Matthew 10:1-20: Mission
January 25, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Famously, Jesus now calls the twelve to him (10:1), and then sends the twelve out from him (10:5). The apostles, therefore, are both uniquely called to Christ and uniquely sent out by Christ—“sending” being the root meaning of “apostle” etymologically. They are given a particular “authority” (10:1) to represent Jesus and to expand Jesus’ ministry.
They are also given specific instructions (10: 5-20 and on)—instructions which are similarly unique to their role of apostle, but at the same time are filled with wise counsel for Christians who are to represent their Lord in mission (itself a “sent” ministry) and in the world in general where they are to shine the light of Jesus.
First of all, surprisingly, they are told to only go to the “lost sheep of Israel” (10:6). This is not because Jesus has no concern to reach the rest of the world. Matthew 28, where Jesus commissions his followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel, would make no sense if that were the case. No, Jesus has a particular mission for the apostles at this moment. He wants to make sure that Israel, the lost sheep of Israel, have maximum opportunity to encounter Christ, if not directly, then at least through his representatives.
They are given a message, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (10:7). The great promise of God’s kingdom through great David’s greater son is now coming to fruition. The kingdom is by definition where the king rules, and Christ’s kingdom is established where he rules, in our hearts, through the advance of his kingdom in this world as men and women believe and are gathered into the kingdom community of the church, and finally and fully in the new heaven and the new earth.
They are to continue Jesus’ miraculous ministry. Christians are not afraid of the miraculous and believe in it, but they also know that miracles do not always happen. Otherwise, they would not by definition be miracles. They are connected to the dramatic entrance of the kingdom in the work of Christ and that of his apostles witnessing to Christ.
Jesus gives particular instruction about money (10:9-10). The servant of Christ does well to ensure that no scandal or misunderstanding can come about by way of poorly administered funds. At the same time, those who receive the workers of Christ do well to provide for such workers: “the laborer deserves his food” (10:10).
They are then told to “greet” the house (10:12), presumably meaning the household, and bless it with peace and encouragement and a sense of their favor. That is, if their ministry is received (10:13). If not, do not keep on banging your head against closed doors (and shut hearts) but go on to another place, indicating as you do symbolically the judgment that will come if the gospel of the kingdom is finally rejected (10:14-15).
Now, in verses 16 to 20, Jesus is a realist. They are being sent out like “sheep in the midst of wolves” (10:16), hardly an enticing prospect. The world is not for them, and there is danger. So what should they do? 1) Beware. Exercise basic common sense and stay alert to danger. 2) Be warned. Men will drag you before your courts and flog you (10:17). Forewarned is forearmed. To know the worst means that you can prepare for it, and are not surprised when it happens, and if less evil occurs to you then you are grateful. 3) Do not be anxious about what to say in your defense. This text (10:19) is not to be used as an excuse not to prepare sermons or Bible studies. But it is the common experience of Christians that when hauled up before the authorities and threatened, they are given words at that moment that come from the “Spirit of your Father” (10:20).
Being sent into the world by Jesus on mission is an exciting prospect. It is the adventure that every Christian, in some respect, has before them. This is your mission, Christian, to give your life to advance the kingdom. There are dangers along the way. But Christ is your might, and Christ is your right, and Christ is your strength and stay.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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