Insert text here.
Having been trained as disciples, the Twelve will now be sent out as apostles.
When Jesus had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.These twelve Jesus sent out . . . .
Matthew 10:1-5a NKJV, condensed
Partners With God and Each Other
Some of us have a real problem with Matthew 10. We like to think the Bible is relevant to our own lives, that when Jesus spoke to his disciples, he was also speaking to us. But that idea breaks down at several points in this chapter, starting with the first verse. Power over every kind of sickness and dark spirit--it goes a bit too far!
Humans don't do those things. And it's probably good we don't. Can you imagine what would happen if a select number of people possessed the ability of Jesus to cure diseases and exorcise demons! How many times throughout history have we witnessed the corrupting influence of power! In our day and age, such healing powers would surely be accompanied by gold and glitz, notoriety and TV crews, arrogance and an extravagant lifestyle.
But Jesus thoroughly understood human nature so he built in some safeguards for his disciples. (You'll see what they are in the next passage) So if you are tempted to envy the powers given to the Twelve, believe me, Christ-like authority is accompanied by a strict set of guidelines. So austere, you will not likely line up to volunteer!
Who were these men who were about to become more than is humanly possible? The majority of the Twelve worked hard to earn their livelihood from the Sea. One agitated for political justice and another had been a tax collector. Two brothers were known as the "Sons of Thunder". Approachable Andrew played the welcoming role. Philip attracted people of other races and nationalities. Peter was always the first to speak and landed in hot water several times for his impulsiveness. Thomas had his doubts. All were Galileans except Judas Iscariot, the token outsider and treasurer of the group. The Gospels provide no information on the remaining disciples, the quiet ones.
Jesus' disciples are easy to relate to. Probably everyone reading this can identify with at least one description in the previous paragraph. But how are we to believe and understand that these ordinary individuals, who had committed themselves to Jesus in discipleship, now become possessors of the miraculous powers of their teacher, Jesus?
A disciple is a student, one who learns from someone else. John the Baptist had disciples, so did the Pharisees. Usually a student sought out the teacher, but Jesus reversed the dynamic and called people to be his disciples. The word, apostle, means one who is sent. Although Matthew used that word here, it wasn't until Jesus no longer walked among them, that the disciples grew into that title and became known as the Twelve apostles.
In the Old Testament, God's people thought of themselves as chosen. In the Gospels, Jesus called the disciples to follow him. These concepts place God in the role of initiator. But in order for the concept to be complete, each believer must respond with a "Yes". Disciples are called but it's the voluntary yes which completes and seals their calling.
You will notice when Matthew listed the names of the Twelve, he grouped them into six pairs. Mark's Gospel specifically says Jesus sent them out two by two. There are no loners in this group; they lived and worked within the boundaries of a community which would strengthen and inspire, correct and protect, keep each other on track and in line with all they had heard from Jesus.
The disciples were called, empowered, named and blest with a partner. Then Jesus sent them out, two by two, to speak health to the sick, bring life to the dead, and break the bonds of demonic forces. As they believed, so it would be. The caller, God, and the called, each disciple, formed a remarkable partnership. The human with the divine--together they did the mighty works of God.
It is an amazingly wonderful partnership that God calls us to. God doesn't do it alone; we certainly can't do it alone. The steady, continuous, enduring work of God in our world is accomplished when the chosen agree to be God's people and the called say yes to God's initiatives. As we believe, so it will happen. Who are these called and chosen ones? Probably anyone who, as we have learned from Jesus, has ears and is listening.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: When you hear about miracles happening today or watch them on TV, how do you react to these stories and scenes? What qualifies a miracle as good? As suspect?
The focus of attention has switched in this chapter from the crowds to the disciples. What's the differences between an observer and a disciple?
For you, is it a stretch to believe the disciples performed miracles? Are you among those who have no difficulty accepting whatever the Gospel writers said? Do you disbelieve the reports of Jesus doing miracles, much less his disciples doing the same? Is there some middle ground? Discuss your thoughts on this subject.
A disciple is a student, one who learns. An apostle is one who is sent forth to represent Jesus. How do you see yourself in terms of being a disciple and/or an apostle? What is one way you try to be like Jesus? What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ?
The disciples had made a serious commitment to Jesus. They left their homes and families to travel around the countryside wherever Jesus went. What kind of commitment have you made to Jesus? Describe a time when you said "Yes" to God's claim on your life? Who is your partner in ministry?
When the twelve disciples "worked the harvest in God's field", they were given power to cast out evil spirits and heal all kinds of sickness and disease. How is discipleship the same or different in today's world? What does it look like to "reap a harvest" for God in the 21st century?
When I read over Matthew 10, my determination to continue writing these studies almost failed me. I literally stalled out for several days. On one of those mornings I was sitting in my study with pen and paper in hand, and I noticed an inch-long bug scurry along the wall across the room from me. I ignored it; I was busy. But I could hear my mother scold me for not getting up and attacking that bug. A few minutes later the bug surfaced again, this time coming up beside my chair. So I got up and tried to catch it but it disappeared so fast I couldn't find him anywhere. A third time he appeared. Now I was ready and knew I must be quick. In an instant I caught him up and put him outside. First time, I was in denial; second time, I was unprepared and ignorant of bug behavior; third time, I was ready to take him out and I did. Then I thought to myself, What does this experience say to me about discipleship? How would you answer that question!