Jesus’ Favorite Accessory: Reflections on Matthew 10:24-39

by Alyce M. McKenzie on Monday, June 15, 2020


Jesus’ Favorite Accessory: Reflections on Matthew 10:24-39

A few months ago I went to get my pearl necklace fixed. It had been my grandmother’s. While I had no plans to wear it anytime soon, it seemed disrespectful to leave it lying in my dresser drawer, dust-covered, forlorn and forgotten. So I took it to a nearby "Fast Fix Jewelry" shop. Their motto is "You shop while we fix it!"

The jeweler took the necklace, peered at it through that weird-looking eye piece, tinkered with the clasp with capable hands, and handed it back to me. "See the little prong here? Bent in the wrong direction. All fixed. No fear it will fall off your neck now. No charge." I wondered if they trained the fast jewelry repair folks to talk in sentence fragments to save time.

"Thank you!" was my delighted reply. And though I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sneakers, I put that pearl necklace on and wore it proudly home.

In our passage for today Jesus sends the twelve out into the mission field like sheep into the midst of wolves, into a hostile environment in which they will face opposition and even violence. Matthew shapes this discourse to speak to the early missionaries from his Jewish-Gentile congregation who go into the world and meet with abuse and rejection as they spread the message that the kingdom of heaven has come near in Jesus (10:8). As he portrays it, Jesus expects them, despite opposition, to get the job done.

To do that Jesus offers them an invaluable possession. It’s not gold. It’s not silver. It’s not an extra tunic, sandals, or staff. It’s a string of beads, or, string of “pearls of wisdom.” It’s a series of aphorisms, advice sayings reminiscent of the rabbinic form of teaching called the "string of beads" in which the rabbis linked proverbs together along a single thematic thread. Jesus wants his disciples to wear these beads around their necks as they go out into hostile environments. They will need these nuggets of advice to face into opposition and get the job done. The pearls of wisdom come in the form of a series of indicative statements meant to govern the way we approach adversity and opposition in working for the advent of God’s reign of justice and mercy on earth.

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master (10:24). The early missionaries, and we 21st-century disciples prepare ourselves to face opposition as Jesus did.

Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become known (10:26). Evildoers' words and deeds will be revealed and judged in due time. We are to be emboldened to speak God's good news without fear.

Even the hairs of your head are counted (10:30). Since God values us and every human being on the face of the earth so highly, we can be assured God will vindicate us in the last days when we stand up for divine justice.

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven (10:32). In light of this reality, we choose to acknowledge Jesus and his kingdom now in all we say and do. And we encourage others to do so as well in light of these high stakes.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me (10:37). Given this truth Jesus speaks, we love him above all and give him our highest loyalty.

Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me (10:38). We do not shrink from inconvenience or sacrifice in service of God's kingdom.

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it (10:39). We give up our definition of the good life with the goal of personal success to find our true identity and purpose in Christ's service.

What is the thematic thread that holds these beads together? It's fearless confession of faith in Jesus that, while risky, is well worth the sacrifice because it leads to the discovery of our true identity and purpose as individuals and as a church.

The baptismal liturgy contains the pledge that we will “oppose evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves.” To fulfill that vow in these wounded, violent times, we will need the assurance of God’s care for every human being on the face of the earth, God’s will for ultimate justice, and God’s provision of boldness in every conflict. We will need the string of pearls of Jesus’ wisdom, an accessory that is not ornamental, but fundamental.


Image by an_photos from Pixabay


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