Day 87: Matthew 10:16

Listen!  I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be cautious as snakes and gentle as doves. 

[Jesus’ 12 disciples are sent out on a mission trip with these instructions.  For background see Days 83-84.]

Jesus throws out a whole menagerie here for us to consider – Sheep, wolves, snakes, and doves.  The message to the disciples is clear.  Be careful, and be peaceful.  It’s a dangerous mission so you need to be street smart, but you need to keep your cool.

When I read this scripture I thought of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer organization of unarmed citizens who combat crime by patrolling dangerous urban neighborhoods.  Originally from New York, the Guardian Angels help keep the peace in 144 cities around the world.   Guardian Angel safety patrols know how to successfully navigate the perils of the streets because they are recruited from the toughest city neighborhoods.  In their trademark red berets they are an imposing presence even though they are unarmed.

I remember the first time I saw the Guardian Angels.  It was in 1991 shortly after they were invited to Chicago.  It’s not easy being a young woman in Chicago.  Nighttime is particularly dangerous, especially if you are walking or trying to take public transportation.  Back then you never saw a policeman outside of a squad car, let alone on an el platform.  It was extremely comforting to see those Guardian Angels on the platforms, riding the el, patrolling the streets.  Very comforting indeed.  Especially in the days before cell phones when you were all on your own.

While the Guardian Angels made me feel good, there were many others in Chicago who didn’t share my enthusiasm.  It isn’t easy being Guardian Angel.


They are sent out like “sheep to a pack of wolves” to the most dangerous places to deter the gang bangers and criminals that inhabit them.  They are at the mercy of the local police, who often try to threaten and intimidate them.  They also have to endure the suspicion of sometimes hostile locals.  All of these people can be as vicious as wolves.

It’s the same for the disciples.  They are sent out by Jesus into potentially dangerous or hostile situations.  Like the Guardian Angels, they may be attacked by many groups – local religious authorities, occupation troops or authorities, local people who may be afraid of their healing ministry.  It won’t be easy, and they will have to figure it out as they go.  Jesus will not be there to help them.

The Guardian Angels must be “cautious as snakes.” They need to be able to spot trouble before it happens.  They have to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  They must also know how to work with the gangs, the potential criminals, the local police, and the local people and put everyone at ease.

Jesus sends his disciples out with no money.  Although Jesus repeatedly says that that God will take care of their material needs, they have to do everything else for themselves.  (See Day 52).  They will need to fully engage their brains and hearts.  They need to be intentional about everything they do and fully aware of their surroundings. They need to stay in touch with God so that they stay on the path to the “narrow gate.” (See Day 60).

Finally, the Guardian Angels must also be “gentle as doves”.  They do not carry weapons.  They don’t beat people up.  They give warnings, and when something goes awry they call the police.  They are invariably polite and respectful to everyone, including the gangs.

Jesus sends his disciples out as peacemakers (See Day 13). They need to keep their emotions in check.  They have no weapons – maybe that’s why Jesus tells them not to take their walking sticks with them (See Day 85).  Maybe he’s worried that they might get frustrated and hit somebody.

Like all mission trips, it will be a tremendous learning experience for the disciples, an opportunity to put into practice all that Jesus has taught them.  They are going to get to see God at work every time they see someone healed. What a great adventure to be commissioned by Jesus to heal, deliver, and raise the dead!  A real mission from God!

Anyway, this scripture is awesome.  It’s really a great metaphor for many of the principles that Jesus has introduced in his ministry.

We are all born like sheep.

  • We are born humble (Day 9 – Matthew 5:5 – Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised).
  • We come into the world pure in heart (Day 12 –  Matthew 5:8 –  Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!).

We are thrust into a dangerous world full of wolves.

  • We have to stay away from both dogs and pigs (Day 56 – Matthew 7:6 – Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot).
  • We must watch out for false prophets (Day 61 – Matthew 7:15 – Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves).

To survive, we must all be cautious as snakes, living our lives carefully and intentionally, always aware of our surroundings.

  • We must stay focused (Day 60 – Matthew 7:13 – Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it).
  • We need to build our lives on a solid foundation (Day 63 – Matthew 7:24-25 –So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock.).

We must be gentle as doves and never resort to violence.

  • We are called to be peacemakers (Day 13 – Matthew 5:9 – Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children).
  • We are urged to love everyone – even our enemies (Day 34- Matthew 5:43-45a – You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven).

This is not a particularly popular scripture; I think it should be.  It is really great advice for everyone.  We should teach it to our children.  From God’s lips to our ears:

Listen!  I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be cautious as snakes and gentle as doves. 

What does this scripture say to you?


3 thoughts on “Day 87: Matthew 10:16

  1. The snake business is the only part I really don’t understand. Otherwise it resonates well with me….. seems very true

  2. Pingback: Matthew 10:16 | Jesus Says

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