Out of the whole of today’s passage, Matthew 10:26-42, I want to focus on just a part, which delineates one aspect of the disciples’ job description as they are sent by themselves out into the world. When Jesus commissions his students to speak their revolutionary message on their own, they must know the goal of this mission: “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (v. 27)
Part of our job as Christians is to be amplifiers, to say in the light what Jesus has told us in the dark, to proclaim on the rooftops what we hear whispered. Our role in society is to transform that still small voice, the whisper that Elijah heard in his deepest despair, into an active engagement with the world’s culture, and even to craft our own culture. Jesus did not come as king, to make all nations of the earth bow down to Him. That time will come, of which we know neither the day nor the hour. For now, we are told to magnify his name in the public square, to exude His love and His life in our actions.
We must not take after the servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents, who instead of putting the responsibility given to him by his master to good use, buried it, where it could not do anyone any good. We are the megaphone to the masses, the voice of God rather than that of man: humble representatives of an eternal truth, in contrast to an ever-changing, often misinformed vox populi. Even if we don’t feel equipped for this task, it is still our role to live it out. Jesus came as a humble carpenter, not as a mighty king with a real, physical sword, so as to leave the rest up to us. We must be the voice of God, in a world full of people willfully deaf to God’s call.
What does it mean when Jesus says a few verses later that He comes not to bring peace, but a sword (v. 34)? Looking back, we can see clearly that He was not bringing an actual, physical sword, but an existential one. Meaning, His message has such weight, it will split people to the core of their existence. It has so great significance and power that it can divide families, and sever relationships. Such is the strength of the Gospel, of that blindingly brilliant light.
Now these predictions of conflict for the sake of the Gospel may seem unpleasant, or even counterintuitive. Jesus’ point is not that our relationships have to suffer, but that our worldly priorities are inconsequential compared to the eternal truth of His Word. One day, that Word will be made manifest to the whole world, all will come to light, and every knee will have no choice but to bow to the source of all truth, of all light, our Heavenly Father. I very much appreciate St. Augustine’s extensive use of the same metaphor, comparing God to light, and light to truth. As we go about our time on this earth—time, it is good to remember, which is valuable and has been bought with a price—we must take seriously the call towards illumination. We are the successors of those twelve disciples, commissioned by Jesus. Our prayer then, while we strive to live up to that expectation, is that all the non-believers around us would find the truth, that like the blind man who Jesus encountered in John 9, “they come to you and their darkness grows bright when they accept the light by which all who accept it are empowered to become the children of God. (St. Augustine, Confessions VIII.4.2)
I think it is telling that Jesus rubbed mud in that blind man’s eyes so that he would see. That couldn’t have been pleasant, and probably was somewhat uncomfortable, surprising, and gross. But the mud, which for us is the relational divisions which Jesus mentions (vv. 35-37), was worth it, in comparison to sight, to illumination. In fact, it was not really any question at all. With this in mind, let us add some perspective to our day-to-day lives as we strive to follow in the footsteps of those twelve fishermen, political activists, and tax collectors. The disciples’ goal in their ministries—and the final reality for each of us—is truth itself, Veritas.
“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light; and for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Mat. 4:16)
Bryce McDonald ’21 is a freshman in Stoughton Hall.