Kingdom Come: Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Matthew 10)

Bible Passage: Matthew 10

Up to this point in his ministry, Jesus and the disciples have operated as a single team, going to towns and villages together, preaching the kingdom and healing the sick. The disciples have seen first hand how Jesus operated, and have been with him for some amazing moments.

The end of Matthew 9 marks a pivot point for the shape of the ministry. As Jesus has compassion for the crowd, and reflects on the scale of the harvest he knows that more workers are needed. The time has come for the disciples to step up and put what they have learned into practice, and Jesus sends them out to have a go at the things that they have seen him doing.

Authority From Jesus (v1-4)
Before Jesus sent out the disciples, there was a commissioning moment. He called them to himself and gave them the authority to cast out demons and to heal the sick, and he publicly recognised them as apostles. By commissioning them in this way, Jesus has deputised them to act on his behalf.

This commissioning moment is mirrored by the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20) in which Jesus gives a similar authority to all believers. As Christians stepping into the mission of Jesus, we can be confident that we do so with the authority of the risen Christ, and we do not need to lean on our own power in order to bring about kingdom results, but can trust in the power and authority of Jesus at work in and through us.

Mission For Jesus (v5-15)
The mission that Jesus gave to the twelve came with some specific instructions. In some ways, this is the same as the mission that Christians today have, though there are a few differences:

Scope (v5-6): For the twelve, the geographical scope of the mission was limited to the nation of Israel. Following the resurrection of Jesus, this scope has been widened to include the Gentiles, and our mission is ‘to make disciples of all nations’.

Message (v7): The message we have been given to proclaim is the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near. The kingdom refers to the rule and reign of God, and it is the announcement that in the person of Jesus, God has come as king and is putting all things right.

Action (v8): The announcement of the kingdom was not something to come in word only, but with powerful actions. The Twelve were to use their authority to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and cast out demons. This includes both works of supernatural power and acts of mercy. As we join the mission today we should have faith that God will do miracles, and we should also be ready to draw close to those who are suffering and bring healing through whatever means we can.

Equipment (v9-11): The Twelve were encouraged to travel light. The idea isn’t to get weighed down by unnecessary extras, but to stay nimble and responsive to the mission. This is an illustration for the posture that God is calling us to today. What are the things that we have accrued that weigh us down and get in the way of the mission?

Strategy (v11-15): The approach that Jesus gave the disciples was to find somebody in each place who is a ‘person of peace’ and stay with them. This person will open doors into the community for them to share the message, and if no such person can be found they should move on to the next place. The approach of Christians today should be similar, as we are looking for people with an open heart to the gospel message who can give us access to share the good news with different communities of people.

Suffering With Jesus (v16-25)
Jesus knows that opposition is likely, and compares the commission he is giving to sending sheep amongst wolves. In light of this, Jesus calls for his disciples to be both ‘as wise as serpents’ and ‘as innocent as doves’. We should not be naive or blindsided about what others may say or do, but nor should we compromise our integrity in the way we respond. Instead, we are being called to faithful trust in the Spirit to give us the words to respond, and patient endurance for the sake of Christ.

Potential applications:

  • The passage challenges our own evangelism. It was a priority for Jesus that his disciples were active in his mission, and this is what he wants for us as well.
  • Part of the commission is to heal the sick and cast out evil Spirits. The passage challenges our faith level for miracles. Perhaps you could have a bit of time in the service where you pray for people to be healed?
  • Some people feel called to a particular place or people group. You could spend some time ‘commissioning’ them to that ministry, and praying for the power of the Spirit to go with them.