Matthew 10:1-15 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 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.
5 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. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their 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. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
In this passage we are given a great list of people who would become the foundation of the church. It would be these men whose teaching (along with a late comer named Paul) would define the teaching of the church and the function of the church in the world until Jesus comes again!
Now, what is interesting about this passage is that it gives us the principles of the ministry of the church even though it itself is not addressed to the church.
What do I mean by this? Well who is Jesus speaking to in this passage? Is he speaking to us personally? No, he is addressing his closest followers, called the Apostles in later times.
This matters because it gives us understanding why they were only sent to the Jews while the church is send out into the whole world, it also gives us understanding of continuation of the call of ministry; which Jesus started the Apostles continued and we the church now work out in all the world.
Now, we need to say this because the ministry of the Apostles becomes the foundation upon what we as the church do today. Although we don’t personally raise the dead or drive out demons, the church at large is at least involved in healing, spiritual deliverance, ministry of helps etc.
What I am trying to get to is the idea that this is not for you as an individual it is for us as a community to be working at the same work that Jesus started that the Apostles established and that the church has continued throughout the ages.
Now, like anything that is actually good for us, the church will go out, as the disciples did with a good message but a harsh message, and I think we need to hear this tonight if we are to go out with boldness into the world and continue the work of preaching the gospel.
So, let us start with the
1. The goodness of the call
There is a loving goodness to this message and, church, to our message that we preach today. Where the disciples went they brought a message; the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Which I’ll explain now, but they also showed it by their action; they were commanded by Christ to heal, raise, clean and deliver.
In other words, preach but as you preach show by real life change.
Now, we will understand the action when we understand what they preached. They were commanded to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near. What does this mean?
Well this idea the kingdom of heaven (in Matthew) and Kingdom of God in the other Gospel is a single idea brought about through the teachings of the prophets of the Old Testament.
The Kingdom is idea is that God is the rightful ruler of creation (Psalm 103:19, Psalm 45:6, Daniel 4:3 etc); and is working to restore that rightful rule in the rebellious people that he has created through the coming Messiah (Isaiah 2:2-4, 51:4-5, Micah 4:1-3, Jeremiah 3:17 etc).
The kingdom of God is the re-establishing in people’s hearts the reality that God is king and He rules. Surely this simply is and doesn’t need to be re-established? Well, this is the great over-arching story of the whole bible. The Bible established for us a God who is indeed a good, just, all-powerful God. This God, however, made man; a creature who was able to make a free choice whether he would submit to the rightful rule of that God or not.
This is the whole point of the story of Adam and Eve, we chose not to live as if God is the rightful ruler of creation; we chose to live as if we are the rightful ruler of creation; and by that choice, reaped what it meant to step outside of who God is.
What is meant here is that God doesn’t just create life, He is life, He is pure unadulterated life, so when we chose to be our own gods we stepped into the opposite of life which is death. We reaped all that is outside of God, which Jesus mentions here; disease, death, demonic activity; chaos in general.
Now, if God was pure Justice without love, he would have rightfully wiped us out. There is no justice in allowing a rebel to live under a rightful king. But God is love! And it was His love that established before the dawn of creation a way to re-establish his justice without violating His love. And this is what the whole bible is about; God working to re-establish his rightful rule in mercy and justice.
This is what the cross is church; the cross is the full justice of God and the full mercy of God being poured out! All the justice of God is poured out on the rebellion and sin of mankind, so that all the love can be poured out onto those who identify with the new leader of mankind; Jesus Christ.
So, peaching the kingdom is near was preaching that God is going to soon fully restore His good reign; we see this working out in a good way, people are brought out of the chaos of the reign of men and demons!
This is the same ministry we have today; we call people to leave the death, pain, chaos, of the reign of men and demons, and come into the kingdom that they were made for, a kingdom of life, and love, of hope and peace. This is the goodness of the call.
We must not miss however,
2. The harshness of the call
You see the goodness of the invitation is also a confirmation of a harsh reality; God is coming to re-take what is His; he is offering mercy, but will have to re-establish His rule of justice.
