MY THOUGHTS ON BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr. Michael Boakye Yeboah, Vice Rector – St. Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
I SEND YOU AS SHEEP IN THE MIDST OF WOLVES (MATTHEW 10:16)
Jesus used a lot of “coded” words in his public ministry and once he told his disciples of the rational behind the use of parables in his public teachings. Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, he said: “…You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive…” (Matthew 13:14). But in private he made his disciples understand everything in plain language, for he said: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17).
To understand his gospel and preach it, the Lord told his disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to be their teacher who will lead them to all truth (cf. John 14:26) and since the Ascension of the Lord, the Holy Spirit has been guiding God’s preachers of his Word to understand biblical imagery and teach them. Today I would like us to take a look at the prophetic words of Jesus: “…I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves” (cf. Matthew 10:16). This verse is part of the precautionary statements the Lord gave to the seventy-two before he sent them on mission.
This biblical imagery can create fear for any one embarking on mission on the command of his Lord. Jesus said: “…behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” If one permits the image to sink in, it is frightful. Humanly considered, such a commission is irresponsible. Jesus dares to do it only because the Father has sent him as the “lamb” among men who act like wolves toward him, so that he can win the victory of the “lamb that was slain,” a victory that makes him worthy and able to break all the seals of world history (Rev. 5). Fully defenseless, Jesus appears among men. But in his defenselessness lies his outmost strength. The strength of the sheep does not lie in the external frailty but the inner strength derived from the “omnipotence” of God.
Those he commissions will find in him – not in themselves – the “authority” “to overcome all the power of the enemy.” This will have to suffice to console those he sends out. The prophetic tone of the commissioning statement is what we are living today. The Church and her faithful children are really living the “defenseless and easy to prey-on” attributes of a sheep in our world today, in the meantime, some agents of the world directly and indirectly have taken the predatory characteristics of a wolf to prey on the Church and what she stands for. In some people’s effort to make the world ethically and morally unsafe, they have pushed for the legalization of many deviant behaviours of the past and are making all efforts for the Church to do same. Our forebears left us a world that was codified and solidified with sound moral doctrines and decrees though they couldn’t live it out perfectly as saints but at least they believe in them. Our world is different, some people realizing that human frailty will not permit them to live up to those ideal standards are operating as wolves, to destroy the moral fabric of society. And the wolves are going after the Church, the guardian of our ancestral moral heritage. Can we fault these “wolves” completely? Yes, we can and No, we cannot because some well-meaning people in the Church both clerics and lay, are fighting the Church from within; operating as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Should we be afraid that the battle has been lost? No, we should not because, Jesus the Lamb, conquered the wolves of his time and even death could not hold the Lamb of God captive. The sheep of Christ since the 1st century has always been under attack from wolves but they have always survived because the sheep of Christ live their faith on the authoritative Name of Jesus. As Jesus lives, so do his sheep.
Remember that the seventy-two returned rejoicing and the inspired writer puts it beautifully: “Lord, even the demons are subjected to us because of your Name… and Jesus said, ‘I have observed Satan fall like lighting from the sky.” In the name of our crucified Lord, though the Church and her children appear like Sheep, we will never be crushed by wolves.