Side by side driving the same highway / Leaving behind everything and everyone you love / The cost to pay to tell the world of Jesus / Hoping that these bridges burned would not just be in vain / It helps to think that somewhere you’re feeling just the same…
- O.C. Supertones, Dedication, from the 1999 album “Chase the Sun”
The time has come to send them out on their own; to multiply the ministry. Jesus has been doing some pretty amazing and awesome things but He’s only one man. The need for healing and restoration is greater than His mortal body can traverse at this point. So, in response, He calls The Twelve to His side. A motley crew if ever there was one, full of the uneducated and the untalented. They are outcasts and throwaways, not harbingers of hope. Yet the Christ calls them all the same and they respond. We know their names because three of the four gospels record them. We find them here in Matthew 10, but also in Mark 6:7-13 and Luke 9:1-6. This continuity is important because if only one gospel author had a list, or if two gospel authors had different lists – the list would be suspect. We might not be able to trust its accuracy.
The lists are sparse. Mostly just names. Not a lot of details. Maybe because the details are boring or unimpressive much like the men themselves. They are from many different walks in life. Some fishermen, a tax-collector, a few political activists. We don’t know much more about them than that. There is the tendency to think that the Christ only uses people of great stature to accomplish His purpose today. These lists are a good reminder that only God can take ordinary people and use them to do extraordinary work. And what does He tell the Twelve to do as He sends them out?
Basically, to do the things He has been doing. Listen to these instructions: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons” (v. 8). Wow. I don’t know about you but if Jesus asked me to do those things, I would, at the very least, feel overwhelmed and underprepared. That’s a tall order. The good thing about Jesus is that while He sets the bar high He also fully equips those He sends out. He knows it’s not going to be easy (see v. 16-36…Holy cow) but He doesn’t send them empty handed. That would be a suicide mission. Jesus is not into those unless it’s Himself He’s talking about.
There’s a definite cost to following the Christ. Here He warns them about three (3) primary groups who will oppose them. First up, the government (v. 18-19). Secondly, religious people (v. 17). Thirdly, family (v. 21). Then He sends them out. They take to the road with just the bare necessities. How about us? Do we leave the comforts of home behind enough? Matthew ends this chapter using Jesus’ words to say that we must love nothing more than Him (v. 37-39). We must take up our cross or else we are not worthy of being His. Too many “Christians” today thinks this means that we must suffer hardship for Him to prove our character. They think if others (non-believers) are offended by us we are suffering for His sake. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The message of Christ is one of attraction. Yet that is not how many so-called conservative Christian leaders today seem to believe. They would make ‘Christians” out to be victims in today’s society. They would say that because the world turns away from us we are persecuted. No. No, no, no. A thousand times no. If the world is turning away from us today it is because we have become repugnant to them. And that is not the gospel of the Christ. We are doing it wrong.
Finally, He sent them to only the Jewish people (v. 6), not the gentiles or Samaritans (v. 5). He even tells them to shake the dust off their feet if their message is not received (v. 14). That seems strange. Why? “When leaving Gentile cities, pious Jews often shook the dust from their feet to show their separation from Gentile practices. If the disciples shook the dust of a Jewish town from their feet it would show their separation from the Jews who rejected their Messiah. This gesture was to show the people they were making a wrong choice – that the opportunity to choose Christ might not present itself again” (study bible, p. 1561). The disciples would have understood this instruction and its severity. The question we need to ask ourselves is have we listened to their message as it’s been preserved for us throughout the centuries? What decision have we made about the Christ in our own lives? Is He just a man? Is He just a religious leader? Is He just a figure of ancient history? Or is He who He said He was? More to come on that.
Today He sends us to the world, having accomplished in the flesh His mission of redemption. It should be our mission too. It’s interesting to note how often the Christ gave up His “rights”. And yet, today, our so-called religious leaders would preach we should assert our rights; stand up for ourselves; force our way of life and our beliefs on others in the world in order to save them. No. No, no, no. Again, a thousand times no. The ends never justify the means. We must turn away from current evangelical thinking and seek the mind of the Christ. The future of the gospel depends on it now as it depended on the Twelve back then. Get back on the road.