Which means, that the disciples, and by implication us today, can’t just go out with a message of flowers and love. This is not our message; it was not Christ’s message either, nor the disciples message and is not the message of the bible.
The whole of the bible points to the fact that the rightful, just, good God of all of creation will soon establish his rule of justice and goodness.
Which means one thing; everyone who is involved in injustice, who has rebelled, who is not on his side is going to be in a lot of trouble!
Imagine it in this way; imagine that as a country you have just been under a completely corrupt and incompetent president, who destroyed the rule of law, allowed evil and corruption to become so prevalent that the whole society was fraying and starting to fall apart. Difficult to imagine in South Africa I know.
But suddenly in a 100% turn around a true president came and won 100% of the electoral vote, literally he was in complete power, now this new president was someone who could not be bought, and could not deny justice; he came with sweeping power to re-establish true law, in the tiniest of details so that every wrong would be held to account. (now no human being could or would be like this; but dream with me).
In this scenario, how would people who have done wrong be feeling? Rightfully terrified! They are going to have to pay for what they have done!
Well, church this is the message of the bible. With the coming reign of God will come his perfect justice. This means that every single wrong deed will come under scrutiny and will be judged and punished! Every single deed, no matter how small! Because God is a perfect judge.
This is why Jesus says; let your peace rest upon the house, but if it is rejected; it will better for Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment than the places that reject you.
Surely, judgment is judgment? Well no! and we know this; are we harsher with someone if they make a mistake, or intentionally do something?
Sodom and Gomorrah, a city of complete sinfulness, did not have the gospel preached to them! So even though they will be held to account, how much greater would the misery be of people who knew of the hope of escaping judgment and still refused to come clean.
The ministry of the church, the ministry of Christ, and what the disciples were doing here; was hopeful; yes. It was good, but the only way it could be good is with harsh truth; with judgment!
The message of the gospel is this; God is a coming judge; a perfect judge; this means that everything that you have ever done will be held under the microscope and called to account! And the Bible does mean everything!
No-one will get away with anything; those hateful thoughts that you have, that lust that you carry, that greed, those lies you have told, the pride that you cherish. Everything will come before God to be judged!
Every human being will stand before a perfect judge and will account for every action and thought! If you are sitting here comfortably you do not understand that this means you too! Let’s not fool ourselves church, the gospel doesn’t not mean that we will be treated differently that the world; we too will give account of every action! I promise you that!
So you might be asking well then where is the goodness? This is terrifying not good. Well the goodness, is only found in the Cross of Christ; because on the cross every sin of those who believe has been paid!
God will not judge twice that which has already been paid for by Christ! We too will be held to account; but our sins every one when called to be held under judgement, Christ will declare on our behalf; that has already been paid for! He/she is clear of that! I have already paid their debt!
Now, quickly what does this mean for us today?
3. The application for us
Church, we still preach the kingdom! This is good and harsh! Let us reclaim the message church, that the gospel because it re-established the demand for justice brings goodness!
This means that we preach that people were made to live righteous lives, we stand on the truth of justice and right. In other words, you cannot live how you want and expect to be happy and fulfilled. It simply does not exist.
Many people in the world today live with this idea that as long as I don’t get caught it is okay; which is rubbish, the constant fear of getting caught eats you alive, and you change, you become twisted, and more enslaved because of that fear! You all know this; and so church, we must re-establish this reality; because judgement is coming, even if you are able to fool everyone around you; God is coming! Judgement will be faced, you all know this in your soul!
So, that is the harsh truth the good news, the wonderful healing joy church is that only in the gospel of Jesus Christ do we face up to what we have done; we own it! I am a sinner! But because of the endless love of God, Jesus takes our sin and gives us His rightness.
In this we can graciously live for justice without become hypocrites and self-righteous persecutors. Because we long for the justice of God, not because we think ourselves righteous, because we know justice is good! We share the hope of God because we, the unworthy, have the truth that God, through the cross, will pardon sinners! This is the wonderful gospel we have to preach to all the world! To all who would hear!
As the hymn by Charles Wesley so aptly puts it;
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?