Today, Jesus reminds us: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
This is a well-known passage, but it’s usually removed from its context. As the Tenth Chapter of Matthew begins, Jesus prepares to send the disciples out to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” An incredible adventure awaits them, but he continues by warning them that they won’t always be welcomed. He refers to them as ‘sheep in the midst of wolves’ and warns that they may be handed over to councils, flogged in synagogues, and dragged before governors and kings. I’m guessing that at this point, the disciples are looking back at him with deer-in-the-headlight eyes, maybe even raising their hands ready to “un-volunteer” for this adventure.
Jesus, reading their faces as well as their hearts, uses the sentences about the sparrows and the hairs on our heads to calm their fears. While they are out there in the world, sent out in pairs, Jesus hasn’t abandoned them. God is keeping close tabs on them every moment of every day. That doesn’t mean they won’t have trouble – in fact they will – but trouble doesn’t mean that they have been forsaken. But faith is not supposed to be like an insurance policy against tragedy. Bad things do happen to good people.
What’s important here is what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “you’ll be handed over to councils if you have un-repented sin.” He doesn’t say, “you’ll be flogged in synagogues if you remember to say grace before every meal.” He doesn’t say, “you’ll be dragged before governors and kings if you don’t fast one day a week.”
No. The world’s response to the Gospel was and is often negative because Jesus and his message threaten earthly order. But at those times, Jesus wants us to remember that we are precious to God. Earthly powers can’t take that away. Our sinfulness can’t take it away either. Even when we feel alone, we will not BE alone.
Sparrows will still fall, our hair will still thin, but God is there always, fully aware of what is going on… In times of peace and times of struggle… In times of laughter and times of tears… In times of persecution as well as times of apathy.
There is just one guarantee, one truth on which we can rest secure: God loves us and is with us no matter what.
God’s love for us over arches and undergirds all things, and every minute. God never wearies, never sleeps, even when it may seem like God is napping or vacationing because our urgent prayers may not be answered as quickly as we had expected. God’s Holy Spirit is with us always, accompanying us, advocating for us, and helping us to see that even the worst of circumstances can be transformed by blessings.
Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Jesus is urging the disciples not to be afraid of spreading the good news of the gospel.
Jesus really lays it on the line for the disciples. He tells them that they should not be afraid of those who would kill them. He tells them further that He has not come to bring peace to earth, but the sword. And I think he meant the sword of the cross which will bring salvation.
He goes on to say that Jesus has come to set man against father, daughter against her mother, etc.
He even says he who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.
And finally, Jesus says we are to take up the cross and follow him.
We are to lose our lives for Him.
That is all pretty harsh stuff to deal with in this gospel lesson. Jesus makes it sound like that the living the Christian live will not be easy, in fact it will be very difficult.
With all this doom and gloom about being a Christian, it is a wonder that the church every got off the ground. It is a wonder that the disciple found the courage to go and spread the good news about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But they did.
And they did because not only in these verse are things that make us hesitant of following Jesus, but Jesus assures us that we are very valuable to the Father and He will protect us.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.
30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows..
As we walk our pilgrimage on this earth, we are to remember that our heavenly Father is there to protect us, to protect us from worry about the future.
We are valuable to Him. He even knows how many hairs are on our heads and if you head is anything like mine, God has to continue to count each day as the bald spots grow and grow.
We have a God who cares for us, period.
Jesus speaks in Matthew 6:25-34 He says:
25 ¶ “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ’What shall we eat?’ or ’What shall we drink?’ or ’What shall we wear?’
32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day
Jesus is telling us again in this text that our heavenly Father will care for us. Today and tomorrow are in God’s gracious hands.
Someone once said:
“Worry is like a rocking chair, it uses up your energy without getting you anywhere”
Jesus says fear not, your Father in heaven knows the very hairs on your head. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, tomorrow under God will take care of itself.
But many of us are like the very busy man in the following:
A business manager went on holiday to an island in Greece.
One day, while he was on the beach, he was called up on his mobile phone by his secretary, wanting some help. He gave her some instructions and told her to call him back when she had finished.
As he was pacing up and down waiting for a return phone call, he came across a fisherman, dozing in the shade of his fishing boat, that had been pulled up on the beach.
As the manager passed, the fisherman woke up and the manager decided to talk to him.
“The weather is great and there’s lots of fish. So how come you are sitting about here – when you could be out there – catching more fish?”
Quietly, the fisherman replied: “Because I caught enough this morning”
“But just imagine” the manager replied “if you went out twice a day, you could bring home twice as much fish. And do you know what could happen?
