Commentary on Matthew 10:24-33
We continue Jesus’ apostolic discourse to his apostles and all those who do the work of evangelisation.
a, He reminds them very clearly that they can expect no better treatment than he himself received. “The disciple is not superior to his teacher.” All in all, Christians are to show no surprise at violence and abuse against them. But, at times, it can be hard to understand. However, if they treated the Master and Lord in this way, his followers can expect no better treatment. If the Master is called the Prince of Devils, how much more those of his family! Remember what Jesus had said earlier: “Blessed, fortunate are those who suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel.”
b, Much of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples was done quietly and away from the crowds. He frequently told both people he cured and demons not to speak about him. Even his disciples were not to reveal his identity as Messiah. People at that stage were not ready and could have misinterpreted the true meaning of his teaching.
Also his message could not be fully understood until he had completed his mission through his passion, death and resurrection. Only that would put his teaching into its proper context.
But, in the course of time, it will be all made public. Later on it will be the duty of his disciples to deliver the message in its entirety and without fear. The Christian community, although it does consist of initiates with a way of life that is not always understood by outsiders, has no secrets. The ‘mysteries’ that Paul and others speak of are truths, previously unknown, which have been revealed. They are not like those of the so-called ‘mystery religions’ of the time or of secretive societies in our own. The message of Christ is to be made known to all in its entirety, even in hostile environments.
c, Some of those who proclaim the Gospel are going to be threatened even with losing their lives, a fact that is testified to by a long list of martyrs (martyr = witness) over the centuries. Jesus is saying that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. It is a reality we are all going to have to face sooner or later anyway. Far worse than physical death is the “loss of one’s soul”, that is, the death of one’s integrity. There are some values which transcend our physical survival. To betray such a value in order to live a bit longer is to lose one’s soul. Thomas More understood this, so did Oscar Romero and many, many others.
Jesus is telling us that, even though we may, as he himself did, lose our lives, he will be with us. To be unfaithful to our deepest beliefs and convictions is a fate worse than death.