On Mission from God

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Matthew 10:1-15 (Jesus sends out the Twelve)

INTRODUCTION: For the next couple months, we will be continuing to work our way through the Gospel of Matthew. In the past we looked at Jesus’ birth and beginnings in Matthew 1-4. Then we looked at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Then we looked at ten miracles of Jesus in Matthew 8-9. Now we come to the next section, Matthew 10-12, and this is a section that focuses on the themes of mission and conflict.

Mission is a big theme in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus came from heaven to fulfill his mission on earth, and then he sends us out on mission as well. And just as Jesus experienced conflict when he pushed forward with his mission, so we can expect conflict anytime we push forward with God’s mission as well.

Today we will look at God’s mission as laid out for us in Matthew 10:1-15. Although we will look at all fifteen verses in the course of the message, we will just read verse one for right now as we get started. (Read Matthew 10:1 and pray.)

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As Christians we are all on a mission from God. This mission helps define us as Christians and as a church and points us toward our proper purpose and priorities in life. In today’s passage Jesus calls twelve of his disciples to himself. He designates them as apostles and sends them out on their first mission. He gives them instructions for when they go, and then he gives them additional instructions for when they get there.

One of the challenges for us in this passage is understanding in what ways our mission is the same as the mission of the twelve and in what ways it is different. There are some clear parallels between the two missions and yet there are also some striking differences. So, this morning we will look at both the mission of the twelve and our mission in light of Scripture.

I. We are all called on mission from God (1-4)

First of all, we are all called on mission from God – not just the twelve in Matthew’s gospel, but all of us. You are not just called to believe on Jesus as a Christian. You are also called to share Jesus with others. And this calling comes directly from Christ himself.

   A. Called and given authority by Christ (1)
      – Matthew 4:19, 28:18-19

As a believer, you have been called and given authority by Christ to pursue this mission from God. We see this in today’s passage from the calling of the twelve disciples. Look at Matthew 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.” (Matthew 10:1)

Now Jesus had already called his disciples to follow him. We saw the calling of Jesus’ first disciples way back in Matthew 4. But if you remember even back then, the call was this: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) In other words, the call to follow Jesus includes the call to share Christ with others. We are on mission from God. Back in Matthew 4 Jesus called his disciples to follow him. Now here in Matthew 10 he gets ready to send them out. And notice before he sends them out, he gives them authority.

Now here in Matthew 10 he gives the twelve disciples a very specific type of authority. He gives them the authority “to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” This is the same authority we just saw Jesus exercising in the ten miracles recorded for us in Matthew 8-9. Now he gives the disciples the exact same authority over sickness and Satan that he had exercised. In fact, the phrase “every disease and sickness” used to describe their healing ministry in Matthew 10 is the exact same phrase used in Matthew 9 to describe Jesus’ healing ministry. (Matthew 9:35)

Jesus gives authority because he has authority. You can only give what you already have. It’s the same thing when we get to the end of the gospel of Matthew and Jesus gives the Great Commission. Look at Matthew 28 where Jesus says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:18-19) Jesus gives authority because he already has authority. And Jesus calls us to go on mission for him.

   B. The twelve apostles, i.e. “sent ones” (2-4)

Next Matthew gives us the actual names of the twelve disciples Jesus called to him. Look at Matthew 10:2-4: “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; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10:2-4)

Notice that Matthew calls them apostles here rather than disciples. Jesus had many disciples or followers, but only these twelve disciples were also designated as apostles. The fact that there are twelve of them corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament. Just as God grew the people of Israel from the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament, God will grow his church through the initial witness of these twelve apostles. This is the only place Matthew uses the word “apostles” in his gospel. The word apostle means “one who is sent,” and Matthew uses the word here when the apostles are first sent out on mission from God.

Notice also that the twelve apostles are listed in pairs: Peter and Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew; James and Thaddeus; Simon and Judas. We know from other parts of the gospels that Jesus often sent the disciples out two by two, and so these might be the actual pairs he sent them out in.

The Bible names the twelve disciples in several other places, and the names always follow the same rough order. Peter, as the leader of the apostles, is always listed first. Peter, James and John formed a special inner circle of three among the apostles, and their names always show up in the first four names in the lists. When Thomas and Matthew are listed elsewhere, Matthew’s name is always listed first, probably because he was more prominent than Thomas. However, notice that here in the gospel of Matthew, which Matthew is writing, Matthew humbly puts Thomas’ name before his own. Notice also that Judas is listed and identified as the one who betrayed Christ. Yes, in God’s providence, even Judas was called by Christ to be one of the original twelve apostles, and even Judas was given authority over evil spirits and every disease and sickness.

You look at that list and you see a variety of individuals from different backgrounds. That sounds a lot like the church, doesn’t it? We also are a variety of individuals from different backgrounds, and yet just like the twelve disciples we have been called to pursue a common mission together. Jesus called the twelve disciples to him, gave them authority and called them apostles, or “sent ones.” We also have been called and given authority by Christ to make disciples of all nations. We are all called on mission from God.

