4 December 2010Matthew 9:35 - 10:8
"Those 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.'" (vv. 5-6)
"Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and no town of the Samaritans" -
these are hardly words we would expect of Jesus, the one who
welcomed the children, who healed the Centurion's servant, who
broke down boundaries. What was he taking about?
The words are Jesus' instructions to the 12 disciples (or apostles) who are being let out on their own for the first time. Up until then they had been with Jesus, listening to his words, watching his actions, living with him day by day. Now is their chance to put what they have learnt, seen and experienced into action - "Proclaim the good news, 'The heaven of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons." (verses 7-8)
The 12 disciples were not the elite, but were ordinary people representing the whole people of God. It is suggested that they were 12 in number in reference to the 12 tribes of Israel. They were ordinary Jews coming from different trades, numbering amongst them fishermen and tax collectors.
It would have been a daunting experience being sent out by Jesus. And Jesus would have realised that as he too was sent by his Father. Maybe that is why Jesus limits their mission by sending them only to Jewish areas, to people and a culture that they would have been familiar with. Jesus was only giving them enough that they could handle. It was up to others to take the good news further afield.
The disciples were sent out in pairs, presumably to support and encourage one another. They were not left alone, not least with the power of God with them too!
Interestingly the Gospel writer Matthew doesn't record how the disciples fared but in similar passages both Mark and Luke record their success (Mark 6:13; Luke 9:6).
The disciples were sent in pairs to support and encourage each other. How far do we trust our true selves to those God puts around us?
Jesus put a limit to the mission and work of the disciples. To what extent does God put a boundary on our discipleship and witness, or do we create our own boundaries?
What can you do to "proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (verse 7)?