Wolves are often depicted as the bad guy in stories such as “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” They are sneaky and deceptive, threatening innocent creatures. Some scholars have argued that these stories were used to warn children about both these dangerous animals and people who exhibited these qualities.
Today’s passage contains a warning and a commissioning by Jesus to His followers. He tells them that they will face trouble, comparing their predators to wolves: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (v. 16). Jesus had given them authority over demons and sickness (10:1), but He also warns them to be on guard for danger.
He describes in alarming detail the trouble they will face. They will endure opposition and public punishment. They will be arrested and even suffer death for what they say, but they must not back down. God desires to speak through them (vv. 17–20).
Those who follow Christ will face betrayal, even by people who they trust. Persecution should be expected and not come as a surprise. We will be hated and despised on His behalf. While the disciples were to be on guard for this, Jesus also said they should not have a spirit of fear.
Why should we, as Christ’s followers, not fear these wolves? Jesus gave two reasons. First, our opponents can destroy our bodies, but not our souls. And, second, each of us is precious to God. He compares us to a small sparrow. If God is aware of sparrows that sell two for one penny, would He not be aware of each of His children? Yes, we will face opponents as fierce as wolves, but each of us are under the Father’s care. Because we are highly valued by God, we should not be afraid (v. 31).
Jesus’ words to His disciples apply to us as His followers as well. We should not be surprised when we face persecution for His sake or speak truth on His behalf. Like the disciples, we can take comfort in knowing that we are valued by God. Because He cares for us and knows us, we do not need to be afraid.