To recap, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with instructions on how to go about ministering to the cities of Israel. His exhortation, however, morphs into an eschatological warning about the persecution that his followers will have to endure in the end times. He warns that they can't expect to suffer any less than he himself will.
Here in this passage Jesus says that he is going to disclose things to his followers in secret that they will proclaim out loud and get killed over. What grand mysteries are these? you may wonder. Actually, it may simply be confessing his name. "Everyone, therefore, who shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven" (v. 32).
Why does Jesus say do not fear, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known? I think it's because when you confess truths that are hidden from the eyes of unbelievers, you feel alone and stupid. They don't see it, so they will accuse you of talking crazy talk. That can be very intimidating. The only comfort that helps you get through it to is remember that someday everyone will know what you're talking about. When the skies will peel back and reveal spiritual realities in undeniable glory, you will be vindicated and everyone will say, "Ohhhh, okay." Whether it ends up being too late for them is another question, but for now just know that Jesus is assuring you that you aren't going to stick your neck out for nothing.
I'm fascinated by the theme of fear in this passage. Jesus says not to fear your persecutors because you should fear God more. Why fear the ones who can only kill the body? Instead fear the one who can kill both body and soul in hell. But then he follows that up with a tender assurance that God cares about the very hairs on your head. He loves you more than the sparrows, therefore do not fear! So it sounds like he's saying don't fear because God cares for you more than any of the creatures of the earth, but do fear him because he is also capable of utterly destroying you. What's the story with that?
It sounds contradictory, and yet I don't feel like it should be a contradiction in our relationship with God. Maybe I can explain it this way. When you know God as your Father, you understand first and foremost that you're loved by him in Jesus Christ. You have nothing to fear in that regard. If God is for you, who is against you? In Christ you are safe from his wrath, so the fact that he is capable of destroying both body and soul in hell isn't really a direct threat to you personally. But even though you don't serve him out of fear of going to hell (quite the opposite, you serve him because you have been set free from condemnation) still, you know who God is. Your personal safety from his wrath doesn't mean you don't have an appreciation for who he is and what he is capable of. He is not your buddy. He is God, your Creator. He is enthroned on high. He knows the end from the beginning. No one resists his will. Myriads of holy angels serve him, and even they do not dare look upon his face. The angels fear him. Shouldn't you?
Yet mainly you fear God because he cares so much about you. That's no contradiction. You fear him because he bought you and owns you and now he intends to make you holy like himself. But trusting in his care gives you a clean fear, not a cowering one. The only thing you really fear is displeasing him. And so in the time of persecution, it is that fear that will enable you to confess the Son's name before men, so that he can confess you before his Father.