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The Shrewd Sheep

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Matthew 10:16–25 ESV
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Matthew 10:16
Jesus sending out his disciples.
Scary enough to be sent—away from your home, away from your family, away from the people and the things that you know the best.
Away from “safety”
But it would be even more scary to have the person sending you say, “By the way, it’s going to be dangerous out there”
In fact, so dangerous that it’s going to be like a sheep among wolves
Moves I have made in my life—sensing that God was sending me. All of these feeling like I was “going forth”, embarking on a journey of new, not knowing what was ahead.
Ontario back to Delaware as a 20 year old
Ohio to Chicago
Going to Portugal, moving overseas
But in none of these moves did I feel like I was going as a sheep among wolves
In fact, I expected that there was going to be this element of safety, that somehow I was going to be cared for.
But Jesus has a different sort of commission for his disciples.
This commission had an element of danger. And Jesus did not mince words about it.
Matthew 9:35–38 ESV
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-
Ok, guys, I’ve taught you about the gospel of the Kingdom and I have shown how it is lived out.
And I’ve told you that the harvest is plentiful and that there aren’t very many workers.
And I’ve told you to pray that the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.
Well, guess what, your prayers are answered. I’m sending you.
But don’t think that this is going to be easy. Don’t expect to come back unscathed
vs 24-25—you’ve seen how they have treated me
If they treated me like this, they will treat you at least like this or worse
a servant is not above his master and a pupil is not above his teacher
I admit to being a little amused sometimes at the way Believers get so up in arms about laws that are passed which go against Christians
or when there is open hostility against Believers
I think we are so used to being comfortable, that we forget that there are wolves out there
Do we expect them to be nice to us?
You are going to be like sheep among wolves
How does a sheep go out among wolves?
Dress up fancy? Put on his best suit and best hat?
Make as much noise as he can?
Yoo hoo, Mr. Wolf, I’m over here!
A sheep is not the kind of animal that generally goes looking for trouble.
They just like to hang out with other sheep and be fed, right?
Kind of like us?
A sheep is not armed with a great ability to defend itself
And here’s the thing about wolves:
Interesting that Jesus would use wolves rather than lions
Wolves are not the biggest, strongest, or fastest predators
So there are two things that play heavily into their ability to hunt and survive
Their stamina—they can run up to 40 miles an hour in short bursts. But generally they rely on their stamina, their ability to run at moderate speed for long distances. They tire out their prey
Their cunning and teamwork—Rarely do you see a solo wolf hunting. If one gets injured or left behind from the pack, his chances of survival are slim to none because they rely on each other to outwit or overwhelm their prey.
So the picture looks kind of grim for a sheep that’s out there with wolves all around.
The most he can hope for is to be equal
But the picture is not altogether bleak. Otherwise, I don’t think Jesus would have sent his followers out like sheep.
You have seen how they treat me. You can expect the same treatment or worse!
I don’t believe that the Good Shepherd is going to send his sheep out to get slaughtered.
The last couple of weeks, you might have been thinking, “That’s great, and all, but I don’t feel very shrewd”.
Our good shepherd has given us some survival techniques that are both shrewd and innocent.
Sheep stay in flocks
Confuses the enemy
series of shows on Netflix: The Hunt
Common thing among species of animals which are at the bottom of the food chain: They flock
Ability to move together in a large group
I used to think that this would make them easy to catch
for a human it would be. Example: catching fish spawning with a dip net
For most predators, it confuses them. Their instinct is to choose one prey and hone in on that.
when there are multiple animals moving together, they can’t decide which one to go after and they are ineffective
a wolf trying to get a nice meal of mutton would find a flock of sheep moving as one unit confusing
There is safety in numbers
They want to separate the young, the weak, the sick
Many people seperate themselves from the flock thinking they can do it better by themselves.
And that brings us to the second advantage of a flock
Or they try to remain in the flock but don’t move with the flock
Protects the young and the weak and the sick
Predators look for smaller, weaker animals.
