Jesus Sends Out The twelve for Kingdom Work
Key Verse 10:1
“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Jesus last teaching to his disciples was about the way they should see the world. The world may have looked to them as if it were a hopeless place where the work of God seemed impossible to do. To them, the world may have seemed dark and hostile to God and to the gospel message. But Jesus said no! The world is like a harvest field where many people were ready to hear the good news of the Messiah, and their hearts and souls just about ripe for the harvest for the kingdom! But what Jesus also said helps us to stop and think! He said that the problem was not this dark and hostile world, but the fact that there weren’t enough workers to bring in the great harvest that God wanted. So he encouraged them to pray that God himself would raise up workers for this harvest. In other words, Jesus encouraged them to pray for many shepherds and Bible teachers to be raised so that people may not be lost to sin, but brought the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. Of course, when Jesus encouraged them to pray like this, he wanted them to pray for themselves that God send them out into the world as Bible teachers and shepherds to reap this harvest for the kingdom. Jesus believed that God would surely do so if they only prayed about it and were willing to offer them selves for the kingdom work. After this, Jesus began to equip them as harvesters and gave them what they needed for the work. He basically equipped them with some principles for doing the work of a gospel servant— a kingdom worker. And that’s what we’ll be looking at in this new chapter.
Read verse 1. “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” When Jesus was looking for workers in his harvest field, whom did he choose? Certainly not from the religious class! No learned Pharisees and stoic Sadducees, and no expert Scripture scribes! Rather he chose them from among his ordinary disciples. And there’s a good reason Jesus did that. They had a certain quality that he couldn’t find among the religious people. His disciples had a deep desire and willingness to learn from him. A “disciple” basically means a “follower” and a “learner”. These disciples had this beautiful quality about them. They were like new wineskins ready to learn and to grow in the glorious gospel teaching Jesus came to preach and to mold our hearts and minds with. Life isn’t easy, and living isn’t easy either. And maturing in one’s inner person to one’s full potential and what it means to be a human being created in the image of God is almost impossible in this cursed world. Why? Because the world is full of temptations and the human spirit submits to their lures and ambitions to the point where most people never get to experience what it really means to become all that God created you to become. Even the religious class who believed in God and seemed to worship him were caught up in this world’s web of temptation. But then Jesus came to teach about real life and how to embrace God’s life within. He came with the gospel of his kingdom. And it was a whole new teaching. Most people couldn’t accept Jesus’ radical teaching. But the disciples were different. They were ready to embrace every word he taught. They didn’t just visit with him on Sundays for a worship service. They actually committed themselves to him heart and mind and soul! Some people think that they are disciples of Jesus. But the truth is that a disciple of Jesus commits to Jesus and to life in Jesus and with Jesus! These are true disciples. These are the ones who are eager and willing to learn from him no matter how hard the teachings may be, and then to be molded by his gospel into the amazing human beings God created them to be. And God gives these the strength to withstand the world and its temptations as they continue to live with Jesus and learn from him how to honor and glorify God.
Now the time had come to send these disciples out to put what they had learned from him into practice. And so Jesus equipped them with what was necessary in doing the work of God. How then did he equip them, and with what? Read verse 1 again. “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” It’s simple! The first thing Jesus did was to equip them with authority. Whose authority? Of course, his own authority, for there is no other authority other than God’s own! In the work of God, what is first and foremost needed isn’t human authority nor human skill, not even favorable human circumstances are necessary. What is necessary and needed is spiritual authority! The world is sick with the plague of sin which brings about diseased hearts and minds, and unholy possessions from evil spirits. Human technologies cannot cure the hearts and souls of these. Only God can heal them. It takes God’s authority to do the job! And Jesus alone demonstrated that he has it. So that’s what Jesus did. He gave them his own spiritual authority to deal with matters of the heart and soul. They needed it before embarking on the task of doing kingdom work. This kind of authority also doesn’t come at will, or for anyone who wants it, nor is it something that one can acquire through seminary studies. It’s a gift of God— a gift of grace which acts in Jesus’ name and authority to serve the sick and needy. And the disciples didn’t argue nor doubt the authority he had just given them; they just accepted it by faith! It’s that same authority which says to those whose faith is in Christ: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Those who are called for kingdom work need to believe this otherwise their labor is in vain.
