Chapter 10 in Matthew’s Gospel has a lot for us. I think it has a lot for us especially in these days of being locked down by the government.
The disciples were sent out by Jesus to do the things they had seen Jesus doing – preaching the gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons. In just the previous two chapters of Matthew, the disciples had seen Jesus do all those things. They had seen Jesus proclaim the gospel in all the cities and villages. They had seen him heal the sick, including Peter’s mother-in-law. The disciples had seen Jesus bring a dead girl back to life. They had seen him cleanse a leper – Jesus touched the man and said, “be clean.” And the disciples had seen Jesus cast out multiple demons – in one case, he just told the demons, “Go.”
The disciples had seen Jesus do these things, and Jesus told them to do what they had witnessed him doing.
This is what discipleship is. People pass things on to other people. We become followers. We witness other people doing things, and we begin to do those things ourselves. The disciples saw Jesus traveling light, and they began to travel light. They saw him acquire no gold or silver or copper, and so they didn’t acquire those things. We follow the example of our teacher.
And the disciples went out and presumably did all the things Jesus told them to do. We don’t know what the result was. Matthew doesn’t tell us that in his gospel. Did they win hundreds of converts? Did they win none? We aren’t told here. It must not have been important. It must just have been important that the disciples went as disciples and did the things their teacher instructed – and showed – them to do.
I think this passage is simply about discipleship – how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
So what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ. How do we become one? Jesus’ sending out of the 12 disciples makes me think Christianity is more than just dogma or a list of beliefs. Jesus didn’t send out a list of beliefs. He sent out people. And those people were to tell the story, and they were to live it out by their actions. It seemed to matter as much to Jesus how the disciples about their business as to what they actually said.
Maybe redeemed people are the message.
This chapter also made me think about seeing something done and then doing it ourselves. Jesus, in his humanity, showed his disciples the way – and they showed others, who showed others, and so on. Discipleship is about passing it down from one generation of believers to another.
And it seems to me as if we can only pass down what we’ve seen and heard from others. I’ve never seen a Christian teacher bring the dead back to life or cleanse a leper – and so I don’t know how to do those things. But I’ve had many Christian teachers, following in the tradition of the apostles, proclaim the gospel to me. This is the essence of Jesus’ ministry, and it has not been lost. Jesus is the Word, after all. The gospel is news – good news – to be told. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” – a verse that’s in both the Old Testament and the New.
The kingdom of God continues to grow through the preaching of the gospel. People continue to “proclaim from the housetops” the whispered words of Jesus (10:27).
We might want to think back often on the people who proclaimed the good news on our own housetops. What was that like? What did they say? How did they say it? If their words reached down into our souls and touched us (and we became Christians), would those words also touch others? If they reached me with those words, could I reach others with those same words? Am I doing what they did?
Oh, that’s a lot of food for thought for me!
Frankly, many Christians I know don’t say anything to anyone about the gospel. They are too afraid. Those silent Christians aren’t like the people who proclaimed the gospel to them. They aren’t following in the way they’ve been taught. They are fearful of what others might think or say. They are fearful of seeming in some way to be intolerant or pushy. They may have other excuses as well.
But the people who proclaimed the gospel on our housetops – to us – weren’t afraid. They were bold. They followed Jesus’ instruction, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (10:28). This is a good lesson for me. Am I as bold as I ought to be? Am I preaching the same way in which I was preached to when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior?
This particular blog post is rounding into a lecture. I feel like pulling it back, reeling it in. You probably don’t want to hear a lecture today. You may want to hear warm fuzzies in a time of national uncertainty.
But we live in a time of fear, and Jesus told his disciples not to fear. He told them to enter into the world as simple, humble people – and to speak the gospel. And when the world pushed back at those disciples, they were to have no fear and to rely on the Holy Spirit and to never give up.
Again, the question bears asking: What do we fear in this time of coronavirus and lockdown and closed churches and canceled worship services?
May God bless you all today!