Matthew 10

Matthew 10: Follow the Instructions

Sometimes when we are studying the Gospels, we tend to forget how brief the Lord’s ministry was. It covered a little over 3 years.  In chapter 10, in verses 1 & 2, Matthew states:  “ He( Jesus) called his twelve disciples and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 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; Phillip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot,  who betrayed Him.”

We notice the changing of the name from disciples to apostles and wonder what is the difference?  First of all , most theologians believe Jesus called these 12 from a larger group of followers probably a year and a half after his earthly ministry had started.

These 12 , one of whom would betray him, were ordinary men. Not a single theologian or trained seminarian in the whole bunch. Fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot who wanted to overthrow the Roman government- they hardly seemed to be the type of men of whom it was later said-‘ they turned the world upside down.’

Jesus had numerous followers.  A disciple is a learner, a follower. If you are a born-again believer, you are a disciple . An apostle in the original Greek is defined as : ‘ a messenger, sent ones.’ They were personally trained and commissioned by the Lord Jesus. Called by him, trained by Him, empowered by Him.  This term- apostle was used for these 12, with Paul later becoming an apostle to the Gentiles. Twelve was a significant number, as there were 12 tribes of Israel.

These apostles were given supernatural powers to work signs and wonders. These signs and wonders bore witness to the truth of the Gospel, which the apostles received from Christ.  In other words, their role was a pivotal, foundational role in the foundation of the Christian church.

What is significant to us is the Lord Jesus in his wisdom chose ‘ not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” ( I Cor. 1: 26-29)

As you can imagine, Jesus’ miracles, his healing all types of diseases  was attracting huge crowds. His popularity was growing , however, Jesus as his fame spread, began to emphasize the very things that made his message controversial.  In John 6, his message regarding his coming crucifixion where he spoke of ‘ eating his flesh and drinking his blood’ was so offensive we read:  ‘ …from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

I view the instructions Jesus is giving the apostles here is a type of internship where Jesus sends them out 2 by 2. He would keep a close eye on them and they would report back to him. The apostles were a special group- a one of a kind group for a special time. But we can view their time with Jesus and draw from it what are the phases of our discipleship.

The three years and few months they would spend with the Lord really were in 4 phases. And although we are not given the same powers and role as the apostles as they were a special group- we can identify with the phases they went through. The first phase was their calling which was a calling to conversion.  This is where all disciples begin- the first phase is the call to salvation, conversion.  We are convicted of our sin and as  a result: ‘ we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe  in our heart God has raised Him from the dead and we shall be saved.’ ( Romans 10)

Phase two of our discipleship is a call to a ministry.   Jesus had already begun his ministry of teaching, preaching, miracles and healing when  he asked  Peter if he could use his boat as his pulpit and push out from the shore to teach the crowd. ( Luke 5)  Jesus then called this group of fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John to a ministry:  “ Follow me and I will make your fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed him.”

The third phase of their training and discipleship was a call to an apostleship. This is the twelve who were selected out of the many who were following.  This small group would receive not only powers, but intensive small group training . Jesus would invest the remaining time on earth mentoring them and preparing them for the work they would continue after He was resurrected and ascended to heaven. I identify with this phase in my life as the time I spent at Woodland under Brother Bob’s preaching and teaching; the many visiting evangelists and teachers we had, and teachers I was under, like John Green.

The fourth phase occurred during the 40 days after the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. The Holy Spirit and the  Great Commission were given to them ( as they are to us) – commanding them to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” ( Matthew 28) This is where we make use of our gifts, plus the training we should have been receiving.  And as believers we are to carry out the Great Commission. It is the carrying out of this commission that advances the kingdom from one generation to the next.

So what can we draw from this lesson today? Much, for there are instructions here for disciples, as well as instructions for this special group of empowered apostles.

But mostly I am encouraged not by their powers, which the Lord gave them but by their weaknesses, their ordinary lives.

