Matthew 9:35-10:25 (AD 28)
An army Captain once told me an officer should never tell his troops to do something or go somewhere he isn’t prepared to do or go himself. Not that I pay attention to what every army officer tells me – I heard from another that I was supposed to be a missionary to China like my Grandad.
But he’d have appreciated Jesus’ leadership model, as Jesus “went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (9:35), before commissioning his disciples to do the same. He modelled, taught, equipped, and finally sent them on their way.
But before sending, he told them to “Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send out workers into his harvest field” (9:38). I’d love to know what they were thinking. Were any desperate to be the ‘workers’ themselves? Were any hoping very much not to be chosen? Whatever their initial thoughts, they were all willing to go, and they all went.
Christians are to pray for more people willing to devote their lives to full-time evangelism. There is a surplus of people who want to be pastors, but we as a global church are running a large deficit in terms of needing people to go out into gospel-deprived areas. We can’t all go – not least because Jesus makes it plain that missionaries should be financially supported by those people to whom they are ministering (v.9-10), just as Paul said that pastors should be financially supported (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
Every Christian also needs to ask themselves, honestly, whether to explore missionary service. It’s not a gig just for the extroverts (though they have certain strengths that are very useful) – it’s a gig for the willing. Don’t get me wrong, I still haven’t done what the Army officer told me twenty years ago I already should have done. I’ve been a pastor but never a missionary, and I would never point to someone and say “You must go be a missionary”. But the whole world needs Jesus and it’s our job to tell them.
Jesus warned them that they would be hated, persecuted, arrested, cross-examined, beaten, and betrayed. And we can expect the same thing. Not necessarily all of those things, almost certainly not at the same time. But they’re all on the menu.
Jesus also gave a promise, however, to encourage the disciples: “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).
That’s doesn’t mean those persecuting us will fall off their chairs and immediately repent, but it does mean that we don’t have to worry. God is with us, he never leaves us, and he will help us know what to say, when we need it.