Sent as Sheep Among Wolves, by Ty Tamasaka
“35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38 NIV (emphasis mine)
“5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:5-8 NIV (emphasis mine)
“16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:16-20 NIV (emphasis mine)
In Matthew 9-10, when referring to His people, Jesus uses the analogy of sheep three times, but there is a difference between the sheep. Take a look and see if you can spot the difference in Matthew 9:35-38, Matthew 10:5-8, and Matthew 16:20.
The first group of sheep were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.
The second of sheep group were the lost sheep of Israel whom the disciples were called to go out and gather.
The third group of sheep were sent out by the shepherd to go and be among wolves.
What is the difference between these three groups of sheep? The first and second groups of sheep had no shepherd. The third group of sheep that was sent out to the wolves, had a shepherd.
Although the third group is the only group that had a shepherd, we tend to skim over the passage because it makes us uncomfortable.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16
We don’t like to think of Jesus as being a shepherd who sends His sheep out to the wolves do we? It seems harsh, cruel, sadistic maybe even evil. Why would God do that? Why would He send us out as sheep to the wolves? Won’t we just be wolf-chow? Sheep without a shepherd is bait for the wolf.
Here’s what we learn about the sheep and the shepherd from Matthew 10:16.
1 – Christianity is not safe.
Christianity is not safe and tame faith. Christianity was never meant to be safe. God designed wolves to track down lost sheep. Jesus sent His disciples out to the wolves because He knew that if you want to find lost sheep, you need to go where the wolves are.
Jesus said His people are the light of the world. Lights shine their best, not around other lights. Lights shine best in the darkest dark. Jesus did not die so that could get rich, get safe, and find comfort in the things of this world. He died so that we might expand His Kingdom on earth by seeking out the lost sheep.
Christianity is not safe. It was never meant to be safe. In American Christianity, we think following Jesus is all about our safety. It is not. We think Jesus wants us to be comfortable. He does not.
Hebrews 11:2 says “without faith it is impossible to please God.” What are you doing today that requires faith? Some people say “the safest place is to be in center the will of God.” I wholeheartedly disagree! God’s will for us is less about safety and more about significance.
God has sparked a light within you… not so that you would shine a light among other lights, but so that you would shine His light in the darkness. You were born again to be a light in the darkness. You were created to go where it is dark and shine brightly for the Kingdom. As God’s people, it is our calling to run to the darkness and bring the Gospel right into the heart of the darkness.
Maybe you don’t think God has called you on mission. Think about Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:20
To whom is He speaking? All believers. As a result, you can consider your conversion to Christ, your commission to advance. When He spoke of His church, Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. What do you use gates for? To keep your dog on your property. To keep our burglars. Gates are not, and never have been offense weapons. Police don’t carry loaded gates. Terrorists don’t strap themselves to gates. Ninjas don’t throw gates at their enemies. Gates are made as a defensive tool. Jesus created His people to be on offense – the enemy is on defense. Run to the dark. Trust Him. Advance. Press on. Trust the Good Shepherd. Move forward.
2 – The shepherd’s presence is the key.
What was so special about the sheep in the third group? Nothing. The sheep weren’t special. They didn’t have mutant powers. They weren’t superhero sheep. They were simple, ordinary, stupid sheep! What made them so special was the presence of their good shepherd. They were commissioned to go to the wolves, because they were empowered with the presence of the shepherd. Sheep without a shepherd among wolves is lunch.
Remember you are not special sheep with special mutant powers. You are normal ordinary sheep. A sheep who does not have a good shepherd is wolf chow. God calls us to be sheep with a good shepherd – with a big stick and strong swing – to journey where there are wolves in order to find lost sheep.
3 – Practice prayer.
In Luke 10:2, Jesus said:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2 NIV
He identified the harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few. He didn’t say the dollars are few. He didn’t say the resources are few. He said the “workers” are few. “Ask the Lord of the harvest,” Jesus says, “to send out workers into his harvest field.”
In other words, Jesus has all the resources we need for a great harvest. He has all the finances we need for a great harvest. All that He needs are believers who have the courage to go out and find the wolves because that is where we will find the lost sheep.
I heard a church planter Neil Cole talk about a call to pray for workers in the harvest. He set a daily alarm on his phone to go off at 10:02 a.m. every morning as a reminder to pray according to Luke 10:2. When the phone rings, it sounds an alarm to pray for workers. If you are with anyone, you can tell them it’s your time to pray and ask them if there is anything they need prayer for.
I’ve joined the movement. I’ve decided to pray at 10:02 a.m. for workers in the harvest. If you’ve been converted to Christ, you’ve been commissioned.
Lord I pray for more workers in the harvest. Not for more hearers. Not for more listeners. Not for more consumers. I pray for more men and women who will courageously step out with the Good Shepherd to where the wolves live and where lost sheep need to be rescued. I pray for boldness in myself and my family to be laborers in Your harvest. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.