First of all realize these men left behind their jobs, their vocations which they were experts in to enter into an area where they had no training, and for the most part no formal education and/or aptitude. This was a step of faith. The step of faith usually takes one out of their comfort zone.   I can certainly  relate to their position.  Do you remember starting a job where you knew nothing about that job?  You had to be instructed in everything you were to do; often going over it numerous times before you ‘got it.’

They started out where we all do as believers- as learners.  Attempting to grasp spiritual truths and gain understanding of deep truths for men who were used to  repairing fishing nets and sails, collecting taxes, and various ordinary jobs. These men were for the most part a blue collar bunch- not a group of philosophers who sat around debating intellectual arguments.   Jesus was a patient teacher who invested his life in theirs for an intensive period of time.  He would teach in parables and the disciples would then ask- ‘ what did that parable mean?’    Jesus would sometimes chide them by remarking- ‘ do you not yet understand?’ Or ‘ oh foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe.’   This encourages me and it has encouraged men and women down through ages who have depended on the Holy Spirit to teach them and reveal spiritual truths to them.

So study and learning spiritual truths was a new area of learning for these men.  It was not easy, did not come naturally to them.  This is encouraging to me, that slow learners were the ones the Lord hand-picked. Why?  “ Our faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” ( I Cor. 2:5)   So we see they were slow learners, but had a great teacher, in fact the Greatest Teacher.  Who do we have to teach us?  The Holy Spirit, God in us.

You know what else I observe about these apostles?  They lacked humility. They were prideful, self-absorbed, self promoting. They argued about who would share the power with the Lord Jesus when he set up his kingdom, who would sit at this right hand.  Now do you understand why the Lord Jesus got down on his knees and washed their dirty feet?  To be an example of humility to a bunch of slow learning, thick-headed, prideful men.

Guess what else was a trait of this group?  They showed a lack of faith. On more than one occasion- the Lord Jesus rebuked them with this remark: “ Oh ye of little faith!”   Once even saying: “ How is it that you have no faith?” Having seen him do miracle after miracle and still have not great faith prompted Jesus to ask them- where is your faith?

Now to add injury to insult- on the night Jesus was arrested in the Garden, they forsook him and ran off. Their leader, Peter, denied he ever knew the man.  Their lack of faith filled them with fear and uncertainty. They feared for their very lives. They feared now they would end up on a bloody cross also.  None of them wanted to commit their lives to what appeared to be a lost cause.  As the disciples on the Road to Emmaus said, “we had hoped ( past tense) He was the Redeemer of Israel.”

If the story ended there- we would agree – ‘ what a bunch of losers.’ But with the Lord, a setback is a setup for a comeback.  God chose the weak, the foolish, the slow learners so that we would be encouraged. For His grace is always sufficient. And His strength is made perfect in weakness.  You could almost say- the weaker you are- the more foolish you are- the more simple and unlearned you are- the more God can do with you. Your perceived disadvantages become an advantage.  D. L Moody, was certainly all of the above, unlearned, uneducated, slow learner, poor grammar, mangled syntax and lack of training.  Yet he believed God was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do. When he heard a preacher say- the world has yet to see what God can do with a man totally yielded to God.  D. L Moody, heard that statement and said he did not say an educated man, a learned man, a rich man, a wise man- he just said a man.  I am man. And by God’s grace I will be totally yielded to him. He was a powerful voice for the Lord in the 19th century.

Yet on that Easter Sunday morning, everything changed. The disciples were soon to discover- what the narrow way was that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount.

What is the narrow way?  The way of the cross. A road less traveled where life is sometimes difficult, but never boring.   Jesus said : “ …anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Do you realize the way of the cross is not only a way of suffering – it is also a way of obedience.

Let me say this about suffering- it is inevitable. It is a part of the Christian life. Failure to understand this truth can cause you to misunderstand  God’s purpose and create negative results. The disciples thought Jesus was going to set up his earthly kingdom and overthrow the Roman rule. They believed they would rule and reign with him in positions of power. We remember what happened- with his arrest, crucifixion and death- they thought all hope was gone- hopeless. Their dreams had turned into nightmares. And the  one they had hoped was the Redeemer of Israel was stripped naked, his back striped by a cruel scourging as the flesh of his back was mutilated and hung in strips , nailed to a cross, struggling to breath in and out- he suffered and died as they ran and hid.

