Lesson 56: The Limited Commission (Cont'd)
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 56. O.K. let's do a brief review. After Jesus had appointed the twelve, he spent some time touring Galilee and teaching the Jews primarily by the use of parables. He was healing the sick and casting out demons in their cities, in their villages, and in their synagogues. The apostles observed this and received some private instruction on the side. Jesus encouraged them to sharpen up their art of illustration and to improve their communicative skills. As they progressed in this effort; Jesus watched their progress and when he considered the time right Jesus moved them from what we called the academic ' phase of their education to the training phase of that ministry. They continued to tour Galilee during this second period of training; but, the main difference was (#1) Jesus endowed them with limited spiritual powers to heal the sick, cast out devils and to raise the dead according to Matt. 10:8. (#2) The second difference was, Jesus sent them out on their own? i.e. in pairs. He gave them precise instruction where to go, where NOT to go, where to stay, where NOT to stay, WHAT to teach, what preparation to make, how to conduct themselves, and what to expect in terms of acceptance from the general population. In our last lesson we got down through v.25 in Matthew's 10th chapter where Jesus discussed the strong possibility that persecution would arise as a result of their teaching and healing as they went over Israel. They were told to "take no thought how or what ye shall speak", i.e. if they were brought before the counsels, courts, etc. Jesus promised them direct help with their message through the Holy Ghost in such cases. In v.23, Jesus said "when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another", i.e. don't spend needless time trying to stand your ground or arguing with that Phariseeiac element or anyone else that opposed them. However, they were promised NO IMMUNITY from pain and suffering. And they were expected TO WORK at their assignment. They were also held accountable for their conduct and their endurance. In v.22, Jesus said: "ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Notice in v.23 that Jesus indicated the time was short. He said, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." This is very interesting information, indeed. Jesus was saying that regardless of how fast and how efficient and how duty-full they went about preaching, teaching, healing and persuading the lost sheep of Israel to repent; there was not sufficient time to do the job adequately until the kingdom would come. And, although, this does not give a SPECIFIC time element; it described a relative amount of time in which they had to work before their efforts would culminate in the kingdom coming as had been preached and as they were even then instructed to preach. Jesus was saying, in essence, they had more work to do than time to do it. Jesus referred to himself as "the Son of man" in v.23. You see, Jesus the Christ was the king of that kingdom that was to come, which he had spent much time describing in his parables.
Our last lesson ended right in the middle of Jesus' presentation of instructions. So, let's read a few more verses. We're going to read Matt. 10:26-33. Are you tuned-in and ready? V.26 beginning. Let's read. "Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which Is in heaven."
Back up in v.21, Jesus had said, that not only would the hostility of the Jews and Gentiles be upon the apostles; but, it would extend to all disciples. Families would be broken up; the dearest of relatives would divide and betray each other, "and cause them to be put to death", i.e. as a result of the very things that the apostles would be teaching and preaching on their tour. Thus, the very works of the apostles were bound to bring about threats and hatred. So, in v,26, where we just read; Jesus addressed the problem of how to handle threats, hatred, and negative conduct. "Fear them not...", i.e. don't be afraid. Don't stop teaching. If they interrupt your works, simply go to the next town. Now, listen to this, the worst they can do is kill you. They can't touch your soul. So, don't fear! They were to teach what they had learned from Jesus. They were to teach it on the housetops, i.e. as public as they had the opportunity and to as many as they had the opportunity to teach. If you want to worry about something, fear God! This is an extension to that thought at the end of v.22, "he that endureth to the end shall be saved." The apostles would save their own souls by simply carrying out Jesus' instruction. The word "hell" at the end of v.28 comes from the Greek word "gehenna" meaning the place of destruction. The same thought is covered in Matt. 25:46 in the words, "everlasting punishment." For those who do not believe in eternal punishment; they need to consider what Jesus said to the apostles here in v.28. The attitude of some seems to be, I'll beat the case some way or another. Here on earth, if they don't get what they want; they hire a better lawyer and take it to a higher court and eventually beat the case on some technicality. But, Jesus reminded the apostles that God keeps an inventory of even the worthless birds and even the hairs of our head are counted (v.29-30), i.e. "nothing is covered, that shall not be revealed..." (v.26). In other words, complete justice will be done in judgment. Then in v.32-33 Jesus laid down a great principle. Take a look! "Whosoever!" How many is that? EVERYBODY! Who's an exception to it? NONE! Thus, this rule applies to every body; no exceptions! Now, what's the rule? "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Jesus will be that great Judge (John 5:22). At the judgment, Jesus will take into consideration our faithfulness to him. If we're faithful to him here; he will be faithful to us there. In other words, every man will be judged according to his own works (Rev. 20:13). The word confess here does not mean necessarily some formal statement in front of a crowd. The point is to speak out for Jesus; when the need arises. Now, look a v.33 in Matthew. You will find this heads and tails coin principle in the Bible, many times. First a statement is said in a positive way as is the case in v.32. Then in the next sentence; that same proposition will be stated in the negative; as this statement is in v.33. It's that heads or tails coin principle. Either it's heads or it tails; you can't have both at the same time. Do you remember what Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that day in Matt. 12:30? "He that is not with me is against me..."
