Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

Title: Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

Text: Matthew 10:5-16

Date: May 31st, 2009

 

Last week I talked about the Apostles and in particular the Apostle Peter. This week I’d like to talk about the actual assignment of Jesus to the twelve apostles. What was it that Jesus was actually assigning these twelve men to do? What was the method or methods that he instructed them to use? What kind of message were they supposed to deliver? And what means or manner where they to deliver it? These questions are answered in this brief description in Matthew 10:5-16. We see first of all Jesus giving them a method for their ministry – first going to the Jews not to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, and not taking any extra resources with them, and staying in one location as long as the people are receptive to the ministry and message. Next, we see Jesus giving them a message – to preach the Kingdom of God, that is, the good news of Jesus Christ, salvation of the soul and other spiritual blessings of God’s Kingdom. Finally, we see Jesus giving them a means to accomplish all of this – providing people with helpful human services such as healing of the mind, body and soul, and working supernatural miracles in order to meet basic human needs. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t send the twelve disciples out to simply preach the gospel with words alone. He sent them out to preach with signs and wonders and acts of kindness to meet the needs of the people. It’s very similar to the ministry the Apostle Paul describes later in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” Now that is not to say that the message of the gospel itself carries no power to save and change people’s lives, but it only shows that it was Jesus’ strategy – and seemingly it was Paul’s and the other Apostles’ strategy also – to minister with more than words, even as powerful as the words were of salvation through Jesus Christ. Evidently, Jesus thought it better to combine the words of the kingdom with the works of the kingdom. In other words, Jesus felt it important not only to talk about the Kingdom of God but also to demonstrate its reality as well in powerful acts of kindness brought about by the power of God working through the messengers. Might there be a clue in this as to what our strategy should be today as we go about trying to preach and teach the gospel of salvation to a lost and dying world? Let’s look closer at how Jesus instructed his disciples to go about the task of evangelism.

 

First, Jesus has a method. Matthew 10:5-6, 9-16, “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. . . . Do not take any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bad for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’” Here Jesus gives some very practical logistical instructions to his disciples before they head out to carry out their ministry assignment. It’s interesting that the verse begins by saying, “These twelve Jesus sent out.” The phrase “sent out” is actually one Greek word — APESTEILEN, which is where we get the word “apostle.” The disciples are literally “apostle-ized” or officially made into apostles in this verse. They are “sent ones,” which is what the word “apostle” means. It’s also interesting that Jesus sends them to the Jews only, neither to the Gentiles nor to the half-breed Samaritans. Now why would Jesus limit the disciples – or as we might call them now, apostles – to the Jews only? Doesn’t Jesus care about all people? We know he cares about all people, but his strategy was to send the disciples or apostles to the Jews first. Why might that be his strategy? Because the Jews are God’s chosen people. They have the laws of Moses and the prophets and the sacred writings. They also have the holy city of Jerusalem and the holy temple there also. They Jews were waiting for the Messiah based on the prophecies. If anyone could understand the message of Jesus certainly it would be the Jews. It is out of Judaism that Jesus came; it is from Judaism that the disciples came. It only made sense to start first with the Jews and then later include others, such as the Samaritans and the Gentiles. And so that is what they did. Now what’s important to see is that Jesus – and therefore, God – had a strategy. It wasn’t a hit-or-miss operation. Jesus came with a plan and passed that along to his disciples. He didn’t just tell them to go out and do whatever they felt might advance the cause. No. There was a deliberate strategy to the ministry of Jesus and the disciples, and so too there should be a plan to our evangelism and discipleship activity today as well. Some people say that any kind of planning is wrong because it introduces human thinking and human activity into God’s work. But there’s nothing wrong with thinking and planning as long as we don’t do so in a way that contradicts or overrules God’s will. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all heart and do not lean on your own understanding. It all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.” As long as we don’t “lean on our own understanding,” as long as we don’t come to depend primarily on human cleverness and ingenuity in planning our ministry activity we are safe. We must always put God’s Word and Will first in our thinking, but after that, if we follow the Lord’s example here, we should devise prayerful strategies for evangelism and discipleship.

 

Second, Jesus has a message. Matthew 10:7, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” This is the same message that Jesus himself first preached. For example, Mark 1:14-15, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.’” Another example, Matthew 3:17, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Jesus is sending out his disciples to preach the same gospel or “good news” as he himself preached. The only difference was that whereas Jesus could refer to himself as the king of the kingdom, the disciples could not point to themselves as anything special but only refer back to Jesus as Lord. What kind of message was this that Jesus and the disciples preached? There was definitely an emphasis on repentance from sin included. There was an offer of forgiveness of sin through Jesus, which was something that got Jesus and the disciples in trouble with the Jewish religious leaders, because these Jews felt Jesus was taking upon himself spiritual power only assigned to God. They were right about that, only they missed the fact that Jesus was God in human form! So the disciples called people to repent, much like John the Baptist did also. Without an acknowledgement of sin, without confession and repentance, there can be no spiritual progress in anyone. But that’s not all they preached. Again, following the preaching of Jesus, the disciples then proclaimed the gospel – or as the literal Greek word for gospel, EUANGELION, means, “good news.” It was the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Now at this point, Jesus and the disciples couldn’t preach the cross of Christ, because that hadn’t happened yet, but they could and did preach the coming spiritual kingdom of God, which the cross later provided access to. Today, as we go about teaching and preaching the gospel message, we can present a more comprehensive message because we have the complete and fulfilled gospel. We can teach the same message of repentance that John the Baptist, Jesus and the Disciples taught, but when we invite people to believe, we invite them to believe and trust in the Christ who died for sins on the cross and who rose again from the dead on the third day. We invite people to live in the spiritual Kingdom of Jesus who reigns as king in all those who trust and follow him on earth and later in heaven. As followers of Jesus, as his modern day disciples, we can also be his apostles – small “a” – by virtue of the fact that we are sent also into the world to teach the gospel and bring the blessings of the Kingdom of God. No, we are not apostles – capital “A” – because the original apostles and the Apostle Paul are special in that sense. But nevertheless, we are called and sent today to present the gospel and make disciples using the means available to us today.

