The so-called “health-and-wealth” gospel of today promises faithful Christians a life of health, comfort, and prosperity. Those who have enough faith only need to ask, and God will bless with an abundance of material possessions.
No picture of the Christian life could be further away from the portrait we are given in today’s reading. Jesus gathered His disciples and sent them out on a mission to carry on His ministry of preaching and healing. But what reward would they receive for their faithfulness to that kingdom mission? Certainly not financial profit or earthly comforts! No, Jesus promised social rejection, division, and controversy among family members. But Jesus went further. His disciples would be “like sheep among wolves” (v. 16). He promised overt persecution, floggings, being hauled into court, and hatred. In short, Jesus told them that the students will be like the teacher, and the servants like the master. What the world did to Jesus, it will do to Jesus’ followers as well.
So why would anyone sign up to be a follower of Jesus? Because Christ also promised them something else. In the midst of persecution, they would know the presence of God as “the Spirit of your Father . . . speaking through you” (v. 20). Likewise, Christ reminded them that bodily harm paled in comparison to God’s care for and preservation of the human soul. In the end, those who stand firm “will be saved” (v. 22).
Jesus understood the radical call of discipleship He laid upon His followers. But He also made it abundantly clear that following the extreme call of Jesus has a profound eternal reward. As Jesus said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (v. 39).