Title: The mission of the twelve disciples part 2
Scriptures to Read: Matthew 10:16-11:1; Mark 6:12-13
First of all, Jesus points out the coming persecutions. He is sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. And therefore, while they are to be as wise as serpents, they are to be as innocent as doves. They should be ready to be taken before counsels and synagogues, and be ready to be scourged. And this is not just for their immediate ministry, but for their future ministry. Notice that while the synagogues are Jewish places, the governors and kings would be Gentile places. Notice also that the reason for these persecutions is given at the end of verse 18: “for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” These persecutions happen for Jesus’ sake, and their purpose is to be a testimony to two groups of people: to Jews and to the Gentiles.
It will be God who speaks
Here Jesus points out that they need not be concerned for what they will say. When the time comes to defend themselves God will give them what to say for “it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” This is not dealing with Bible lessons or sermons. It is dealing with defending oneself in a court of law because of your faith in Jesus.
Division in the family
He points out that they will even be persecuted by family members. Normally the Jewish family is a very close knit unit, but because of the rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus, He now becomes a point of division in the Jewish family unit.
Flee to another city
And He says, when you are persecuted in one city, just go to another. He says at the end of verse 23: “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” Some take this to be the second coming, and normally that is what it would refer to. But in this immediate context it is probably a reference to the triumphal entry. They will not get through all the cities of Israel before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
In verses 24-25, Jesus warns the apostles that they will be rejected on the same basis that He was rejected – on the basis of demon possession. So they should be ready for this.
Do not fear them
In verses 26-27 He tells them not to be afraid, but to boldly proclaim all that He has taught them. Then, in verse 28, He encourages them not to fear those who can kill the body, but only to fear God who is able to send the soul to hell. And, in verses 29-31, He speaks words of comfort of God’s great care for them, even to the tiniest details of their being – the hairs on their head are numbered. And the result is that they should not fear.
The key issue
Then, in verses 32-33, He points out the key issue for that generation: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” The individual members of that generation have to make this choice: either affirm Him or deny Him. If they affirm him on earth, they will be affirmed in heaven. If they deny him on earth, they will be denied in heaven.
In the messianic kingdom which He had been offering them they would have had true peace and a unity within each household. But the prerequisite to establishing that peace in the Kingdom was their accepting Him as Messiah. This they failed to do. And so now in place of peace it is a sword. In place of unity it is now division: man against son, daughter against mother, and so on. And He himself would now become the symbol of acceptance or rejection just as Simeon told Mary at the time of the presentation when He was 40 days old (Luke 2:29-36).
In verse 38: What does Jesus mean when He said, “he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me?” It was the Roman custom to make convicted criminals carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion. So bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule and humiliation along the way to death. Therefore, to take up a cross and follow Him means to choose to identify with Him, knowing that the consequence may very well be rejection and humiliation, and even death.
In verse 39 He points out the eternal consequences of making the choice between following Him and not following Him. If we try to preserve our life here by not identifying with Him, we end up losing it. But if we are willing to lose it, and even if we do lose it, we will actually find it!
Not worthy of Me
Why does He say that those who do not identify with Him are not worthy of Him? Again the word, worthy, is the Greek word axios, which is talking about inherent value. The inherent value demonstrated by those who identify with Him, even in rejection and suffering, is their belief in Him. Those who do not identify with Him are demonstrating that they do not have this inherent quality of believing in Him.
Rewards for Individuals who accept Jesus
In verse 40 He says that those who receive the apostles are receiving Him, and those who receive Him are receiving the One who sent Him, that is, the Father. The actions described in verses 41-42 are the outworking of the inner quality of believing in Him, which is described in verse 38 as worthiness. And He says there will be rewards for those individuals who accept Him. And even giving them a cup of water will result in a reward.
The Fulfilment of the disciple’s mission
Here we see that they went out preaching the gospel and healing, just as He told them to at the beginning of this section. Mark adds that they “preached that men should repent.” And the word repent means to change one’s mind. What they are telling the Jewish people is: They need to change their mind about Jesus. He is not demon possessed, He is the Messiah. And that will give them eternal life.