In our meeting this week, we focused on the life to which Jesus calls his disciples. We believe that it is important to not only understand what Jesus has called us away from – our former life – and what Jesus has saved us from – God’s wrath and punishment as a result of our sin – but it is equally important to understand who we are called to be, what we are called to do. As a follower of Christ, who does he want each of us to be? He isn’t just trying to make good people, but people who are much more.
At least to suggest a portion of the answer to this question, we read Matthew 10:1-33. Click on the video above to watch and hear this scripture, or you can read it below:
Read the story – Matthew 10:1-33
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
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. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts — no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their 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, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, 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. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Let’s start with a question: What is Jesus doing here? Why is he sending out his disciples instead of just continuing on traveling around as he had been doing all along? Why this change in strategy?
There are probably at least two answers to this question:
First, Jesus is getting more of the work done. We see that Jesus is essentially having his disciples do the same thing that he had been doing. They are announcing the presence of the kingdom of God on earth, and they are performing miracles to prove that what they are saying is true. As Jesus sends out his disciples, more people can hear this message.
The second reason is likely a type of training. The disciples have been following Jesus around, watching him do this work for some time now. But Jesus selects those who will officially be his twelve disciples, those upon whom will be tasked the responsibility to continue the work, with the exception of Judas who will have another purpose, and he sends them out on an initial “trial run”, let’s say. Jesus wants them to have experience in doing what he will have them continue to do in the future after he leaves so that they will know what to do from a practical perspective.
Now, what did Jesus send his disciples to do? Here are a few things that we can point out. They were to:
- Proclaim the message of the kingdom of God, that the kingdom has come near. The king is here!
- They should perform miracles such as healing the sick and raising the dead as well as drive out demons.
- They should go in simplicity. They shouldn’t take anything with them, but just go.
- They should look for a household to which they can extend their peace.
Jesus knows that he is sending them into danger. Whether they will experience that danger now or in the future, they will suffer. Jesus knows this, and yet he sends them anyway.
Let me say that again: Jesus intentionally sends them to suffer.
There is no life lived for Jesus, no work done for Jesus, that will be done without suffering. The suffering is part of the plan. The work will happen in the midst of suffering. God’s Word will go forward in spite of suffering, not when there is a lack of suffering. Suffering is part of the plan, not just a byproduct of the work that he sends us to do!
In this case, Jesus sends his disciples and says they will:
- Go out like sheep amongst wolves
- Be brought before governors and kings as witnesses of Christ
- Be handed over to the local governments and religious leaders to be beaten and flogged
- Be betrayed by their family
- Be hated and persecuted
- Be called “Beelzebul” – Satan!
- Risk death
Despite all of these difficulties and planned suffering, Jesus gives the disciples several promises. He wants them to know that, despite the danger, they are truly doing their work for God and that he will be with them as they go. Here are some of the promises that he gives to the disciples as he sends them.
He says that they will:
- Be given the words to say as they stand in front of the governors and kings
- Be counted amongst those who are known by God
- Be acknowledged by Jesus when they stand in judgment before God
Is Jesus just talking specifically to these 12 people? Should these instructions have any application to anyone else? Is there anything that we can learn and apply to our lives today?
Jesus sent his disciples to make disciples of Jesus. If we are disciples of Jesus, we are no less and no more than any other disciple of Jesus. We too have received the Holy Spirit. We too have the command to be a disciple, to love and obey Jesus. We too are sent to make disciples of other people.
Should we, therefore, expect anything less than what the disciples were told to expect as they were sent? Of course not! We are called to announce the kingdom of God and confirm the message in power, just as the disciples were told to do. We are called to carry the message within the broken vessels of our bodies, which will truly suffer as we do so. But we are also given promises that Jesus will go with us and that he will stand for us before the Father.
This is the same life that we are called to live. Now, will we do it? Will we say Yes to Jesus, to him who has called us?