Every summer hundreds of Christians, both young and old, from all over our
island head of on short-term mission/evangelism teams. These final few months, weeks and days before we embark on this experience can be unnerving, worrying and full of questions. But, no matter where you are going, there are some things that you can be certain off. Matthew 10 tells us what those things are; it offers us four broad brush strokes of gospel proclamation.
Matthew 10 in Context
So far in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus has been fulfilling his ministry, as documented in the previous chapters, in a quite spectacular way. He has been teaching in a unique fashion. This is seen in chapters 5-7 as he delivers the Sermon on the Mount and the people’s response is seen at the end of chapter 7:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Vv. 28-29)
Then at the end of chapter 9 Jesus explains that the labourers for the harvest are few, and so he calls the disciples to pray for more labourers. But little did the disciples know that in chapter 10 they would become the answer to their own prayers as Jesus sends them out. While Matthew 10 documents Jesus’ teaching for his disciples as they go out into the ‘fields’ so to speak, I think it also offers four broad brushstrokes which give us an idea of what the future holds!
The first brush stroke is a very simple one – the spread of the gospel requires us to GO!
In Matthew 10 Jesus does something which is unheard off for a Rabbi, he includes his disciples in his mission. That which Jesus has been doing the disciples are now given authority to do. In verse 7 we note that the disciples are given authority to teach, and in verse 1 we see they have been given authority to heal disease and affliction.
We too as disciples are included in Jesus ministry, in his mission. Now, it does take a slightly different shape to this work in Matthew 10 – remember we come after Jesus death and resurrection. We are not confined to Israel as the disciples were on this occasion (v. 5-6), and our healing ministry is demonstrated in a different way today. Nonetheless, we are still included in Jesus mission. We are still commanded to go. After all, the message still hasn’t changed: ‘And proclaim as you go, saying, “The Kingdom of God is at hand”’ (v. 7).
As we look to the summer, the teams we will be a part of and the places we will go, we can be certain that this is the ordained way of communicating the good news of Jesus Christ: God’s people travelling with God’s message to those in need of hearing it.
The second broad brush stroke is difficulty – involvement in the spread of the gospel inevitable contains difficulty.
Jesus describes the disciples being sent out as sheep being sent into the midst of wolves (v. 16). Jesus then warns them, in verse 17, to beware of men. Finally, Jesus says ‘you will be hated by all for my name’s sake’ (v. 22). The disciples were going to face great difficulty as they obeyed Jesus’ command to go.
This will be the same for us as we consider the summer ahead of us. There will be great difficulty! Consider your previous experience of spreading the gospel: Think of the disdain that people had for you, of the hardness of heart toward the gospel, and of the point blank refusal of people to enter into any kind of conversation. There will be difficulty in the days that lie ahead.
Nevertheless, we are not without help, and that is our third brushstroke.
Jesus encourages his disciples by reminding them that they have help as the Spirit speaks. He says :
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Vv. 19-20)
The difficulty we face is an opportunity for the Spirit to work, and he will help us through it.
Jesus proceeds to assure his disciples that even though they must beware of men (v. 17), there is no need to fear men, because they only have a certain degree of jurisdiction over us! Jesus states plainly: ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell’ (v. 28).
In the end our acknowledgement of Jesus will be rewarded with his acknowledgement of us before the father. Jesus promises: ‘everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.’ (Vv. 32-33).
While your work of spreading the gospel this summer may be fraught with many difficulties, Matthew 10 reminds us that God cares for us, and has promised his help as we look to the future of mission and evangelism.
The final broad brushstroke to mention is the message we take with us.
All of this is necessary because of the message that we must proclaim. We need to know that Jesus sends us, there is difficulty, but that in that difficulty there is great (in fact divine) help. And we need to know all of this because the message we have to share is a message that divides. It is a message that is hard to deliver and it is a message that is costly.
Surprisingly Jesus begins a summary of his message in this way: ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.’ (v. 34). It is a message that divides between those who are Christ’s and those who aren’t.
The reason that the message is both difficult to deliver and divisive is due to the great cost of being a Christian – Jesus is unequivicol about the commitment he requires:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take 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. (Vv. 37-39)
This is the gospel – it is a message that divides, is hard to deliver and is costly to accept. Therefore, it is of vital importance to see the broad brush strokes in this passage. This summer will consist of us going, in going we will face difficulties, but in these difficulties there will be help provided. All of this is necessary because of the message that we must proclaim.