SECTION 4: THE MESSENGERS OF THE KING
THE MISSION MANDATE
A PROMISE OF PERSECUTION
Scripture To Consider:
“These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying; ‘Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.’“
“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, 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!” Matthew 10.5-15
Something To Consider:
Here Matthew records the charge or mission mandate intended for the twelve apostles and applicable to the task which immediately awaited them. It includes first of all a statement of the scope of their mission. It was not to be to the Gentiles nor to the Samaritans, but only to the shepherd-less sheep of the house of Israel. Later, these same apostles would be sent to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth, but for the present they were to prepare the way for the King who likewise limited His ministry to His own Jewish people.
It is true that He also brought His message to Samaritans and once crossed the border into a heathen land. He also indicated on more than one occasion that His work was for the gentiles who would ultimately receive Him as King. However, during the days of His earthly ministry, He restricted Himself and usually labored within the same bounds which He designated as the field of temporary service for His early followers.
The message they were to deliver was identical with His own, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Later, they were to state more explicitly that He Himself was the King, and finally they were to be witnesses of His atoning work and His glorious resurrection; but on the first mission they were to call men to repentance and to promise them the blessings of the coming kingdom.
Their message was to be attended by works of mercy. They were not only to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, and to cast out demons, but even to raise the dead. There is something very startling in this mission mandate, and it is not strange that their ministry so awakened wonder and belief in countless multitudes.
As to their recompense and reward, Jesus declared, “Freely you have received, freely give.” This does not mean that they were not to receive support in their labor. The contrary is at once stated according to Jesus; “For a worker is worthy of his food.” Both statements by Jesus do imply that they were not to use their mission as a means of acquiring wealth. The Good News that had been graciously bestowed should not be employed as a means of financial gain as is the pitiful case in so many earthly minded ministries of this day and age.
They were to take with them for their journey nothing which might needlessly encumber them. The specific directions of the master were not intended to produce discomfort or involve distress, but only to free them from needless care. They were to be discreet as to the place where they stayed. They were to be courteous in the attitude toward those by whom they might be entertained; but they were to waste no time on fruitless soil.
If they were not received as messengers of the King, they were at once to seek some new field of labor. However, they were to give a solemn warning to such unbelievers and were to shake off the dust of their feet as though they had been treading on polluted ground. It is thought by some that these injunctions were intended only for the days when the apostles were preparing the way for the earthly labors of their Lord.
What others have concluded is that Jesus wished to impress upon them the fact that the time of His ministry would be brief and that the message which they bore was important, and that the refusal to accept the Good News was a serious offense. And to reinforce that thought Jesus closed His injunctions with the words, “Assuredly, 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!” That leaves us all with something of seriousness and eternally important to consider.
More Scripture To Consider:
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to counsels and scourge you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”
“But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he [or she] who endures to the end will be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Matthew 10.16-23
Something Else To Consider:
In the warning which Matthew records as intended for the messengers of the King, there is much which evidently applies to the experiences of a later day, and to those who, through the passing centuries, have endured hardship for the sake of Christ. The testimony of the Master prepared His followers not only for the unbelief and the indifference of those whom they testified to, but also for the active persecution and cruel hostility of bitter enemies.
According to Jesus, His messengers were to go forth, “As sheep in the midst of wolves.” Therefore, also according to Jesus, they were required to be, “Wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” They were to be delivered to counsels for trial. They were to be cruelly scourged in public. They were even to testify before the governors and kings of heathen lands. When brought to trial, however, they were not to be anxious as to the message which they should deliver. The Master Himself would furnish for them words of wisdom. The very Spirit of God would speak through them.
Their suffering would involve the treachery of even the nearest family member. Brother would betray brother, the father his child, and children would cause the death of their parents. For the sake of His name, the messengers of Christ would be hated by all men, but their hatred would issue in eternal salvation for those who endured to the end. When persecuted they were not needlessly to imperil their lives and they were not to seek the glory of martyrdom. But neither were they to fear for their lives!
However, the time of their distress was not unlimited. Deliverance was always imminent. The period allotted for their labors should be regarded as brief. Their task would not be complete until the Son of Man, Jesus, appeared. For the followers of Christ experiences are various; they change with the revolving years; but in no age need they be surprised at the hostility of the world. In every hour of darkness, they may be cheered by the hope of the coming King.
Something More To Consider:
Jesus has promised those who have ears to hear, that persecution will befall all who desire to follow Him and to live in obedience to His Word. Jesus stated in Matthew 5.12, “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In John’s gospel chapter 15 and verse 18, Jesus declared; “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Two verses later Jesus acknowledged, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also.”
The apostle Paul, writing to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 3.12, reminds every generation of believers, by stating, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” And yet, why do we hear so little spoken or read and so little written about the present or future persecution upon the true church of Christ? Why is that biblical message missing from mainstream so-called Christianity? It is because that message does not fill the pews or does not fill the financial coffers of the corporation-style churches.
Paul continued his warning in verse 13, by explaining; “But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” In other words, where the clarion call and warning of persecution and promise of persecution is heard loud and clear, chances are good these same faithful voices are not part of the end time deception or among those growing more evil every day by their seducing spirits and words of deception.
A Few Final Words:
Jesus, in the book of Revelation, made sure John was aware of the future persecution to be directed at Christians in every generation; and therefore, declared in His letter to the church at Smyrna; “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
And in the following verse, Jesus revealed; “He [or she] who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Therefore, should we focus our attention on the coming end time persecution? No! Should we be aware of its coming? Yes! Therefore, should we focus our attention on overcoming the temptation of becoming fearful because of the promised by Jesus persecution? Yes!
Overcoming or enduring to the end should be every true Christian’s focus everyday God grants to us. Yes, persecution will come! According to the Word of God, persecution will come to every person desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus. Therefore, the alternative should never be considered an alternative.
And according to 2 Peter 2.9, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust for punishment in the Day of Judgment.” Therefore, are we willing to desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, even knowing that willingness will be followed by persecution? Be very careful in your answering that question!
Our Father in heaven, thank You for allowing Your written Word of God to be preserved for us down through the centuries. In it we too become 21st century witnesses to the historical record and mission mandate of Jesus to His first century followers. Thank You for the in advance warning of end time persecution. May we be approved as faithful in our following Christ’s faithful example. In Him Always, Amen!