Have you ever had someone misrepresent your position before others? The other day a friend explained to me that he got in trouble at work because he sent an email to someone in another department that was entirely appropriate, but that employee added offensive words to the end of the message and passed them on to his immediate supervisor with a stinging rebuke that made clear they “didn’t want to receive that kind of correspondence again.” Fortunately, my friend had a copy of the original still in his “sent” file – and it became clear that the problem wasn’t his email, but the other employee’s claim that cast a fellow employee in an inappropriately negative light.
When it comes to misrepresentation, we have all had both services and products presented to us without the caveats that made clear what the purchase will and won’t truly do for us. Even worse than these “sales pitches”, everyone in America, unless they have been living in the wilderness “off grid” has been subject to a barrage of commercials about drugs they don’t personally need, with a list of warning of what could go wrong if you TOOK the drug. I find some cases where I suspect I would choose the disease over the side effects of the drugs. “Got insomnia?” the ad says. “Take our drug and you will sleep well, but Medical studies show that you may also lose your hair, teeth, liver and desire to take meaningful nourishment – but, then again, at least you will sleep!” I am wondering what I would do in life as a profoundly hairless, toothless emaciated man who slept well, but needed dialysis twice a week. I think I would just stay up nights, and pick a new book to read to pass the time eating potato chips with my full mouth of teeth, but that’s me…
It occurs to me that if there is anyone in the history of man who has ever been misrepresented, it has to be Jesus. I can think of no one in history who has been misquoted (that is if clear intent matters in accuracy of a quote) more often. Jesus has had many a “spokesperson” – and careful examination of their words show they have perhaps never even “met” Him – and some I doubt ever even “saw” Him. Today’s lesson is about the proper representation of Jesus as He was proclaimed in the Gospels, and as He told men to represent Him and His message. For insights into that question, we have to drop into the Gospels as Jesus was about to send out the twelve to bring His message to surrounding areas near the Galilee shore.
In our last lesson, we looked briefly at a “theme message” of Jesus to the crowds by the Sea of Galilee – a teaching that really exposed the heart of Jesus and how He wanted to be reflected in the actions of His followers. A few chapters later, as Matthew recorded the work of the Savior, we have a different kind of teaching. This one was directed to the handful of disciples that were in final preparations of being sent out to speak to the villages near to Jesus –and the focus of the teaching was on representation of the Messiah and His Kingdom. Here is the simple truth…
Key Principle: Jesus set the tone and gave the message to those who represent Him. Any other presentation that doesn’t match what He established is a misrepresentation of Him.
Before we look at the passage deeply, let’s skim the surface of Matthew 10 and make some quick notes about what Jesus was doing in the record, so we can feel “at home” in the scene. It appears on quick glance that He took (at least) five profound actions as He sent out the disciples:
First, Jesus selected the men and second He empowered the men. Their specially endowed abilities became like a “uniform” or a “badge” that allowed others to recognize their authenticity as “official representatives of Jesus”. Matthew shared it this way:
Matthew 10:1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Matthew 10:2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.
It is clear from these first four verses that Jesus called each man, knew each one, selected them for the task, and gave them enabling that was neither natural nor from within them. God never tasks us without providing us access to His power to complete His purpose. One other thing is also obvious by the end of verse four – not all of those who experienced the empowering and the representing would graduate from the class. Judas Iscariot was counted in the number. That should remind us that experiencing ministry isn’t the same as following Jesus. Accessing His power is not the same thing as truly being His child by faith. We can DO the right things and not be truly surrendered to the Savior, walking with Him in a way that He has called men and women to do. That was even more obvious from Jesus’ earlier preaching when He warned disciples that “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Did I not cast out demons in your name?’ Yet I will say to them, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you!’” (cp. Mt. 7:23).
In addition to calling and empowering, a third action of Jesus was that He instructed them. Matthew recalled it this way:
Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 “Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 “And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 “As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.
Jesus offered the men five important instructions:
• Speak to the God-selected audience. You don’t have to decide who to talk to – follow the instructions you are given.
• Offer the God-selected Word. You don’t choose the script – teach what I give you to say.
