Matt 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise~~ as serpents and innocent as doves.”
We cannot imagine the difficulty and risks that accompanied following Jesus. Soon the great miracle worker was gone, and His disciples had to take on the world. They went in separate directions, knowing that their task would mean their death, as it had for their Master.
Jesus made it clear in Matthew 10:17 that the “wolves” would “hand [them] over to councils and flog [them] in their synagogues; and [they would] be dragged before governors and kings [Gentiles] because of [Jesus], as a testimony to [themselves] and the Gentiles.” The word martyr comes from the same Greek word for “witness” or “testimony.”
Sheep must be guided to proper vegetation to avoid eating poisonous weeds. Without a shepherd, a flock usually did not survive, because of their greatest enemy: wolves.
Jesus is the Shepherd who loves His sheep and lays down His life for them (Jn 10:11–-15), but He sent them out into a Christ–hating world to be rejected. Though they were called “sheep,” they were not to be sheeplike in their attitudes—-that is, thoughtless and unprepared. Jesus delegated to them miraculous power (Matt 10:8), but this would not prevent them from suffering at the hands of resistant men.
The honor of dying for Christ’s reputation meant more than life itself: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
“Serpents” are considered to be “wise” (“prudent, practically wise in relationships with others”)—-that is, shrewd, smart, cunning, and cautious. Jesus was a master at turning the traps of the Jews into unanswerable dilemmas. He was never fooled into condemning Rome’s leaders or approving their corruption. He was always one step ahead of his accusers.
The “dove” represents purity and innocence, which were characteristics of Jesus’s disciples. The clear presentation of the gospel does not need to be done abrasively, inconsiderately, or belligerently.
We are to be like our Lord: “holy, innocent, undefiled” (Heb 7:26; 1 Pet 2:23). The effective presentation of the gospel requires astute and clever methods to finish the task. He will make it worthwhile.
“Heavenly Father, as we take Your truth to those who may wish us harm, help us be astute and prudent as we deal with them in purity and love.”