Take Part in Missions

Explore the Bible Series

September 30, 2007

 

Background Passage: Matthew 9:35-10:42

Lesson Passage: Matthew 9:35-38; 10:5-14, 26-31

 

Introduction: Thirty years ago, I foolishly entertained unbiblical views of the ministry, views I cultivated in the environment of Southern Baptist life in the local church and a Baptist college and seminary.  Ultimately, I bear responsibility for my errant understanding (I had ready access to the Bible and a storehouse of useful Bible study resources), but my environment profoundly shaped my misconceptions of the work of the gospel.

 

Many young pastors, I think, envision the ministry as an honored, respectable career choice.  They imagine themselves standing behind prestigious pulpits with an adoring public, Bibles and notebooks in hand, waiting to receive the Sunday sermons. The pews will groan under the weight of an ever-expanding congregation, and the people, who gather week by week, will behave like Christians in all their dealings with one another and with the pastor and his family.  Moreover, these young men may embrace a “cause and effect” view of the gospel; that is, if the pastor preaches the Scriptures, the congregation will celebrate the faithful exposition and the church will grow spiritually and numerically.  I don’t think anyone deliberately deceives these young ministers, but, let’s face it, chapel services, at colleges and seminaries, teem with speakers who seem to model this view, and impressionable young men often buy into this illusion uncritically.  People who believe the doctrines of grace are not immune to this mistaken understanding of the ministry.  What, then, is the remedy?  Perhaps we might start by examining the central teachings of this passage in Matthew Nine and Ten. It seems that four main points emerge from the text.

 

  1. Jesus had (has) a profound empathy for the lost, broken, disenfranchised people of the world.  Ministry is dirty work, and it requires that servants of Christ emerge from their religious cocoons and immerse themselves in the lives of hurting people.  There is no place, in the work of the Kingdom, for a formal, professionalism or religious snobbery that refuses to wade, chest-deep, into morass of human need. The Lord instructed his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to raise up laborers for the harvest.  Such men are hewn from the rock of God’s sovereign design, not by human achievement, academic accomplishment, or professional credentials.
  2. The task of the disciple centered on meeting human need and the unflinching proclamation of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus did not enjoin his followers to exercise creativity of method, presentation or message; rather, they had a simple, two-fold task: preach the nearness of the Kingdom and address the sufferings of the “lost sheep.”  The “success” of the gospel proclamation did not rest with the disciples.  They had fulfilled their responsibility when they delivered the message.  If their audience did not respond favorably, the disciples were to shake off the dust from their feet and proclaim the good news elsewhere. 
  3. Disciples of Christ will meet with overwhelming opposition and hostility, hostility that will, at times, come from unexpected sources (government leaders, religious authorities, brothers, parents, and children).  The pressure, under some circumstances, will grow so intense, Jesus predicted, that the disciples may seem to have nothing to say to the circumstances.  The Holy Spirit, as we shall see, has special ministry to those who face these hardships.
  4. Those who persevere in their service to Christ will receive a great reward.  Jesus didn’t specify, in this text, the nature of the reward; however, these faithful servants will share in the glory of their Master.

 

 

Outline of the Lesson Passage:

 

I.                   Jesus’ Concern for the Disenfranchised and Oppressed (9:35-37)

A.    As Jesus circulated through the cities of Galilee, he focused on two priorities: meeting the needs of hurting people and preaching the Kingdom of God. 

B.     The helpless condition of the people deeply moved the Lord, and he encouraged his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest that he might send forth laborers into his harvest. Notice, the text makes clear that the harvest belongs to the Lord. In this directive to his followers, Jesus pointed out that his people needed to follow his example by involving themselves in the lives of the lost.

 

II.                The Call and Commission of the Twelve (10:1-15)

A.    The call of the Twelve (vv. 1-4): Matthew listed these men in pairs, perhaps reflecting that he send the disciples on this initial mission, two by two.