• Don’t just speak – act to free people. Focus on needy people – not self-sufficient types. Make sure that in addition to clear teaching, you offer practical assistance – especially in light of the power I am giving you.
• Don’t charge to get the message to people, and don’t carry much. I have people lined up to care for you all along the way – and I will give you a way to decide who they are and what do when you are not with them.
• Find those who are spiritually sensitive and stay with them – blessing them and remaining with them.
Fourth, in addition to instruction, Jesus clearly warned them about situations ahead. Matthew recorded it this way:
Matthew 10:14 “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. 16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
You must be both shrewd and yet harmless because some will not receive you:
• Remember they will be judged at the right time by the Master- so don’t feel that is what YOU must do. This subject seems to have been a constant temptation Jesus battled in His followers – as He made clearer in Matthew 13 when He said: “The angels are the reapers.”
• Expect to be unjustly treated, physically assaulted and governmentally abused – but don’t worry about your self-defense – God’s Spirit will provide whatever defense God wants you to have.
• Expect even close family to betray you. People will fear for their own lives, as well as be desperate for acceptance of their peers. In fact, the startling truth is that Jesus told His followers that if they valued relationships and peace more than they valued the truth of His message, they were not worthy of Him.
• Expect hatred and persecution, but flee when you see persecution coming – and keep fleeing. Don’t expect it to be fair.. You will face abuse, lies and accusations, and you should expect it– because you are Mine.
• Don’t worry! All the secrets of your persecutors will one day be fully disclosed. You don’t have to work at showing how the people who tell lies are funded or connected – I will bring it all out in the end.
Finally, it before sending the men, Jesus commissioned them to do the work at hand. Matthew recorded:
Matthew 10:27 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. 40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Break down the words of Jesus and it is obvious that the charge or commission of the men was four-fold:
• Stick to the script! What I tell you to say is what you should publicly proclaim. Your message is MY message. Your job is to articulate My words, not re-think and re-sculpt My words.
• Take courage! Don’t stop proclaiming because they threaten you, or even kill some of you! God takes no sacrifice on His behalf lightly, and He values your life. Stand up for Me before men and expect I will do so for you before the Father.
• Make sure that you recognize the proper priorities! Do not put any other relationship before Me – that is idolatry. Get set to even lay down your life, so that you will truly gain it. If you hold tightly to this physical life – and you will lose it.
• Remember the promise: God keeps track of what people do – and He rewards the smallest deed done truly for Him.
That is the summary. Jesus selected, empowered, instructed, warned and commissioned a specific group of men to represent Him. That is a helpful nugget of history, but a closer look at the passage will offer even MORE. Step back and ask yourself what Jesus offered by making this a part of the record for His church? While you are thinking about that question, go back with me to your old high school, and stand outside the gymnasium for a moment…
Imagine you were trying out to join the “Varsity squad” of a team in your favorite sport. You showed up for every practice and gave your best effort – and you had some talent in the sport. In the individual try-outs your performance was not the best, but not the worst…and you are hoping to be selected, not only for the team, but for the “starting line-up” of the team’s roster. The day arrived for the team list, and it was posted on the board. In the hallway, outside the coach’s door, the whole team crowded around to see the list of who made the team, and who the starters were going to be. Not everyone that began the first day of practice ended up on the team, for it was necessary to fill the positions with the RIGHT people. Those who were “cut” from the team were those the coach believed would not do as well in the season’s contests. The coach was selecting the team.
Though Jesus was building a totally different kind of “team”, this passage offered His initial followers a list of expectations that Jesus had, as well as some reasonable expectations a disciple should have. It was a reality check for disciples. No one can claim that Jesus made it sound like a vacation to truly represent Him!
Principles of Outreach
First, let’s make something clear based on our study of the Gospels – discipleship was the method by which Jesus intended real and sustained growth in the Kingdom. Jesus didn’t send out the mass of people He fed on the hillside. They were able to spread a “popular message” about a folk Jesus – but they didn’t really know Him well enough to represent Him well. To be a disciple, a man or woman needs to have spent time following Jesus, not just be attracted to the neat things Jesus can do.
