What did He want us to know when he warned his disciples?
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 16:10
Jesus certainly didn’t expect his disciples to be devoured. They had a message to deliver. A story to ensure. A ministry to perform. A hope to offer. A mission to complete.
Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He commissioned His disciples to witness of the truth. He knew his disciples would meet snarling, angry adversaries. He knew. Yet, Jesus sent them anyway. He forewarned them and instructed them to be “wise as serpents”. Serpents, snakes. They are cautious and careful. They know how to hide in crevices when danger comes their way. They know how to settle in and wait till the time is right, then strike quickly and move on.
Serpents are considered deceitful, and full of guile–as was the serpent in the Garden of Eden. From that day on, the LORD condemned them to slither on the ground and eat the dust of man. Serpents have the power to instill fear in the hearts of man and woman. They have the intuition to confound. Yet, serpents, according to Jesus, are wise. Though His disciples were to be as wise as serpents, Jesus instructed them to be “harmless as doves”–or guileless, innocent…without leaving poisonous venom behind. Without the deceit of their adversaries. Innocent. Pure. Sacrificial. Filled with truth.
A dove is one of the most docile of birds.
Once when my son was a teenager, he took me out to an apple tree to show me a mother dove sitting on her nest of eggs. As he pulled back the leaves, she sat there. Undisturbed. Seemingly fearless. Perhaps her bravery was because she was protecting her own. I do not know. But when I read how Jesus instructed us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, this picture of the mother dove comes to mind.
Of course we could have harmed her. We could have knocked her out of her nest and crushed her eggs. But she simply stared at us. Her heart may have been beating a mile a minute, but we were not privy to her fear…she seemed harmless and she treated us as harmless. Perhaps she was as wise as a serpent. To have left her nest, it could have been the certain demise for her young. She was willing to take the fall, be sacrificed if need be, to protect and care for her own.
As we witness and go about our Judeas, Jerusalems, and uttermost parts of the earth, we might remember well the fearlessness of that mother dove. As Christians we have our LORD’s might and truth to protect us “in the midst of wolves”. We dare not leave the nest and let our adversaries destroy our young. We must sit in the face of peril. We must stare it down if need be. Then if we are destroyed, we will have fought the good fight and died without shame as a legacy for those who come after us.
PRAYER: Lord, give us Your wisdom to listen before we speak and act. To think before we write. Let us be ever mindful to do no harm as we walk in the world of adversaries who hate You. Give us courage wherein You call us to go out into the midst of wolves.