There is a reality show on TV that highlights the difficulties and tragedies that being and extreme “hoarder” brings to those afflicted by an overpowering need to hold onto to everything, often at the expense of others. Inevitably it leads to a life cluttered with worthless and meaningless junk and disrupts their relationships with others. Often the stuff they hold onto could be of use to someone else in need, but they just can’t let go. Even worse, they will hoard things that belong to others and when caught, still refuse accept their condition. Sadly, many people view their Christian faith and relationship with Christ in much the same way.
There are two major examples of Jesus sending the disciples out on a mission in the Gospel of Matthew. They can be found in chapter ten and in chapter twenty-eight, the second sometimes referred to as the “Great Commission.” They are similar in that they both involve Jesus sending the disciples out under His “authority” with specific instructions. They are different, however, in two significant ways. The first is who they were sent to minister to and the second, what they were specifically sent to do. Let’s see if we can get hold of why this was done and what importance it may have for us.
There is little doubt that the disciples were better equipped and more mature in their faith when they were sent the second time. After all, they had listened to Jesus teach for years and witnessed both His death and coming back to life. Surely this would have convinced even the most ardent skeptic that what Jesus had been saying about Himself and His mission was true. It would be logical then that Jesus would have chosen to hand out the more difficult tasks to the disciples when they were best equipped to handle them. Logical as this may seem, it doesn’t appear to have been the case. The job assignment at the first sending (chapter ten) was to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy and drive out demons.” As for the second sending (chapter twenty-eight), they were to “go and make disciples…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Which of these job assignments sounds more difficult to you? Which of them would you say requires more faith?
We know from the first nine chapters of Matthew that the two most common and dramatic ways Jesus revealed himself to both the assembled crowds and his disciples was by healing and driving out demons. Most of us have little or no problem with the concept of healing since all of us have employed the services of a physician more than once, but when it come to demon possession, that’s a whole other matter. Without going into a long dissertation on the subject, suffice it to say, demons are as real today as they were then. All we have to do is listen to the news or simply look around us to see evidence of them most everyday. Since the disciples had witnessed multiple healings and exorcisms, it should come as no surprise that this would be the objective or mission at their first sending. Was this too much to expect, to big of expectation for a group of fishermen, merchants and a tax collector?
If they were attempting to do it under their own power and authority the answer would be a resounding, yes. But of course they were not, it was by the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority granted them by Christ that would seal their success. All that was required of them was to have faith and a willingness to be sent and assume the risk that Jesus promises they will face. From the calling of Abraham, thousands of years ago, to each one of us today, God uses those who by worldly standards are the least likely candidates to accomplish His will. It is God’s way shouting to the world; look at me, listen to me, and trust me. Our job is to lower our voice so that His can be heard.
One of the obvious differences between the sending of the disciples in chapter ten and twenty-eight is one of duration. In chapter ten the disciples were given a short term assignment to prepare them for the life long mission Jesus would commission them to do in chapter twenty-eight. The disciple’s life long mission was to tell others about who Jesus is and then to baptize them into a “new and living way” of life, a mortal life that would culminate in the eternal life Jesus promised to those who place their faith in Him and Him alone. You tell me which is the more difficult assignment, the one that will be over in a matter of weeks or one that requires a life long commitment? Everything that these twelve men had ever known or expected from life was about to be transformed forever after their commissioning in chapter twenty-eight. Surely it would effect their careers, families and most important, their priorities. Life would never be the same again for them and to a man, would be martyred for there efforts.
Let’s be honest, if you claim Christ as your savior then Jesus commissioned you, in much the same way, to spend the rest of your life telling others about Him and inviting others to join you in this life long mission. I spoke with a young woman the other day who said, “Being a Christian is nothing more than saying yes, and then you’re in.” Well, she was half right. What she didn’t understand was that being a follower of Christ changes everything, for the rest of your life. It is as the writer to the Hebrews wrote, this ” new and living way” obligates us to share the free gift of grace that Jesus made real and available for to us on the cross and then guaranteed, by His rising from the grave. Telling other is not an option, it is an obligation and the way we demonstrate our faith and telling the Father, “thank you,” for sending his only Son to prepare the way for us.
Tool #403 Don’t be deceived by what someone might tell you to the contrary, becoming a follower of Christ requires a life long commitment; one that requires you to go, tell and show others about the gift you have received.