“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35 – 38)
There is some foreshadowing going on here early in this cited passage – did you catch it? I imagine if you think about it, you will. Living out the Christian life has never been about sitting back in your comfortable “easy-pew” and watching & wondering how things will all end up. The Christian life is about getting involved. It is a simple equation; Jesus went out, so his followers will go out. And Jesus, being actually “the Lord of the Harvest” sends out us a laborers. Now, you may rightly say that you have never been called to the “mission field”, and you may be right. But “mission” done where you are, and not “out there” where you are not! Furthermore, I strongly suspect, that as Jesus did for his disciples, he has also equipped you for the “mission work” you are called to.
“Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as 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 Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.” (Chapter 10, Verses 1 – 4)
Yes, Judas was sent out too. Sit with that for a few minutes, beloved reader. Either Judas went willingly, and felt the same mission fervor that the other eleven did. Or, he went silently grumbling and gripping about have to deal with all of those blatant sinners. Jesus gave him authority just like the other eleven too. Until he decided he was “done” he was just as much a disciple as all the others. Makes me want to monitor myself carefully that I am not allowing myself to go astray! How about you?
“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Verses 5 – 15)
It is interesting reading these verses and thinking about Judas hearing them. Maybe he started to get an insight into who this person was that he decided to follow and learn from. It is also interesting to think about Peter going out with these instructions. How different those two men. Peter, if you remember, was at some point called to preach to Gentiles. Finally, I am thinking about Saul who became Paul, and how he followed the broad outlines of this calling. He too was sent to Gentiles, and that became his mission field.
This next part is also something we, beloved reader, should pay heed to.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Verses 16 – 20)
“The Spirit of your Father” – another foreshadowing of what would come in preparation for their taking up the missionary journey in earnest. Although, admittedly beloved reader, this was written after Jesus was put to death, arose, and ascended into heaven. The writer of Matthew may be writing this through that lens and understanding.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Verses 21 – 23)
It was tempting to leave off the verses from chapter ten, nine to twenty-three. The RCL does not include them in the proper reading but suggests that they may be used. By not citing them, I would not have had to deal with verse 23 that is rather prophetic in the coming of the “Son of Man”. There are, of course, commentator reasons and explanations for that phrase, primary that it denoted not Christ’s return but a significant event in the history of the Jewish people after Jesus had ascended into heaven.
Other than that, the verses are very predictive of what did happen to the disciples. Worrying too, maybe. Is that the fate of modern day missionaries? Well, yes. Should it stop us from going out to the towns & cities and doing what we can to proclaim the gospel? Well, no. Because (if you needed a reason) Jesus said that the Holy Presence will give us the words to speak, and the confidence to speak them . . . . . . or write them.
Shalom & Selah!