Spending time with Jesus, they a disciple saw His passion, and felt the warmth of His love – first for the Father, then for men and women. You see, it is easy to determine when something is aflame; it ignites other material that touches it. The fact is that any fire that does not spread will eventually go out. Jesus “touched” His followers in the discipleship process – and the fire of passion to surrender this life for the promise of the Father spread.
The record of the sending of the disciples reminds us of important principles:
First, we are to GO TO THOSE HE SENDS US TO (10:5-6). Everyone who is called to be a disciple will eventually (after some training) be engaged in deliberately reaching others for Jesus, but the people we reach out to will be selected by God. In time, disciples of Christ will reach all 18,800 people groups on the planet, different disciples will be drawn by God to different groups. (Acts 1:8). Jesus said of His mission, “For even the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10). His method to reach men and women has been through other men and women… Let’s be clear: Evangelism is not an option for a disciple of Christ Jesus – they go when Jesus tells them to go, to whom Jesus sends them. Disciples are intentional, decisive, determined and directed about reaching others for the Master. If that is not a part of your life – you cannot claim to be an obedient disciple.
Second, disciples PREACH THE KINGDOM OF GOD (10:7). The Kingdom literally means, “King’s dominion or control.” We are to declare the truth of recognizing Jesus as Lord – not simply preach a “fire escape message” that allows people a “get out of Hell free” card at death. We must explain that it all begins with a personal relationship with Christ who is the door to heaven. Before people will agree to submit to Christ’s control they need to be introduced to the real Jesus of the Word. Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 162. H. Richard Niebuhr summarized the core of liberal theology in a single sentence. This shows how and why many churches have lost their zeal for evangelism. “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” (Source: Michael Moriaty, The Perfect 10: The Blessings of Following God’s Commandments in a Post Modern World. p. 86). The Jesus of the Bible is both a loving Savior and a Sovereign Lord – or the Jesus being preached isn’t the One found in the Bible.
Third, disciples of Jesus get a “platform” to speak into people’s lives when they MEET NEEDS. Jesus said, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matt. 10:8) Christ told them to meet physical, emotional, mental, social, cultural and spiritual needs of people to whom we are called by God to minister.
• Missionaries in Africa are now reaping a great harvest of new souls because the pioneers set up hospitals, schools and leprosariums to meet the needs of the whole person in many of the 54 countries of the African continent.
• Around the year 1800, there were less than 10 million true Christians in Africa, today there may be as many as 400 million in Africa because of the seeds of love sown by the earlier missionaries, and the sacrifices of this generation of mission workers.
We must work today, not only to reach men for today, but to offer a platform for ministry tomorrow. Let me illustrate: Once Napoleon told his soldiers to plant trees along the streets of Paris so they would provide shade for his troops. A top lieutenant said, “It may take twenty five years before those seeds come to full fruition. Napoleon paused and said, “Well, start now, no sense waiting any longer.” (author unknown).
Fourth, disciples should deliberately CHOOSE PEOPLE OTHERS LEFT BEHIND (10:8). Outreach is an expression of our overflowing gratitude for what the Lord has done for us through Jesus Christ. We are not to feel that we are doing something above and beyond the call of duty. Reaching into the lives of others should come out of an overflow of our gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. We should be like the four lepers who discovered the enemy had fled and the necessary food and supplies were now available to the starving in the cities of Israel (cp. 2 Kings 7:9). They said, “This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.” If people do not share the good news of Christ they will be held accountable for their failure to share the cure for sin and eternal life through saving faith in Christ Jesus.
Fifth, disciples TRUST GOD TO BRING NEEDED SUPPORT (10:9-10). We must recognize the Lord will supply us with all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19) Some people hesitate to reach out because they do not think they have enough knowledge, financial resource or emotional strength. Let them realize that as we move ahead in God’s will we will not lack any good thing. Hudson Taylor famous quipped: “God’s will done in God’s way will not lack God’s supply.” Here is the truth: the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you. Real outreach should be the reflection of God’s supply, not the contrivance of men.
Sixth, disciples BUILD AN INDIGENOUS TEAM to spread the message long term (10:11-13). In my experience, the people who have been called “great evangelists” are often people that do not work well with others. There is something wrong with that. Many missionaries are learning that by working through local people who are spiritually open but under-trained, they are far more successful. Local messengers are considered much more credible because they speak the language, understand the social, cultural and educational environment of their audience – and can apply the Scriptures more precisely.