1.      Simon Peter and Andrew: These brothers, prior to meeting Jesus, operated a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee. John tells us that Andrew came to Jesus first; then, he led Simon to meet the Master too. Peter’s name always appears first in the biblical lists of the apostles.

2.      James and John, the sons of Zebedee: like Simon and Andrew, these brothers fished the Sea of Galilee and became important members of Jesus’ circle of disciples.

3.      Philip and Bartholomew: The New testament reveals that Philip came from Bethsaida, and he played, as we shall see later, an important role in several well-known stories in the life of Jesus. Some scholars believe this man was the Nathaniel referred to in the early chapters of the Gospel of John. 

4.      Thomas and Matthew: Thomas may have been a twin (thus the term Didymus), but conjecture about the identity of his brother proves inconclusive.  Matthew was a tax collector and probable author of this Gospel.

5.      James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus: This James may be the man referred to as “the less” (perhaps a reference to his youth), but the Bible tells us very little about this disciple. Thaddeus was also called Lebbaeus or Judas.  The Gospel of john recorded the only quotation from this man (See John 14:22).

6.      Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot: This Simon probably belonged to a radical, violent nationalist group, prior to his encounter with Jesus.  Judas came from the village of Kerioth, near the city of Hebron. He served as the treasurer of the group and, of course, betrayed the Lord to the Jewish authorities.

B.     The initial commission of the twelve (vv. 5-15): As part of the early training of the disciples, Jesus sent the men on a temporary, specific preaching mission. Like the Lord, the men were to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom and alleviate the suffering of the people.  Jesus required that the men travel light and willingly receive the hospitality of the villages they visited.  If the villagers refused to hear their message, the disciples were instructed to shake the dust from their sandals and leave the town. Jesus claimed that the Day of Judgment would prove more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than it would for those who rejected the message of Christ’s apostles.

 

III.             The Certainty of Persecution (vv. 16-39)

A.    A powerful analogy (v. 16a): Jesus told his disciples that they would be like sheep among wolves, the weak and helpless among the ravenous predators.

B.     Some sound counsel (v. 16b): Jesus counseled his disciples to be like serpents (wary and observant) and doves (gentle and innocent). 

C.     The nature of persecution (vv. 17-25)

1.      legal and violent: Jesus warned that the pressures would involve legal prosecution and serious, violent consequences.  Also, the Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would provide the words for these disciples to defend themselves against the accusations of the authorities.

2.      heartbreaking betrayal: The disciples would encounter unspeakable betrayal by the ones they loved most.  This feature of the persecution would, of course, simply add insult to injury.  What could prove more hurtful than for the disciples to experience the rejection those whom they had loved most? The servants of the Lord will be hated for the sake of Christ, but, if they persevere, Jesus promised they would be saved. Verse Twenty-three is very difficult. It may refer to the Lord’s resurrection and ascension, though this view certainly has difficulties.

3.      purposeful:  Jesus described two purposes God has this persecution. First, the Lord would suffer this kind and persecution, and the disciples, as a result of their identification with the Master, would experience precisely the same treatment as the Lord.  Second, this persecution would center the disciple’s attention on eternity and wean them from an inordinate dependence on the things of the world.  God will vindicate his servants at the time when all things will be revealed.  God loves his servants and, like the birds of the air, he takes notice of the sufferings of his people. 

D.    The cost of discipleship (vv. 34-39): It comes down to this; do the disciples love the Lord enough to refuse all other relationships for the sake of the Kingdom?  Are these followers willing to bear the shame and suffering of the cross that they might love and be faithful to Christ?  These are sobering questions that every would-be disciple must answer. The Lord did not promise peace, prosperity, and success to his disciples; rather, he promised them a cross and the rejection of men.  Following Jesus entails walking where he walked, even the path of the cross.

 

IV.             The Reward for Faithful Servants (vv. 40-42): This chapter concludes with an encouraging reminder of the disciple’s reward.  These apostles would be accepted by those who received the Savior. Those who serve Christ faithfully by giving simple gifts (like a cup of cold water) to the needy children of God will receive their reward.