Puzzled, the fisherman shook his head.
“Well” the manager continued – waxing lyrical to his theme “you could buy yourself a motorboat. And then, after say a couple of years you could buy a second one. Then perhaps after three years you could have a cutter or two.
And just think, one day you might be able to buy a freezing plant. Then you could go on to get your own helicopter to help you trace shoals of fish for your fishing fleet.
You could then buy your own truck to ship the fish to the capital thereby cutting out the middle man”
“And then what” the fisherman replied.
“And then ” the manager concluded triumphantly “you wouldn’t have to worry. You could then sit down calmly on the beach, dozing in the sun and looking at the beautiful ocean.”
“Well, my friend” the fisherman replied “what do you think I am doing now!” 2
You see we can get so caught up in the business of life, in the busyness of life that we forget what is important.
What is important is to be in Christ and with Christ. And that means then we should be reaching out our hand to those around us with the gospel of grace that Jesus told the disciples to proclaim.
But I think many of us are like that business man pacing the shore, only thinking about himself and his comforts and not any one else.
John Brokhoff in his Preaching Workbook… ” Man gets his value because God loves him in spite of his unworthiness to be loved. From the beginning man disobeyed God’s love and will. He has been a rebel and fought against God.”
He continues,”If we really want to see what value God places on us as individuals, we need just to look at the cross. See those thorns–you were worth the pain. See those nails in his hands and feet, you were the reason for it. See the agony of a miserable death —He died just for you. And don’t forget who was on that cross. It was God’s Son–God so loved you that He gave His only Son. So that is what you mean to God. You are worth God’s self-giving in Christ. It is almost too good to believe!!!”
We are so valuable to God that He sent His son to die for us.
So then with that value, God expects us to reach out to others so they can experience that value as well.
We are walk with another on the journey of life.
It’s not surprising to hear that we are worth more to God than sparrows. What is perhaps surprising to learn is that not one of the billions of sparrows that fly around this world falls to the ground apart from God’s will. The sparrow that lives among the cherry trees of Japan, and the sparrow that flits through the forests of Germany, as well as the sparrow that chirps outside your bedroom are all under God’s watchful care. If God gives sparrows this much attention, won’t he also give you the care and attention you need?
This does not mean that you will never fall to the ground. Jesus did not say that the sparrows never fall to the ground because God watches them. They just don’t fall to the ground apart from his will. Likewise God hasn’t promised to keep sickness or even death from us, but he will use these difficulties for our good. That’s because he knows exactly what we need. Why, he even knows how many strands of hair we each have. What I like about that verse is that it doesn’t say that God could count the hairs on your head, but he’s not going to bother. No. He’s already done that and already knows how many hairs you have and how many more will fall out today. Not even your mother or your spouse knows those details about you and frankly they don’t care to, but God does. Is there any need to be afraid of the future then? Not when we fear God and standing in awe of his power to protect and care for us.
Actually there is one thing we should be afraid of and that’s turning away from our Savior. Jesus concluded our text with these words: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, 33). Just because you eagerly confess Jesus now does not mean that you will continue to do this. Satan is working hard to pull you away from your Savior. He will fight ‘til your death to claim you for himself. Look at how close he came to claiming the Apostle Peter. Hours after Peter boasted he would never deny Jesus he did just that! And like Peter we often disown Jesus too, don’t we? When speaking about what we’re going to do on the weekend do we tell our friends and co-workers, “I’m going to church!” or do we leave that out, embarrassed of what they might think of us? Or when God’s design for marriage is challenged in a conversation do we just remain silent? That kind of silence can become deadly, for if we continue to deny Jesus before men, he will deny us forever.
Don’t be afraid of what others will think of you because of your faith. Fear God instead. Love and respect him and you will be fearless even when Judgment Day comes and the world as we know it falling to pieces. You won’t be afraid when the sun stops shining and when the earth is ripped apart by great earthquakes because you will know that this is the fanfare announcing Jesus’ return. And at his return he will gather the faithful and introduce us each to his heavenly Father saying, “Father, here’s my brother _________. And over there is my sister __________. They’ve come to live with us forever.” God the Father will answer, “Welcome! Come sit on the thrones prepared for you. Come and rule with my Son who washed you clean from all of your sins.” Look forward to that reality – the reality of an eternal life with God where nothing – not spiders, not thunder and lightning, not even our sin or the sin of others can ever frighten again. Amen.
This sermon by Rev. Tim Zingale is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Mountain View, Arkansas. Pastor Kenneth Taglauer. For more information see Rev. Zingale at Sermon Central