II. Instructions for when you go (5-10)

Now when Jesus called the twelve disciples to him, he also gave them specific instructions for their mission. First Jesus gives them instructions for when they go, and then he gives them instructions for when they get there.

Let’s take a look first at Jesus’ instructions for when they go. And although in one sense these instructions were specifically for them and for their particular mission, we find parallels between their instructions for mission and ours as found in other portions of Scripture.

Specifically, Jesus gives them instructions concerning their mission, their message, their miracles and their means. So, this morning we are going to look at their mission and our mission, their message and our message, their miracles and our miracles, their means and our means. We want to look at all four of these areas and see first how they apply to the twelve disciples, and then how they apply to us today as well.

   A. Their mission: “the lost sheep of Israel” (5-6)

First of all, their mission. Their mission was to go to the lost sheep of Israel. Look at verses 5-6: These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6)

In other words, the gospel had to go to the Jews first. Part of the gospel is the good news that the Messiah has come. If you go to the Gentiles first and tell them the Messiah has come, they’re going to ask, “Well, what do the Jews think about that?” And if you tell them you haven’t told the Jews yet, they’re going to ask, “Why not?” It only makes sense to tell the Jewish people first that their Messiah has come before you start telling the Gentiles.

And so, Jesus restricts this first mission to the lost sheep of Israel. That word “lost” carries the idea of perishing or dying. This is not simply an informational mission. This is a rescue mission. The disciples are with Jesus in Galilee at this time with Gentiles to the north of them, and Samaritans to the south of them, but Jesus tells them, “Don’t go there.” This particular mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel.

         Our mission: “Go into all the world…” (Mark 16:15a)

Well, how about our mission? Are we also restricted only to the Jewish people? No, the gospel already went out to the initial Jews, and so our mission is wider. In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to go into all the world: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) We are to go to Jews and Gentiles with the gospel.

Just like the first disciples, ours is also a rescue mission. There are lost people all over this world who are dying without Christ and need a Savior. They need Jesus, and so we are to go into all the world to preach the gospel.

   B. Their message: “The kingdom of heaven is near” (7)

So, we’ve looked at the disciples’ mission. Next, let’s look at their message. Jesus tells them in Matthew 10:7: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 10:7) Their message was very simple: “The kingdom of heaven is near.”

This is the exact same message that John the Baptist and Jesus both preached earlier in the gospel of Matthew. (Matthew 3:2, 4:17) John preached it about Jesus, and Jesus preached it about himself. The kingdom of God is God’s active rule over all things. Jesus is the king, and when the king is near, the kingdom is near. And so, Jesus tells the disciples the specific message they are to share on their mission: “The kingdom of heaven is near.”

         Our message: “Preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15b)

How about us? Did Jesus give us instructions about our message? Yes, he did. Jesus told us to preach the gospel. Back to Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) The gospel is the good news that Jesus died on the cross to pay the full price for our sins and rose again from the dead victorious over sin and death. That is the message that we are to bring into all the world.

   C. Their miracles: “Heal the sick; raise the dead; drive out demons” (8)

We’ve looked at the disciples’ mission and their message. Now let’s look at their miracles. Jesus tells them in Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

These are the same kinds of miracles Jesus performed in Matthew 8-9 when we looked at the miracles of Jesus. Notice how cleansing those who have leprosy is also emphasized. When we looked at Jesus healing the leper back in Matthew 8, we saw how healing from leprosy especially symbolized God’s power to cleanse us from sin.

So why all these miracles? Why not just preach the message without the miracles? Because the miracles were part of their message. Jesus gave them the power to perform miracles because of their message. Remember, their message was the same as his message: “The kingdom of God is near.” What is the kingdom of God? God’s rule over sickness and Satan and death. How do you know the kingdom of God is near? When you see Jesus, the King, exercising his power over sickness and Satan and death. The apostles were sent out as representatives of Christ, and so Jesus gave them the same authority over sickness and Satan and death that he had.

Notice also that the apostles were not to charge for their services. They received this power and authority free of charge, and what they received freely, they were to give freely to others.

         Our miracles: “Ask in Jesus’ name” (John 14:12-14)

So, what about us? Have we been given the same power to work miracles as the apostles were given? Some would say yes, but I believe the apostles were given a special power and anointing by Jesus for their mission. They were given direct power to heal the sick, to raise the dead and to drive out demons. They just had to say it, and it happened. Just like Moses and Elijah and others were given special powers to work miracles in the Old Testament, so the apostles were given special powers to work miracles in the New Testament. That’s why they’re called apostles and we’re not.

Jesus had many disciples or followers at that time, but the twelve apostles were given a special power and authority that was not given to his other followers at that time. In the book of Acts, it is the apostles who are singled out as having the power to work healing and miracles. (Acts 2:43, 5:12, 14:3) In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says that signs, miracles and wonders are the things that specifically mark an apostle.

