Open Matthew 10:24-25.
It’s the hope that motivates every disciple: as we follow Jesus we become like him. Wow!
Does being like Jesus mean suffering too? Which statement represents what you believe
- Jesus suffered so we don’t have to.
- Jesus suffered because we suffer.
- Jesus suffered, so we must suffer too.
Perhaps we should listen to Jesus’ promise in context:
Matthew 10:24-25 (my translation)
24 A student isn’t over the teacher, or a slave over his master. 25 It’s enough for the student to become like their teacher, and the slave like their master. If they label the head of the house Beelzeboul, how much more his family.
Beelzeboul was an insult, a nickname for Satan, the enemy who caused all Israel’s suffering. Many Jews were preoccupied with the demonic after their exile to Babylon. Before that, they thought of Edomites or Philistines or Arameans as their enemies. But when Israel fell to Assyria and Babylon, and then remained under the control of empire after empire, they realized there was a spiritual power behind the powers. They had many names for that oppressive power: Satan (enemy), Mastema (hostile one), Belial (lord of wickedness), Beelzebub (lord of flies), and Beelzeboul.
Beelzeboul probably means “lord of the house.” Israel was meant to be God’s house, with God ruling their house, but they had been under enemy rule for centuries. That’s why Jesus’ kingdom announcement was so revolutionary: he promised to re-establish God’s rule, the kingdom of God. It’s what God had promised to David:
2 Samuel 7:16
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.
So here he was: Jesus, the anointed descendant of the house of David, the divinely appointed ruler of the house of Israel. Yet, those who wanted to discredit him aligned him with Satan, the evil lord enslaving the house of Israel. They called him Beelzeboul, the master who oppresses God’s house.
Why would Jesus need to warn his disciples against this kind of propaganda? Isn’t Jesus the good shepherd with such compassion for his sheep (9:36), seeking to bring home the lost sheep of the house of Israel (10:6)? Yes he is, but that doesn’t mean his sheep never suffer. The good shepherd sends out his sheep among wolves (10:16).
If you swallow the line that Jesus’ followers don’t suffer, you believe an illusion. When the illusion lets you down, you’ll feel “dis-illusioned.” Almost every one of the twelve followed Jesus to their death. If those in power treated our Master as unworthy to live, how do you expect to escape suffering?
500 years ago, Martin Luther stood against abuses in a church that needed reform. How was he treated? 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jnr stood against abuses in a society that calls itself Christian. My father swallowed the propaganda that labelled him a communist (i.e. on the side of the enemy). Don’t mindlessly repeat the media’s labels. Don’t repost vitriol on social media without checking the facts. It’s what people did to our teacher, so it happens to his followers too.
But Jesus’ suffering was not in vain. It was the means by which he defeated evil, overcame death, and was enthroned as Lord. As disciples, we follow in his footsteps, confronting evil in his realm without doing evil back, trusting God that what we suffer is redemptive for the world.
Until the day when suffering is finally removed, it’s an honour to share in our king’s suffering for his people. By suffering without retaliating, we reveal Jesus as the true head of God’s house, God’s kingdom, God’s world. We’re not above our teacher: it’s enough to be like him.
What others are saying
Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 4:12–13 (NLT):
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
Wade Bibb, “Preaching In Ordinary Time: The Extraordinary Subjects Of Jesus’ Realm” in Review and Expositor 104:2 (2007), 309:
Beelzebul (“lord of the house” or “lord of the dwelling”), one of the names attached to Satan during the intertestamental period, creates a nice play on the image presented by Jesus. If detractors are willing to discredit the master of God’s house, calling him Beelzebul (the master of Satan’s house), one can only imagine how the slaves will be treated.
David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 278:
If the persecutors are bold enough to call the master and head of the house (cf. 13:27, 52; 20:1; 21:33; 24:43) Beelzebul, much more certainly they will call his servants Beelzebul. The point is that the disciples will share in the malfeasance directed against Jesus.
[previous: Clash of kingdoms]
[next: A disarmed kingdom]