Look at verse 2a. “These are the names of the twelve apostles…” What’s an apostle? He is “one who is sent out”. Jesus at this point began to recognize his disciples as apostles! In other words, those who are sent out— men with a mission from God. And so from that moment on until this very day, they became as all Christians are called to be— Christ’s ambassadors to all people. Jesus designated these disciples to carry and share the gospel of life and salvation to all peoples. In other words, as apostles they were called to teach the world God’s ways— that is, the way of repentance and of faith. These apostles were ordinary men, whose lives have been touched by the Savior’s grace. They weren’t anything special in the world, but they were God’s special people to the world! Their election was entirely God’s grace! And their apostleship was God’s mercy to a world that desperately needed God’s mercy. Some Christians think that their election and apostleship (or mission) is a heavy burden they would rather not carry. But the truth is that our mission as gospel bearers to the world is an honor— a gift— blessing from God.
Now let’s consider the principles of gospel work which Jesus gave his apostles when he sent them out into the harvest field.
First, be a witness to others. (5-6) Look at verses 5b and 6. “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus taught his disciples something very precious— who to witness to first. They need to first witness to the closest people. In other words, evangelism should first start where you are. Jesus wanted his disciples to start witnessing right there at home among their own people. When Andrew first met Jesus as his Savior, he went to his brother Peter and invited him to meet Jesus. Philip brought his friend Nathanael. Both Andrew and Philip share something precious in Jesus. They both share Jesus’ broken heart for the lost people of God. In the same way, it’s vital that we witness to people around us.
Second, declare the message of the kingdom of God. (7) Read verse 7. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” That’s what was on Jesus’ heart! The kingdom of God! Jesus told them to declare the message of the kingdom of heaven. It was and still is the message of prime importance. It’s the message of hope. The Bible is full of important teachings of course. But the message of the kingdom of God is truly of most importance to the human soul. The kingdom of God is real! It’s really more real than anything else in this passing earth. And in Christ, God made it such that heaven’s gates are now open for anyone who calls on God for mercy, and puts their faith in Christ. And as long as this world still goes on, there’s hope for everyone. Anyone can enter the kingdom of God through the gateway of faith. That’s why the kingdom message is so important? Because it’s a message of hope in a world that really has no hope! And if there’s no hope, people perish in misery and despair. But hope is the one thing that keeps the heart alive. But what can you hope for! There’s hope in the kingdom of heaven. Anyone who accepts this hope, and this hope grows in their hearts, is made alive in Christ Jesus who makes this hope endure to eternal life. This is the message that we need to hold on to and share with the world.
Third, “Heal the sick.” (8) Read verse 8. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” This is the character of Jesus’ ministry! It’s a ministry of preaching and of healing. It’s a ministry of compassion and sacrifice. The sick, the diseased and the dying are usually not pleasant to be around. When the heart and soul and mind are sick, one even loses their basic humanity and is quick to injure others. But Jesus commissioned his apostles to be compassionate and sacrificial in the work they were called to do. Why? Because without compassion and without sacrifice, there can be no healing of those who are sick. Unless you open your home and your heart to the sick children of God and sacrifice a lot for them, there can be no healing work. This world has many forgiven Christians whose homes and hearts are closed to those who are suffering. Homes like this are dead homes because in shutting out God’s suffering children you also shut out Jesus and leave him outside your doorstep. But a true Christian home is open for the sick flock and welcomes those who are suffering in sin. They feed them, clothe them, give them the proper words of God, and nurse them to health with God’s compassion. These homes are like gateways to the kingdom of heaven, where one can find his or her heavenly homes. “Freely you have received, freely give”! These are Jesus’ own words to home-churches that have forgotten how much God has given to them— who for long have shut God and his children out of their hearts and homes. All of us who have been forgiven should also accept these words as a warning not to betray the sacrifices God made on our behalf.
Fourth, depend only on God, and nothing else. (9-10) Read verse 9. “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts.” The harvester should not depend on material things to do the work of God. And we know how difficult it is to heed this word! Usually we depend on so many things to get along in life. Even in doing God’s work, some depend on something they have in their hands— whether it is their skills— or their possessions— or even their emotion or intellect. But the truth is that when we depend on these things, we will not learn to depend on God. A servant of the kingdom should always depend on God and on nothing else. And we know that God’s resources never run out. If you and I learn to depend on God, there is every chance that we will be able to meet any challenge this life may throw on us— and there is every chance that we will accomplish any work Jesus calls you and me to do. Paul tells us that the work of God is “by faith”. (1Ti.1:4b) Therefore, we really don’t need anything else to work in his harvest field. What you and I need is faith— only faith! Those who do not have faith should ask God to give them faith.
