Title: The mission of the twelve disciples part 1
Scriptures to Read: Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 9:35-10:15; Luke 9:1-6
The three-fold ministry of Jesus
Matthew explains the three-fold ministry of Jesus (Matt. 9:35-38):
1. Teaching in their synagogues
2. Proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom (the gospel emphasizes the mystery kingdom).
3. Healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Sheep without a shepherd
Matthew says Jesus “felt compassion for the people, because they were depressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” In spite of the fact that the leaders of Israel have rejected His messianic claims, the people are not yet following their leaders in that claim. Later on the people will follow their leaders in this rejection. But for now they are not following their leaders, and therefore they are like sheep without a shepherd. The debate among the people is this: should we follow the old shepherds, or should we follow this new one? And therefore, in their time of indecision they are like sheep without a shepherd. And that is the focus of the ministry.
Authority given to the twelve disciples
Now Jesus sends out the twelve. Mark notes that He sent them out in pairs. He sends them out to proclaim the message of the Mystery Kingdom. They are given delegated authority to authenticate their message by performing healing and casting out demons.
The mission of the twelve disciples
Before sending them out, Jesus gives them some practical instructions for their mission. And He instructs them on five things (Matt. 10: 5-15)
1. To Jews only
Jesus instructs the apostles to go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And until the time of the book of Acts their ministry is limited to a Jewish audience, and not even the Samaritans are to be targeted.
2. The Message
The content of the message is that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This of course is the mystery kingdom which He has just been explaining to them. And the message is to be authenticated by the miracles they perform.
He also instructs them, as they move on, not to take any wealth or funds with them, or any extra provisions like a second coat or an extra pair of sandals because God would provide all their needs. Rabbis did not get paid for teaching. And just as they receive freely, they should be able to give freely. An apparent contradiction regarding a staff is easily explained. In Mark He says to take nothing “except a mere staff.” In Matthew and Luke, He instructs them not to take a staff. The Greek word for staff, like the English, can refer to a walking stick, or it can refer to a weapon used for fighting such as a quarterstaff – two diﬀerent kinds of staﬀ. The staff they are to take with them is not an aggressive staff, but only a walking staff. In verse 10 of Matthew, the worker is worthy of his support, meaning that God will provide for their needs as they proceed. So the principle is that they are to trust God to provide for their needs, and they are to give freely from what God provides.
When they go to a city they are to find and stay with someone who is worthy. The word worthy in the Greek is axios, which means worthy in the sense of having inherent value as contrasted with timios, which means worthy because of attributed value, or esteemed, honoured, or valued. This indicates that they are to find someone who actually believes. And they are to make their home with a believer, and to give him a blessing of peace. So, while the nation as a nation is rejecting Him, the focus of their ministry is to individuals and families who believe.
When they find those who are not worthy, those who will not receive them nor heed their words, He says “as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” And Mark and Luke add that it is “for a testimony against them.” The act of shaking the dust off their feet is a symbolic action of witnessing against them. It is a sign of judgement, as Matthew emphasises. And while judgement will come upon the city, the worthy one within the city will be spared.
These are the five elements of practical instruction given to the twelve, but notice that the focus of their ministry is to be on the believers, the remnant of that day.