 

Third, Jesus has a means. Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” How were the disciples supposed to teach and preach the gospel of the kingdom once they had entered their mission field? What means were they to employ? Well, it’s obvious that they were not to merely use words or merely deliver lectures, but perform acts of kindness through the power of God also. The Apostle Paul taught frequently this same thing. For example, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.” The Apostle Paul, along with Jesus and the Disciples before him, preached the gospel not only with words, but with mighty works of God as well. That’s something we forget often today, and then we wonder why not many people are changed by the gospel and made into mature disciples of Jesus Christ today. Not that the message of the gospel doesn’t have power in and of itself – it does – but it’s just that Jesus, the disciples, the Apostle Paul and the other early Christians never limited their ministries to merely preaching; they always performed acts of human service and kindness along with their teaching. Why bother with serving the needs of people? Why not just teach the gospel message alone? Because the sad fact is people won’t listen very well to words alone. That is especially true in our modern day and age. Perhaps it’s because there are so many messages being circulated today from an almost infinite number of sources. Today we are literally bombarded with messages 24/7. Because of our capitalist economy and democratic government, we are constantly being appealed to for either our money or our vote by some commercial advertisement. We are virtually swimming in a sea of words, messages, slogans, appeals and offers. In the midst of that, we are called by God to present the gospel of salvation in the form of words from the Bible, and predictably many people tune out the message as they do most other messages. How are we to present the message of the gospel in an already over-loaded environment? The answer is to go back and follow the means employed by Jesus and the early apostles, which is to bring the message of the gospel with acts of kindness through the power of God. Now in the case of Jesus and the early apostles we see some pretty powerful acts of kindness employed – healing the sick, driving out demons, even raising the dead! How did they perform such miracles of kindness? Through the power of God. What drew the people was the powerful acts of kindness such as healings, and then, while the people were being helped the disciples also taught them the gospel of the kingdom. They didn’t just bring a message; they also brought help to people in practical, tangible ways.

 

Now the big question is – how on earth are we to bring acts of kindness the way Jesus and the early apostles did? How are we to bring these supernatural acts to people today? The answer is that we are not to worry about whether we can exactly duplicate the supernatural acts of kindness the apostles were able to perform; we are to simply bring acts of kindness as best we can as we teach and preach the gospel. We need to learn to trust God for the power to perform acts of kindness as we present the gospel today. Maybe God will grant us the ability to perform powerful, supernatural acts of kindness today as we teach and preach the Word of God to people. Maybe he will not give us the power to do such mighty miracles as raising the dead or healing all kinds of diseases, but even if he doesn’t, can’t we still carry out acts of kindness to help people as we teach and preach the gospel? If we can’t heal a person instantly of a disease, can we bring them medicine of some kind to help them with their problem? If so, let us do that. If we can’t raise up the dead as they did in the first century, can’t we comfort the family as best we can with words and acts of kindness that show the love of God? Now sometimes God may grant us to see the more unusual miraculous acts of kindness the original disciples and apostles saw. I know in my own ministry, from time to time, I see miracles in answer to prayer. I’ve seen medical miracles. I’ve seen financial miracles. I’ve seen people prayed for and delivered from evil spirits. I must admit, I’ve never seen anyone raised from the dead in over twenty years of ministry, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever see it. My point is, we don’t have to wait for the more unusual, extra-ordinary miracles in order to perform acts of compassion and kindness to help people. We can get out there and try to help people in any way possible – and while we are helping them, teach them God’s Word, teach them the gospel of salvation, teach them Christianity morality, and teach them basic discipleship while we are at it. Now we must be careful that we don’t lose focus and slip into the social gospel, which is basically making the good news all about helping people in this temporary life on earth. That’s what many Christian organizations unfortunately have fall into. For example, the YMCA organization started out doing what we’ve been talking about today, mixing the gospel presentation with acts of kindness and compassion. But what started out as a balanced Christian ministry eventually lost most, if not all, of the gospel message and then just became another helping organization. The Salvation Army to a lesser extent has had this happen. We must be careful that our primary calling – the presenting of the good news, the gospel – isn’t lost. But if we are careful to mix our words and our works in a balanced way, we should experience what the early church experienced  — God working through us to save souls.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: