First Mennonite Church
October 9, 2022
Proclaiming the Gospel as We Go
Text: Matthew 10:1-20
I will help us a lot to look at what Matthew says at the end of chapter nine in order to understand our passage. So, here it is:
35 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Then chapter 10 opens with Jesus calling his disciples. He called 12 of them from the most diverse backgrounds: tax collectors, fishermen, political fighters, and possibly even farmers (see Philip going to Nathaniel who was under the fig tree. John 1:48). Jesus called them and sent them to advance in other towns and villages, exactly what he had been doing. He sent them with authority to heal the sick, to cast out demons, and to “proclaim the message that God’s kingdom has come near.”
We should also remember Jesus’ words when he gave his last commission in Matthew 28. “All authority has been given to me, therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. . ..”
We need to remind ourselves that the task of sharing the gospel is not because we need to grow numerically as a church. Sharing the gospel is not a task Jesus gives to a few people in the church. Sharing the gospel is the task Jesus gives everyone of his followers. You and I have been charged by Jesus, our Lord and Savior, to take the good news to others. One might say, but I am not an expert in evangelism or in the Bible. From what we see, neither was Peter, James, or Judas when Jesus sent them. Disciples means students, apprentices. Jesus sent his apprentices to do a job they were seeing him do. And this disciples only got to learn that they indeed had divine authority until they acted upon the command they were given.
That is how God works. It’s when we step out in faith that God confirms his promises are true.
Another issue that is quick to arise from a passage like ours this morning is whether or not healings, exorcism and miracles are still possible today. Some Christians and churches debate whether Jesus’ investment (as in investiture) of power to heal and cast our evil spirits, is even valid for today. Others, spend time trying to explain how healing and exorcism were understood then; while still yet others, would simply ignore the idea about the existence and works of demons. These last ones believe that such concepts are primitive ways to give a name to the inexplicable problems of mental and neurological problems people suffered then.
However, the simple truth is that Jesus gave his disciples the power to liberate, to set people free from the powers that tormented them, whether in the body or in their mind or soul. These forces, whatever they were called then we know they still exist today. Just as those parents who are worried about their children suffering from addiction. Only remember how hard is to kick out any habit or behavior that affects your relationship. The power of sin and its effect in human life is real and powerful. Only the power of Christ Jesus is able to break such chains. It is only the Son of God who is able to set free our souls free. Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)
Then Jesus gave instructions about what the disciples should take along and what they should do in light of either rejection or acceptance of their message.
The disciples were to go two by two. Just imagine Matthew, a former tax collector, in other words an employee of the Romans, paired with Simon, a former Zealot- one who was fighting against the Romans. They certainly were living testimony to the transformational power of message Jesus was preaching.
The practice of going two by twos in mission work has proven to work even today.
The disciples were not to missions by displaying extravagance, opulence, or ostentation–riches. They were to depend on the generosity of others for their needs. The disciples were to stay in the home or town of those who received them and their message. But they were to leave any home or town that rejects them. And as they leave, the disciples were to shake the dust off their feet.
Then Jesus adds: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Proclaiming the Good News has never been an easy task for Christians throughout the ages. There could not be no better image to describe the danger there was and is in the task of sharing the gospel than the one Jesus used. Jesus did not paint a rosy picture to entice the disciples into going to the task. He was blunt and clear: “I am sending you like sheep among wolves.” As we have been reminded many times, Peter ended up crucified upside down. James was the first of the apostles to die by the sword. John was exiled to Patmos. Many of the early Anabaptists, our spiritual forefathers, were burned at the stake. Many others died in prison; some were drowned and many others ended dispossessed and exiled.
Preaching the gospel to the American society is neither an easy task. Anyone preaching the gospel is likely to be met with indifference at best, or outright rejection at worst. Self-sufficiency leads many to be indifferent to the gospel message. Indifference is the attitude where people are saying, “Don’t bother me; I am not interested in what you are saying.” Many see the gospel as an outdated or irrelevant message their modern ears cannot tolerate. Furthermore, many others reject the gospel because they see it as synonymous to partisan politics. Those with this view of the gospel, see Evangelicals not as humble sheep or innocent doves, but quasi wolves.
As always, there will be many reasons people will choose to reject the message of Jesus Christ. However, there will be those who will welcome it. There will be those who will be able to see, in both the message and the messengers that indeed the reign of God has come near. They will recognize that the in the Gospel the power of God is revealed.
But what are we to do as we go proclaiming the good news?
I would like for us to consider three things in Jesus’ instruction to his disciple.
First, he told them: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus clearly stated that the first to be reached are the disciples’ very own people. For us this might mean, the first people we should share the gospel to are our own family, relatives, friends or neighbors. Therefore, if you are someone who works in a given occupation or profession, share the gospel to them. If you are a teacher, share the gospel with or to your fellow teachers. It can also mean that we need to share the gospel with those who had already known the Word of the Lord, but who have strayed or drifted away. “Our own people” means our children or for those who have grandchildren, it means their grandchildren too.
Let us remember, if we can’t talk about our faith among fellow church members, or to our family or relatives, it is very unlikely that we will be comfortable talking about it to unchurched friends or strangers. The disciples’ witness and work begin with their own people. Church members need to share their faith stories with each other — and then with the world. Trying first to share the gospel to complete strangers would be the equivalent of going first to “Gentile or Samaritan towns” for the disciples.
Second, Jesus says, “As you go, proclaim this message . . . Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” In other words, give of what you have been given. Show kindness, acceptance, and generosity. Words and deed are the most powerful tools in sharing the gospel.
Third, if after showing love and kindness there is still rejection, “leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Dusting off your feet could mean: just let go of the rejection. Dusting off your feet could mean: do not take the rejection personally. Let us remember Jesus’ words in Luke, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me” (10:16). So let us not condemn, judge, or be vengeful towards those who reject the message.
Often times, rejection of the gospel is taken too personal by those who were sharing it. Rejection can lead to a sense of defeat, sadness, or anger. But again, let the dust fall off from you. Don’t take the rejection with you; move on, instead.
God knows how he will deal with those who reject his message. It is not up to us to decide and much less to take matters into our own hands.
My dear sisters and brothers, proclaiming the good news has never been an easy task. It is THE task we have been given, however. Let us begin by sharing it with those closest to us. Let us be humble, innocent and wise as we open our mouths to speak in the name of Christ. Let us see that any rejection of the message of Christ is not to be taken personally. Let us brush off any indifference or rejection we might face and leave it to the Lord.
May the Spirit of the Lord empower us as we carry the Good News of the Lord to those around us. Amen!