Good news is being proclaimed. People are being healed. God is clearly working among the people. Everyone welcomes the kingdom of heaven, loves Jesus and we all live happily ever after? Nope.
Jesus always points his apprentices squarely at reality. He doesn't have them flinch from it, escape from it or ignore it, but to firmly face the reality of our fallen world.
Here's the reality: people have rejected the one, true God. As a consequence, hate, futility, destruction, darkness and death has marred his creation. Our ability to form our own kingdoms apart from the kingdom of God has left his world mangled and scarred. His world quickly degenerated from a full, united life to survival of the fittest.
The weakest among us rightly look for any signs of hope and compassion in a world that leaves them behind. The strongest among us skillfully carve out their own kingdom as they deftly navigate the new laws of a fallen world.
And then Jesus comes with power, authority and wisdom. He proclaims good news about the kingdom of heaven. For those who haven't invested in their own kingdom very much, this is indeed good news. But, for those who have deceived themselves into thinking they have a lot to lose if they surrender their kingdom, Jesus' proclamation is an act of war. And they will not care who is sacrificed in order to maintain their kingdom.
Jesus lovingly warns the ones who he is training to follow in his footsteps that they have already seen, and will see worse, the reaction of those who defend their kingdom against the encroachment of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is and will be rejected, mocked, hated and persecuted. Those who follow Jesus will be too.
This is hard. I wish it didn't have to be this way. But I appreciate Jesus' honesty to those of us who would follow in his footsteps. His advice? "Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." In other words, don't be naive. The world is still fallen. It has still rejected their Father in heaven. It is still a dangerous place for those who are loyal to the King. But, in the face of hatred and rejection, keep our integrity. Stay loyal to the King who gives us all we need. Don't return evil for evil but overcome evil with good.