Seventh, disciples have to learn a very hard lesson… to PASS BY THE UNRESPONSIVE. (10:14-15) Jesus said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matt. 10:14,15). Apologetics is an important study background, but we must learn not to argue incessantly nor take rejection personally. We cannot internalize criticism directed against our Savior and fight in His place. Remember, many people are reacting out of conviction of their sin and those who recognize the Lordship of Jesus are completely repulsed by it. Lost men want to control their own fate – even though they really DON’T. Control is an illusion they love to savor as truth. Jesus said, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects Me but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:15,16) Continue to show love, but don’t tie up all your time trying to get those who reject the message of the Lord, as He is fully able to deal with them in His own time and way. Our responsibility is love and clarity, not convincing – that is left to the Spirit of God. When you argue, you can easily get in His way. Maybe it isn’t the content of your message that offends – but the fact that it will cost them control of their own life. At least, if that is the case, they grasped the message.
We should EXPECT OPPOSITION. (10:16-18) There will be opposition both from the agnostic world as well as in the halls of the religious who have made a system that is their own ladder to God, and do not wish to hear of surrender to Jesus. They built their ladder, rung by rung – only to find at the end of life they propped it against the wrong wall. Let every disciple be warned: “Take up the full armor of God so you can stand in the evil day.” (Eph. 6:10-18) We must EXPECT OPPOSITION EVEN FROM HOME (10:21-39) when we stand for Jesus and live by His principles. They oppose the natural order. People don’t want to live a disciplined life. They don’t want to live in monogamy. They don’t want to take responsibility. The world defines freedom as “constant unfettered choice” when it comes to them, but expects another to be faithful to them. Their method doesn’t work and doesn’t make sense – but no matter…they like it their way. Don’t be surprised: Some of the people appear to be our allies may end up opposing God’s priority purposes in our lives. I have watched as my government went from promoting family health to flying rainbow flags on foreign embassy buildings – pushing an agenda that will destroy the nuclear family.
Finally, disciples learn to TRUST GOD’S SUPPLY IN ALL THINGS (10:19-20). Fear is a chief reason some believers do not put themselves into the discipleship process. We are, in a sense, saying “Follow me as I follow Jesus.” Doesn’t that sound arrogant – I “know how to follow Jesus”? It isn’t arrogant, it is obedience. You will slip and fall in front of other disciples – that is ok. Get up. God will use even your failures to get to the goal. Don’t be afraid of the critics. Don’t worry they will trip you up. Jesus said, “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known… Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:26-28) The reverence of God is a great antidote to the fear of men.
The real disciple knows the RESULTS ARE NOT OUR ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY (10:40-42). We don’t run the plan. What others will see in our life is this: have we truly surrendered to following Jesus. We are not consultants, we are disciples. He is the Master.
There is an old story about Alexander the Great that is probably apocryphal, but nevertheless makes an excellent point. He conquered the western world with his military strength, cleverness, and sometimes even diplomacy. One day Alexander and a company of soldiers approached a strongly defended, walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice, demanding to see the king. The king approached the battlements above the invading army and agreed to hear Alexander’s demands. “Surrender to me immediately,” commanded Alexander. The king laughed. “Why should I surrender to you?” he called down. “We have you far outnumbered. You are no threat to us!” Alexander was ready to answer the challenge. “Allow me to demonstrate why you should surrender,” he replied. Alexander ordered a squad of his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff that dropped hundreds of feet to rocks below. The king and his soldiers watched in shocked disbelief as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths. After ten soldiers had died, Alexander ordered the rest of his men to stop and to return to his side. According to the story, the king and his soldiers surrendered on the spot to Alexander the Great. He could not defeat an army with such resolve. (source unknown).
These men were more than followers – they were dedicated to their master’s victory at any cost. They were HIS MEN. What would happen if the world met Christians with that level of surrender and dedication? They would have met those who knew EXACTLY how to represent the Master correctly. Jesus set the tone and gave the message to those who represent Him. Any other presentation that doesn’t match what He established is a misrepresentation of Him.