Because Jesus’ love was so great, He wanted to serve everyone. He was limited, however, because He was only one human being. There were so many sick and demon-possessed people, and so many who needed to hear the good news and repent of their sins. So Jesus instructed His disciples to pray that God would send out more workers, and God answered their prayer by sending them!
Before Jesus sent them out to minister throughout the towns of Israel, He supernaturally equipped them for their job, giving them authority to cast out demons and heal every kind of disease and illness. He specifically commanded them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy and cast out demons. Jesus knew that miracles would get people’s attention to listen to His disciples’ message, just as in His own ministry (see Luke 9:6).
Their message was one of repentance (see Mark 6:12-13), which is not always a popular message, but nevertheless is an integral part of the gospel. Jesus knew that many people would reject His disciples, and He didn’t want them wasting their time trying repeatedly to reach unreceptive people. If a town or village didn’t receive them, they were to shake the dust off their feet and journey to another one. If God loves everyone, why should anyone have two opportunities to receive Christ until everyone has had at least one?
Jesus’ disciples weren’t allowed to take any money or extra provisions with them. That would teach them to rely on God to supply their needs, and also provide motivation for them not to stay long in places where their message wasn’t received, places where no one would feed or shelter them.
Jesus knew that His disciples would face the same persecutions He’d encountered. They would be slandered, hated and even killed. Some would face martyrdom because their own family members would betray them. We have no record in the Bible of this happening to any of the twelve, so perhaps it occurred after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. With the exception of Judas and John, it is thought that all of Jesus’ disciples died a martyr’s death.
Perhaps the most challenging words in Jesus’ commission were the standards He set for every one of His followers. He expects our fully committed allegiance. Our loyalty to Him should supersede the loyalty we have for the people we love the most, including our parents and children. Jesus knew that as a result of His coming, some households would be divided over Him. Unbelieving family members would turn against believing members. But true believers will not compromise their faith just to please their loved ones, because they love Jesus the most.
Incidentally, if Jesus wasn’t God, He was a horrible person, because only God would have a right to demand a higher love and devotion to Himself than what we show for our own families. Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39). He wasn’t talking about physically dying as a martyr, but of giving up our own agenda in order to obey Him, another way of describing repentance. If anyone refuses to repent, he will miss out on experiencing life as God intended and miss out on eternal life. But whoever will give his life to Jesus, submitting to Him, that person will experience a life that he was created to live, one that is enriched by God forever. Aren’t you glad you’ve given your life to Jesus?
Q. Jesus instructed His disciples to avoid preaching to Gentiles and Samaritans, ministering only to Jews (see Matthew 10:5-6). Why is that? Doesn’t God love non-Jewish people?
A. We don’t know the answer for sure, but we can be certain that it wasn’t because God didn’t or doesn’t love non-Jewish people. Jesus loves everyone and died for the whole world. Perhaps Jesus sent His disciples to minister to Jews because they would most likely be more receptive than other groups, having a faith in the Old Testament that promised them a Messiah. They would also be more likely to receive a message from Jesus’ Jewish messengers. God wants everyone to hear the gospel, and the quickest way for that to happen is to win the most receptive people who can then reach others. Jesus followed this strategy in His own ministry, ministering to Jews and then sending out some who believed. Later, Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach to all the ethnic groups of the world (see Matthew 28:19).
Q. Jesus said that we are to acknowledge Him before others, also saying that if we deny Him publicly, He would deny us before the Father. Does that mean there is no hope for us going to heaven if we, under pressure, say that we don’t know Jesus?
A. No, because God is merciful. No true Christian would deny Jesus at a time when he wasn’t under pressure, but a true believer might yield to the temptation to deny the Lord if his life was in danger. Under pressure, Peter denied the Lord three times, but Jesus forgave, restored and used him greatly afterwards.
Application: Today there is a need more than ever for workers to be sent into the harvest, as the world’s population is more than six billion people. That is five billion, eight hundred million more people than the number that lived on the earth when Jesus sent out His apostles. Pray today that God will send out more laborers who are supernaturally equipped to spread the gospel.