Fifth, establish one person. (11-15) Read verse 11. “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.” Jesus told his disciples to look for one worthy person and stay with them. Who’s a worthy person? A worthy person is any person genuinely searching for the truth of God. There are many who look like they’re searching but they’re really not. What they do is to only use up God’s resources and make use of God’s servants’ compassion to their own benefit. These aren’t worthy people— not worthy of the sacrifice God’s servants are so eager to make on their behalf. They are opportunists who leech on others until they are satisfied, before moving on to another host. Jesus does not ask his apostles to commit themselves to such people, but only to those worthy of their sacrifice. For them Jesus instructs his disciples to sacrifice anything in raising them up as disciples and future shepherds of the world. At the same time, Jesus warned his disciples not to compromise their mission. If their sacrifice is snubbed and rejected, they shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves nor despair, but shake the dust off their feet and offer their services somewhere else.
Sixth, expect persecution. (16-31) Every where there is a work of God going on, there is also always Satan there doing his own work. So Jesus prepared his apostles to expect persecutions— under God’s sovereignty. In other words, trust that God knows all and sees all, for he is ever in charge! Anyone carrying out God’s work and his message of life through the gospel of the kingdom is a messenger of goodness to people. He or she only want to win the hearts of people to the Lord and to his gospel. But not everyone will see this as a blessing. Some are threatened by those who stand completely and absolutely on the gospel. Why? Because the gospel you and I carry usually threatens people’s comfortable and corrupt way of life. The gospel also challenges people’s self made righteousness and it rebukes their ungodly lives. And so, this gospel you take with you will invite hardship and persecution to you who bears the name of Jesus on your heart. (17,18) You will face many trials and unjust accusations. Jesus also warned gave his disciples a really great promise. Don’t calculate how to defend yourselves; don’t retaliate and don’t justify yourself before your accusers. Just depend on God’s wisdom— he will give you what to say at that time!
[Also, in times of persecution, Jesus warns his disciples not to be afraid. (26) They must not fear family persecution. (21-22) They must have faith in the second coming of Jesus who will bring the world to its knees. (23) They must not fear death either. (28) Instead, they must fear only God, for the fear of God drives out all fears and strengthens the heart with faith. (28) Jesus our Shepherd surely will protect us in difficult times. (29-31)]
Seventh, acknowledge the name of Jesus. (32-42) Read verse 32. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Jesus wants his disciples to acknowledge him before the whole world. That’s the same as a confession of faith in Jesus. It’s declaring that Jesus is my Lord and Savior— that he gave his life on the cross to forgive my sin and rose from the dead to bring me home to his kingdom. To acknowledge Jesus is also to stand in the grace of Jesus always— to defend your faith in him, and to serve his mission in your life. This is our confession of faith! Practically speaking, you acknowledge his name when you decide to live day by day by faith and mission. Therefore, to acknowledge his name is not a private matter. It’s faith declared and shared with everyone. To acknowledge his name is also a commitment to him and to the gospel way of life. But those who are ashamed to acknowledge Jesus should really search out their hearts and see what Jesus really means to them— does he rules their hearts or are they ruled by something or someone else!
In verses 34-42 Jesus tells all of us something very true about the Christian life! It’s a spiritual battle that requires loyalty to Jesus and to the gospel. Christian life is costly. And we need to bear that cost— willingly. At the same time, a disciple must not expect a reward in this world, either for following Jesus or for serving Jesus. Actually, the reward we should expect is persecution and hardship even from those who love us. Still, even in difficulties, our heart should belong to Christ and long for his return— and for the coming of his kingdom. And Jesus urges us to be ready. And he teaches us how to be ready! Be spiritually trained. Every Christian needs discipleship training. Every Christian needs training in the Christian way of life until we can bear the cross with courage and faith. Actually Jesus sent his twelve apostles to the world to be trained. He gave them instructions on what to do and what to say. Through their training, they were able to mature and to understand what the gospel of the kingdom is all about. Likewise, we all need training. You need training in the word of God. And we do this through Bible study. We need training in obedience. We do so when we train ourselves to put the word of God into practice. We need training in faith. And we do so when we are ready to depend on God in everything. We also need training to raise disciples. We do so by imitating Jesus. So we need to train ourselves to follow Jesus closely. You should first accept the authority he gives you serve his kingdom. May God train us all to be good harvesters in his harvest field. Amen.