27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.
28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
I am a liar and a cheat and a sinner, a person who wears masks to keep up a good appearance. I cannot seem to let go of old habits. I struggle daily with my demons, and just when I think I’m making progress, I fall into sin again. I know in my head and in my heart that God sees all that I do, that I’m not really getting away with any of these bad things, and yet I just go ahead and indulge myself anyway. I pray for forgiveness, and yet, since I so willfully follow the flesh, somewhere inside I wonder if I am really worth all that Christ has done for me.
When you read that paragraph, do you think you are the one saying it? Can you read it and NOT feel like some of that is you? If there is even one sentence that you feel does NOT apply to you, then just stop reading now, close your Bible, and consider yourself perfect.
Oh, wait, there is only One who is perfect and good, so I guess you better keep reading.
You see, the truth is we have all felt like that now and then–some of us riding the wave of that struggle every day. We fight and fight to truly repent, to change our hearts and minds so completely that we can rest assured we are “walking the walk,” as I have heard it put far too many times. The apostle Paul tells us that we are to walk in the Spirit. (Romans 5:1-4, Galatians 5:16) I suppose that is what is meant by “walking the walk.” But we who are but men, can we always walk in the Spirit? Like the Apostles on the night Jesus was arrested, do we not often yield to the weakness of the flesh? (Matthew 26:41) Let me tell you this: if we are alike the Apostles in our weakness, then so are we alike them in all that Jesus said to or about them–alike them in the authority granted over spirits and illness (Mark 16:15-18), and certainly alike them in our worth before God.
In Leviticus, we read about all manner of sacrifices for various offerings for sin and absolution, and we read of one in particular for those with leprosy.
2 This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest.
3 And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper,
4 then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.
5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water.
6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.
7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field.
Whether a bird is offered to make a person ceremonially clean, or whether a bird is allowed to fly free and to die in a field or wood at the end of its natural days, God knows. As Jesus notes in today’s verses, neither bird’s life exists apart from the will of our Father in heaven. Whatever price a man may pay to get such birds for his cleansing, our Father notes their passing as much as He does the birds still flying free away from the needs of men. But those birds that are sacrificed are just one offering for one time, and though a man may be cleansed of the leprosy that plagued him, his soul is still in need of more. Two birds are paid for our cleanliness to enter the house of God. What value might we place on our souls to enter the courts of our Father in heaven?
When Jesus was sending out the Apostles in today’s verses, He wasn’t just giving them authority to do things in His name. He was giving them a taste of what was to come once the Spirit came upon them after Jesus Himself had gone home to the Father. And He was also giving them an opportunity to see their own worth in the kingdom of God. It wasn’t just about the signs and wonders, the healings and exorcisms, the towns that would accept them and the towns that would drive them away. This sending out was also a time for those sent to see that, although they may struggle and be persecuted, they are so loved by God that He sent His only Son to show them their worth. He sent His Son to give them power and authority, to raise them up from their guilt and shame, to call them out from their mundane lives and send them out into lives of service to God. And He sent Jesus to tell them that God so loves the world that he sent His only Son to be the final offering for all their sins.
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
No more sparrows nor doves, no bulls nor lambs nor rams. The lives of humanity are so precious to God that He sent Jesus to be the Anointed One, the holy Lamb of God, the offering for all our sins.
We will struggle, that is sure. We will daily find ourselves wondering just when we will be free of this sin or that bad habit. We will try to find the words to speak to others concerning the gospel of Christ, and we will find ourselves struggling to comfort the needy–or else we will find ourselves among the needy with no comfort in sight. Walking the walk is not so easy as we had thought when we first accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But that does not mean we quit walking. The walk is well worth the trials we may face, because our lives are no longer our own.
We are of such value in the eyes of God that He came among us in the form of a Man to lead us to the Cross, where salvation was bought and paid once for all in the death of that Man, Jesus Christ. We are of such worth that His mercy alone was not enough, that God went even a step further and through the Resurrection He rained down His grace upon us with the promise of eternal life. Our Lord God need not have done any of these things, but He has done ALL of these things and more, giving us the same power and authority that Jesus once bestowed upon the Apostles as He sent out them as sheep among wolves. (Matthew 10:16)
Two sparrows cannot even come close to the value of our lives in the eyes of God, and yet many will daily sell their souls for far less. Let us not devalue our lives by selling out to the world. There is no price we might pay that would ever equal the worth we have in God’s kingdom.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
25 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
God has given His only son in exchange for our souls. How much more valuable could we ever hope to be?!?
I still struggle with sins I had thought long gone, and I still strive to walk in the Spirit every day. I fail more often than I care to admit, but I never give up. I keep going because I know that God loves me and that nothing can ever separate me from His love. I walk on with this question always hovering before me:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Two sparrows? We are worth far more than that.
Holy Father God, cleanse me. Through the blood of Your Son, You have ordained salvation. Drive these sins out of me, Father, and wash me clean. I know, Lord, that You have numbered the hairs on my head. You have measured my days beforehand, and You have known me even before I was born. Teach me, Lord God, to so number my days that I see myself and others as You do: worthy of the precious life of Your Son. Let the worth I have in Your eyes be all the worth I have or need. Amen.