They look for those who have been left behind
They try to separate calves and young from their mothers
They look for lame animals. Any animal that shows signs of weakness and is not able to keep up with the herd or flock
When it comes to larger prey such as elephants, musk ox, and cape buffalo, they have the ability to protect their young
They stand in a row or in a circle with the young behind them
A predator knows better than to take on
This type of shrewdness should be clear to us
There is safety in numbers.
How does a sheep go out among wolves?
There is a reason that when Jesus talks to his followers, he gives them pictures of being
in a flock
Connected to the vine
Part of the Body, the Church
We hear a lot of “I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and I’m on my way to heaven”
Our survival as Believers depends very much on our ability to connect to each other, to depend on each other, to support each other, to protect each other
In a flock of animals, if there is squabbling and fighting going on, they aren’t paying attention to the predator lurking on the outside
And it’s the same with us. When we spend our time “biting and devouring one another” (Galatians), it makes the work easy for the predator.
We forget that he is out there ready to pounce
And we do ourselves what he wants to do to us
Shrewd sheep are wary (vs 17) “beware of men”
Does this mean that we are to be scared of men, of people?
No, but sheep don’t assume that other animals or people are sheep and we shouldn’t either.
We should not assume that the world is going to be friends with us
Why are Christians so quick to get outraged and up in arms about laws and policies which oppose the work of the Kingdom?
Sheep have good eyesight and sharp hearing
Their senses are always on alert for danger
Shrewd sheep are not surprised by opposition and danger. They expect that it will come!
Shrewd sheep don’t expect friendly treatment from those who aren’t sheep
A shrewd sheep allows opposition to make him stronger as a sheep
He allows opposition to drive him closer to the flock
So that the flock becomes stronger as a unit
Shrewd sheep are trusting (vs 19)
Sheep go out among wolves completely trusting in their shepherd
Their lives and the energy are not consumed with worry
Their strength is preserved for the battle that they face
When they are let out to pasture at the start of the day, they aren’t worried about what am I going to eat? what am I going to wear? Am I going to be protected?
Jesus says, “I’m going to send you out to pasture and you are going to find yourself surrounded by wolves.
When you find yourself surrounded by wolves, don’t worry about what you are going to say!
Can I defend the faith? Can I give a good answer? The Bible tells me to be prepared to give an answer
Does this mean you don’t prepare? No! We are constantly preparing, constantly learning to arm ourselves
But when you are in the midst of the battle, don’t worry about it
Sheep going out among wolves are armed with a secret weapon: They depend 100% on The Spirit of the Father. The Holy Spirit
It will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you
When you need the words, when you are in need, what you are to say will be given to you!
Sheep going out among wolves are armed with a secret weapon: They depend 100% on The Spirit of the Father. The Holy Spirit
It will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you
This is a shrewd weapon because the Adversary doesn’t expect people to throw their dependence onto this weapon
He expects that his prey will try to kick him and butt him.
Exactly what he want them to do. He can easily overcome them
Too often this is the case among the sheep
It will be the Holy Spirit speaking through you
When this is the case, the sheep is being neither shrewd nor innocent
Shrewd sheep endure (vs 22)
Also commanded in 24:13—those who endure to the end will be saved
The churches in Revelation: “Endure to the end” “Overcome” There are rewards for endurance and overcoming
Not, “endure for an extra hour or day or month or year”, but for a lifetime. To the end.
Many other verses about enduring. Read verses
A sheep among wolves is shrewd because he doesn’t run away at the first sight of trouble.
He doesn’t run when things get rough. He stays. He endures
This is shrewd because it’s not what the adversary expects
He expects that a sheep will be flighty, easily scared, will not put up much of a struggle.
How does a sheep endure?
His faith—an absolute faith in the goodness and strength and trustworthiness of the Shepherd
One of God’s sheep is armed— He fights with the weapons provided for him
If, you were to send a sheep among wolves, I think it would go like this
No, they go very carefully. Their ears perked up, alert, sensing the danger,
They go with their eyes wide open.
Sheep have remarkable eyesight—they have rectangular pupils which gives them nearly 360 degree vision
They go out, being aware.
Jesus tells the disciples “Beware of men”. Some translations: “Be on your guard”.
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