does a Christian do in that situation when a person’s own father or mother becomes an enemy because of Christ?
One of the hardest things that I had to face as a young Christian was persecution from my own parents. We all went to church. I grew up in the church, but my parents saw Christianity as a once a week ritual. I rarely saw them open up their Bibles Monday through Saturday. So, when I became a Christian in my sophomore year in college and they saw my zeal, they got concerned. And tried to moderate my enthusiasm. Those were hard times, but the verses here warn, this is how it’s going to be. Division even within a family based on their response to Jesus.
Verse 37 – the issue is concerning worth, value. It’s like you go to a store and you find a shirt and the price tag says, $19.99. Before you buy it, you ask yourself the question, is it worth it? You like the shirt, but you’re not sure if it’s worth that much money. In your mind, you put the shirt on a scale–$20 vs. the shirt. And depending on what you think the shirt should be valued at, you either buy it or pass it up. Then later on, if you are like me, you go to Ross or TJ Max and you see the exact shirt and it says, $7.99. You do the same calculation on a scale and now it’s worth it. The shirt is worthy of my money.
Jesus is asking us to count the cost. Do the same calculation. On one side of the scale, put your father or mother, your family, your career, your wealth, comfort, whatever you hold dear, weigh that against Jesus.
If anything or anyone is worth more than Jesus, if the price tag is too high and you’re unwilling to let it go, Jesus says twice in v37-38, then you’re not worthy of me. It’s a question of worth and value. Who or what do you value most? If Jesus is not the most valuable person in your life, then you are not worthy of him. You don’t get it.
Christianity is not a religion that you fit into your life alongside family and career and recreation. If you are a believer and you get it, then Jesus is your life and everything gets re-prioritized and re-categorized under Him. Whatever you put on the scale, if Jesus is heavier, if he’s worth more, if he’s worth whatever the cost, then you are worthy of Jesus. If everything seems like it’s worth a few bucks and Jesus is a treasure of immeasurable value, then you get it.