Monday, November 4, 2013

Sheep Among Wolves

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
Matthew 10:16

     I have always been intrigued by this verse. Partly because of the way it contrasts with much of the rest of scripture (John 10 for instance). Party because of the imagery used, partly because of the greater context of the passage. This verse, along with the rest of Matthew 10, is a precursor to the Great Commission, and understanding it is definitely a major part of understanding how Christians are to share our faith.

    The contrast presented here is interesting, to say the least. When we look at the rest of the passage we see that as Christ sends out His disciples to the Israelites in order to proclaim the gospel, which is not an uncommon thing for Christ to command. The language here, however, is very different from other 'commission' passages and creates some apparently antithetical ideas. Looking at verse one, we see that the disciples were given "authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." But compare that with verse 16 above. Sheep are powerless creatures, but Christ clearly gives the disciples some very powerful gifts. Another point is that the Israelites are not simply called Israelites, but rather "The Lost Sheep of Israel (v. 6)." 
Now I'm confused, the disciples are being sent out as sheep among wolves that are actually lost sheep?
Kind of. See, not all the Israelites are lost sheep. There are wolves preying among the sheep of Israel, the Pharisees. The disciples are being sent to lead the lost sheep away from the Pharisaical wolves, and to The Good Shepherd.

     The imagery used here is also very powerful. Sheep and wolves, snakes and doves. Sheep are helpless creatures, depending wholly on their shepherd for protection. When Christ gives the disciples power, and reassures them in verses 26 through 31, He is demonstrating that He will protect His sheep from the wolves, even if He isn't present. What are the wolves? Wolves are smart, dangerous hunters, capable of hunting individually and as a pack. Christ is warning us that our opponents are not clueless animals lashing out at anything they can reach, but calculating and dangerous. We need to be on our guard and to be as "shrewd as snakes."
Why do we need to be as innocent as doves though? Because in order to effectively share the good news, we need to be living out the lifestyle of one who has given over everything to Christ.

     As sheep, we are under the protection of our Shepherd. But, we are sent out into the world to confront evil and share the good news. Which is much easier said than done. Good thing our Shepherd is stronger than the wolves.

Leaping Lizard


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