O.K. let's read six more verses. Matt. 10:34-39. Are you ready to read? Beginning in v.34. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Alright, now this is still part of Jesus' speech to the apostles BEFORE HE SENT THEM OUT. Jesus had already made the point, we just read, up in v.21-22; but here in v.34-39 is an elaboration upon that statement. Jesus the Christ was referred to in prophecy (Isa. 9:6) as the "Prince of Peace." And it was the aim of Jesus to bring peace upon the earth. But, NOT peace at any price. You see, the very nature of the messiah conflicted with the preconceived ideas of some Jews. This would naturally bring "variance" as Jesus called it in v.35. Jesus did not come to destroy the law or the prophets; but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17). So, to the extent THAT fulfillment brought on conflict with the entrenched values of that day; it would bring on dissension and strife among kinfolks. It would be so great as to cause some to use the sword, i.e. murder (v.34). These apostles needed to be aware of this and realize how strong feeling their message would provoke. But, that MUST NOT deter their purpose. V.35-36 seems to be a quotation from Micah 7:6. The cross in v.38 was a symbol of suffering and agonizing for truth. This is first time the word "cross" has been used in all of our study; up until now. No doubt this was an illusion to Christ's ultimate death on the cross. But, just how much the apostles understood about that (at that point) is a good question. Look at v.39 a moment! They had to make a choice. If they refused to suffer for Christ; they would be counted as unworthy of Christ. If they were willing to suffer, only then, would they be counted worthy. Pretty plain talk!
Alright, let's finish the chapter. V.40-41-42. This is the other side of the coin. Those disciples who did bear up and suffer in behalf of Christ' name; they would be rewarded. Let's read beginning in v.40. "He that receiveth you receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."
Now, I want you to re-read v.40. You may need to turn the tape player off. What did Jesus really say in that verse? In v.40, Jesus officially declared the apostles as direct representatives of Jesus Christ and therefore direct representatives of the Heavenly Father. Then in v.41-42, Jesus has reference to those who would receive the apostles. In respecting God's messenger we respect God. Bro. McGarvey points out that the word "reward" in these verses in probably NOT synonymous with heaven. Because, heaven is a matter of grace and not a reward. That distinction comes later in the N.T., so we won't get into that here. But, it is clear from these verses; that to receive Christ is to receive his teachings. To reject his teachings is to reject Christ. Therefore, no man can reject the apostles and receive Christ. Jesus was here talking to the apostles; but, he expanded the thought in v.41-42 to include all disciples. And v.41-42 make it clear that no act of Service, regardless of how small, does not escape the attention of God.
I want to give special attention here to the fact that Jesus officially declared the apostles to be his direct representatives. As our study progresses; this thought will be expanded even more. So, we won't get into that at this time; but, I simply want to IMPRESS UPON YOU that this in more or less the beginning -OR- let's say, the first step in developing God's chain of command •with respect to Biblical authority. It wasn't long after the time of the apostles that SOME declared themselves as successors to the apostles and thus claimed to speak for God. There is nothing in the scriptures with reference to successors to the apostles. Thus, that claim is an unfounded claim and a usurpation of authority not authorized by Jesus, not authorized by his apostles nor the scriptures. The apostles speak directly to us through the scriptures; just as Jesus speaks directly to us through the scriptures, NOT through or by any successors to the apostles. Matthew was one of those apostles sitting there at the feet of Jesus on the very occasion of the limited commission, we've just considered. Matthew speaks directly to you and directly to me when we read his word in his book. There is no priest, pope, or other mediator in between. John said it was written that WE might have faith. And that same John, one of those apostles sitting at the feet of Jesus on this same occasion we've just considered in Matt. ch. 10; that John said that faith gives US the power to become, John 1:12. Much, much more could be said on this subject. But, right now, let's go to v.1 in Matthew's 11th chapter. You'll notice this verse is not highlighted. We saved that verse for this study. So, let's read it! Matt. 11:1. Let's read. "And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities." You will notice that Matthew used this verse to connect the information in ch. 10 to ch 11. We've already covered ch. 11; because, that's the order it was covered in the book of Luke. But, the point that we want to get now is this: when Jesus completed his instruction to the apostles with reference to the limited mission; he sent them out. Mark said two by two. But, notice something else. Jesus also departed "to teach and preach in their cities.11 So, this, in effect, made seven teams; undoubtedly several others followed with Jesus. I draw this conclusion for the "many other" statement in Luke 8:3. Thus, Jesus did not ask the apostles to do something he himself did not do. And, this again underscores the importance that Jesus placed upon this mission. Now, it's not said here; and maybe I'm reading too much between the lines; but, it seems only reasonable to me that Jesus must have set up some kind of time table or schedule for the apostles to follow. Undoubtedly they were to come back together at a designated place and a designated time. During their prior tour over Galilee; Jesus had answered their questions in private, explained the parables and prepared them for this mission, you see. And, it's only natural they would have more questions after spending some time in the field.
Try to visualize their departure, two by two into the villages of Galilee. They found a place to stay, began to teach every opportunity both in private and in public. Thus, the public ministry of Jesus began to take on more and more momentum. But, we must keep in mind at the same time; opposition was building. Some had already held councils to destroy Jesus and had made slanderous remarks about his miracles. Jesus understood only too well what this would ultimately lead to; so, he tried in this instruction we've covered, to prepare his apostles for a great shock. So, we'll bring this lesson to a close as we visualize Jesus and the twelve departing in seven different directions over Galilee. Have a good day!