“Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (also called Peter), then Andrew (Peter’s brother), James (son of Zebedee), John (James’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: ‘Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel – God’s lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!’”
(Matthew 10:1-8, NLT).
(Matthew 10:1-8, NLT).
Many people followed and listened to Jesus, but the twelve listed above composed the inner circle and received authority and the most intense training. They had authority over the forces of evil, as well as the ability to speak the word to have God’s power to cast out evil spirits. They also had power “to heal every kind of disease and illness.” First verse above says they are “disciples” but verses after that call them “apostles,”* meaning “sent ones” or “the Messenger.” The fact that Jesus limited their ministry “to the people of Israel” doesn’t mean he opposed evangelizing Gentiles and Samaritans. In fact, Jesus himself had already ministered to both groups (for example, Matthew 8:28-34). But the message was to go to “the Jew first” (Romans 1:16). Another factor may be that the disciples weren’t ready to branch out beyond their own people. Eventually Jesus would commission them to go to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Jesus gave the apostles two tasks: They were to “announce” and to “give.” As Jesus’ representatives, they were to spread his message, announcing that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” letting everyone know that the Messiah, Jesus had come. Jesus also told them to “give as freely” as they had received, healing the sick, raising the dead, curing those with leprosy, and casting out demons. These four-fold miracles were exactly the ones Jesus had done and would demonstrate that the disciples had Jesus’ power.
As you can see, Jesus had quite a diverse collection of disciples, especially the Twelve – fishermen, tax collector, zealot (freedom fighter), and so on. Yet, he entrusted his message and mission to them. Through this small band, the word would go forth, the Kingdom of Heaven would be introduced, and the world would be changed. Imagine what those men must have thought as Jesus gave his final instructions, especially considering their specific tasks. This was a significant and intimidating assignment, but Jesus had confidence in the apostles as he sent them out.
Think about this: Jesus told the apostles to announce a specific message of hope and salvation. He also told them to act with mercy. And the principle guiding their actions should be “Give as freely as you have received.” The disciples had received salvation (fully revealed in the Cross of Christ) and the Kingdom without cost; they were to give their lives under the same principle. Because God has showered us with his blessings, we can give generously to others of our time, love and possessions. Maybe each of us should ask ourselves this question: What can I do to give more “freely” of what I have received from God?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.