So, once again, what about us? Does that mean God is through working miracles? Absolutely not. But unlike the apostles who were given direct authority to say it and it happened, we are told to ask in Jesus’ name. Look at John 14:12-14 where Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

Asking in Jesus’ name means asking in Jesus’ authority and according to his will. And when we ask in Jesus’ authority and according to his will, great things happen. In fact, Jesus said we will do even greater things than the miracles Jesus performed.

Now sometimes that will mean miraculous healings or other miracles, but I believe Jesus is primarily talking about the greater miracle of salvation. Remember, all of Jesus’ miracles pointed in some way to the greater miracle of salvation. Healing from leprosy represented cleansing from sin. Healing from paralysis showed that we couldn’t save ourselves. Healing from blindness was a symbol of opening blind eyes to spiritual truth.

Every time you share Jesus with someone and they believe, God works the greatest miracle of all. It’s the greatest miracle because that person’s life is not only changed for this lifetime but for all of eternity. All of Jesus’ miracles were signs pointing forward to the greatest miracle of all, the salvation of sinners and the free gift of eternal life.

   D. Their means: “no money … no bag … no extras” (9-10)

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ instructions for the apostles as they went, and, so far, we’ve looked at their mission, their message and their miracles. Finally, let’s look at their means. Jesus tells them this in Matthew 10:9-10: “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” (Matthew 10:9-10)

The gold, silver and copper all refer to different types of coins, so basically Jesus was telling them don’t take any money with you. The bag would have been a traveling bag to carry food and other items for the journey, so they were not to take any provisions with them. And then they were not to take any extra tunic, sandals or staff. They were to go only with the clothes they already had on their feet and their back with nothing extra beyond what they needed to start their journey.

Jesus also gives them the reason for this instruction: “the worker is worth his keep.” They were on mission from God, which means they were working for God, which means God would take care of them. They were to go forth on mission fully trusting God to provide for all their needs.

         Our means: “Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (Luke 22:35-36; 1 Corinthians 9:14)

How about us? Are we to send out our missionaries today without any money or food or luggage or provisions? No, once again these were specific instructions for the apostles for their particular mission.

We see this this when Jesus gave his disciples new instructions later in their ministry. We read in Luke 22: Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag.” (Luke 22:35-36) Or as the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:14: “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)

The Bible makes it clear that we are to send out our missionaries with support. Now there is still a valuable principle we learn from this first mission of the apostles. We go in faith trusting God to provide. But yes, we can also take money and food and provisions for the future along with us.

III. Instructions for when you get there (11-15)

So, we’ve looked at Jesus’ instructions for when the disciples went and what God’s instructions are for us when we go. Finally, let’s look at Jesus’ instructions for what you do when you get there.

   A. Look for people receptive to the gospel (11-13)

First of all, we should look for people who are receptive to the gospel. Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:11-13: “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.” (Matthew 10:11-13)

The worthy person is not a person deserving of salvation. Salvation is completely by God’s grace, and none of us are worthy of salvation. No, the worthy person is the receptive person, a person who was willing to welcome the workers and their message.

Jesus tells the disciples to give that person a greeting of peace. If they continue to welcome the message and receive the good news about Jesus in faith, that peace will remain on them. If they reject the message, then that peace will return. When we share the gospel with others, we look for people who are receptive to the gospel, and we come with an attitude of peace.

   B. Warn those who do not accept the gospel (14-15)

And then, we also warn those who do not accept the gospel. Look at verses 14-15: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15) When someone does not accept the gospel, understand that they are not rejecting you so much as rejecting your message. They are not listening to your words.

When a Jewish person in Jesus’ day visited a Gentile country, they would shake the dust off their feet upon returning to their land. It was a sign that they did not want to be associated with the Gentiles at all. Here the shaking of the dust off the feet was a warning to those who rejected the message. In effect you were saying, “I just shared with you the good news of Jesus Christ, and you rejected Jesus as your Savior. I don’t want to be standing anywhere near you when God’s judgment comes.”

Jesus says the judgment for those who reject him as Savior will be greater than the judgment that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament. And so, we need to warn those who reject the gospel. Not in anger or in pride but pleading with them in an attitude of compassion and love. We don’t literally shake the dust off our feet, that was a cultural sign that had meaning for the people of that day. But we do need to tell them, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and you just rejected him as Savior. Do you have any idea how serious that is?”

God sends us out on mission to share the gospel. What do you do when you get there? You look for people receptive to the gospel. And you warn those who do not accept the gospel.

CONCLUSION: We are all on mission from God. We may not all be paid pastors or supported missionaries, but we are all called to share the gospel with those around us and to participate in the world-wide mission of bringing the gospel to all the nations.

And if we are on mission, we better act as though we are on mission. We need to make God’s priorities our priorities and Christ’s mission our mission. As we’ll see in the coming chapters, we can expect conflict as we move forward with our mission, but God has given us clear instructions in his word, and God has promised to protect and provide.

You are on a mission from God! And that makes all the difference in how you live your life from here on out. So, let us share Christ with others as God gives us opportunity, and let us give ourselves fully to the task at hand.

© Ray Fowler

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