But let’s talk about obedience. That does not seem to be too popular. Turn to Deuteronomy 6 and  observe the blessing and curses of obedience and disobedience. These are God’s commands, decrees and laws to teach you to observe.  God promises- by keeping these you will enjoy a long life.  “ Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, so that it may go well  with you and you may go in and take the over the good land that the Lord has promised on oath to your fathers., thrusting out all the enemies before you, as the Lord said.” (Deut. 6: 18-19)   That it might be well with you. This is a personal blessing to be enjoyed- peace of mind, a wholeness, a sense of purpose and meaning in your life.  Possess the good land. Obeying God explicitly and diligently puts you in a position to receive blessings. He will also cast out your enemies.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, mankind has been deceived into thinking God’s commandments were intended to keep us from good things, to stifle us and deny us from experiencing the good life. The exact opposite is true. God’s commandments are always for our good. God creates us , therefore God knows our limitations, our drives, our weaknesses. He also knows what will give us the greatest satisfaction, fulfillment, meaning and purpose. He know what will put us in the best possible position to be blessed and be loved by not only Him but other people also.

Look at how detailed his instructions are to the apostles:  “ These twelve Jesus sent out with the following  instructions: “   This is the beginning of a very specific list of do’s and don’ts. Do not go here- go there…. As you go- do this and say this… do not take this or that. His instructions and commandments are specific.  We also note Jesus tells them how to recognize where God is working by the response they receive.   There are warnings and there are assurances. The point I am making is simple- his instructions and commandments are complete, detailed and aware of every situation and what to do or not do in each situation.

His commandments are His operating instructions so that we might experience all of the wonderful things that He desires to give us. We have been talking about hope, and the main reason for my hope and your hope is that God loves you and me, completely and eternally.

God’s love is absolute. It does not waver.

God’s love is powerful. ( John 3: 16)  God’s love found a way to save us all. His love is never subject to favoritism. He is no respecter of persons. The only difference between me and a lost person- is the lost person has not received the love of God. God’s love is unconditional- His promises may carry conditions, but his love never does. God’s love is not based on what we do or what we achieve – His love is given to us because we are His creation. You cannot earn unconditional love – only receive it.  Now do you understand— freely your receive, freely give.

Suffering is a part of the Christian life and failure to understand this truth  can cause you to misunderstand  God’s purpose and create negative results.  The disciples thought Jesus was going to set up his earthly kingdom and overthrow the Roman rule and they would rule with him.  With Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion, they thought all was lost- their hopes turned to hopelessness, their dreams to a nightmare. In addition the one they loved had died a cruel, shameful, horrendous death. They were ashamed for the way they had run away in fear for their lives. What a mess! The sheep had lost their shepherd.  What had started out as a wonderful week with crowds singing Hosannas had turned into a mob yelling to crucify him!

Here is a word of caution- the apostles would learn through all of this – be careful  you conclude something is not good, solely because it does not feel good!

Do you realize as we look at these instructions starting at verse 5 , the Lord Jesus is giving one detailed commandment after another.

Let us observe the teaching here to the apostles and learn from it.  “ Freely you have received, freely give.” What have I received from God? His unconditional love and out this love flows everything   Salvation. Eternal life. Forgiveness of all my sins. Joint heirs with Jesus.  Blessed with every spiritual blessing. In fact, – by his divine power I have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness through my knowledge of Him. What do I do to earn it? Nothing. It was freely given. It was free but costly.  It cost the Lord Jesus his very life. And since he and the Father are one- it means they have given everything in order for me to have this gift.

Do you know how Peter described your life before Christ?   He said we lived in ignorance.  He also said we were redeemed from an empty way of life.  Our lives were described as lives of ignorance and empty.

But we were born again  to a new life, a new creation complete with operating instructions from our Creator who says do this and don’t do this and you will  experience the life I have for you- the abundant life.

Our destiny is to keep His commandments.  Read, know and follow the instructions.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14