As You Go
If you know only one thing about Kristina and me, it’s probably the fact that we like to travel. A month ago, we went on a trip to GYC, in Houston, over the New Year. Since then, just a couple weeks ago I went to Ministers’ meetings in Pigeon forge, and were able to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains together.
When we aren’t traveling, we usually have people staying with us, whether friends, or missionaries, or apprentices from the restaurant, or maybe all of the above! It’s not for everybody, I guess, but we love it. We love the interaction. We love seeing new places and meeting new people, and of course spending time with old friends, too.
(You can listen to this message online here)
There’s a theme in the gospels that is centered around this thought of “going.” For the next few minutes, I’d like us to explore one of the passages related to this theme, found in Matthew 10. But first, let’s get some background to the story, in Matthew 9:
(Matthew 9:35-38) Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
It’s hard to even imagine the compassion that Jesus expressed for every human being. Picture him, caring for every single person! His heart is breaking, because the need is so great—and so few truly even understand His love! Jesus, though He is Divine, on this earth is only one person, yet there are hundres—yes, thousands—of people who need His love. They need His personal touch. They need to know the Shepherd.
The need isn’t so much for healing. Yes, they need health, but with a wave of His hand he could heal them all, if that were all they needed. He had already passed through cities and villages and healed all their sick. No, it says, he was moved with compassion, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having now shepherd. It wasn’t so much material things they needed—these people needed Christ. They needed the personal touch of someone to lead them to Him—like sheep, they could not find their way to Him on their own. And they needed it now. They could not wait months or years. Jesus says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
He is speaking to his disciples—this group of twelve men, who’ve been with him for the past two years. They’ve seen His works, and if anyone could truly understand His mission, it would be them. But they still have so much to learn! Could Jesus entrust them with such a mission—alone?
They didn’t have theology degrees. In fact, they were mostly uneducated. But they’ve been with Jesus. They’ve seen His works, and they’ve learned something of His love. If you think about it—what better training could someone get—how could you improve on it? Yet still, they were so weak.
But Jesus doesn’t stop. At his command, he could turn water to wine. He could command demons, and they obey. Later his disciples would see him feed a multitude from only a small boy’s lunch. Now, Jesus sees a world in need, and though His disciples are so weak, He won’t be limited by their inexperience.
(Matthew 10:1) Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness.
Jesus had just said “pray for laborers.” But God did not rain down missionaries from heaven. No, the very disciples that Jesus had just been speaking to—these weak and erring men—these, Jesus empowered to become the laborers that He was longing for. They couldn’t cast out evil spirits. They couldn’t heal the sick, or raise the dead. But Jesus could—and he now invests them with the same power, to do these works in His name.
Jesus called His disciples. Jesus empowered His disciples. And He sent His disciples.
Matthew names the twelve apostles in verses 2-4, and then writes:
(verses 5-6) 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.
This passage in Matthew 10 has been called “The Little Commission.” At this time, Jesus doesn’t send his disciples into all the world. Right now, He limits their work to those near at hand. Of course much later, at His ascension to heaven, he would commission his followers to go into all the world, but I think it’s important to look at the instructions Jesus gives his disciples. I think it’s important to remember that Jesus doesn’t send us far away, until we’ve started doing the work that is near. God won’t send you into the mission field, if you haven’t gotten the courage to tell your next-door neighbor about Him. So He sends his disciples “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Notice here, Jesus is still working from the same metaphor that He started in chapter 9. He had bemoaned the condition of the people “scattered like sheep, having no shepherd,” and now He sends his disciples, as under-shepherds, to go and find His sheep.
(verse 7) And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
“As you go…” This is where I’ve taken the title of today’s message. Jesus said, “As you go, preach…” While you are going, give this message: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Sometimes we have this idea, today, that spreading the gospel is about preaching. We’ve got this idea that preaching is some kind of art-form, relegated to an elite class of people, to be done once a week in religious settings. But if you look up this word, in the Greek language, the word is “kēryssō.” It means literally to “be a herald” or to “proclaim a message.” If there was an important piece of news, a messenger would carry this new to the town and proclaim this message in the town. This is the concept Jesus is talking about. He says, “Go, and proclaim this message: the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The disciples weren’t experts in religion. They had never been to seminary. It would seem they had few qualifications for ministry. But, they did have one thing that DID qualify them. They had been with Jesus. Later on, after the day of Pentecost, in Acts 4:13, it was said of the enemies of the gospel: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”
We don’t want to be like the Ahimaaz, in 2 Samuel 18—the man who was anxious to run, but had no message to bring. It won’t do us any good to go, if we have not first been with Jesus. But once we have been with Jesus—once we have seen His goodness, and once we have experienced the transformation of the Gospel in our hearts—God has chosen to make us His messengers, just like Jesus sent His disciples. He has made us His instruments to spread the Gospel—and He tells us to go.
Notice the words again: And as you go, preach.
Jesus isn’t putting so much emphasis on preaching as on going. He didn’t say, “as you preach, go.” He said, “as you go, preach.” Notice these verbs that follow: As you go, Heal the sick; As you go, cleanse the lepers; As you go, raise the dead, As you go, cast out demons.
In a word, Jesus is saying, Don’t just say the message. Demonstrate the message.
The kingdom of heaven has come. Jesus’ kingdom conquers sickness. Jesus’ kingdom conquers the leprosy of sin. Jesus’ kingdom conquers death and the grave. Jesus kingdom conquers Satan and all of Satan’s dominion. The kingdom of heaven is at hand!
In going out, the disciples were to live what they taught. Jesus said:
(verses 9-11) 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.
They are sent as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. And they were to go out in faith. You know, when I go on a trip, I usually like to pack a bag, at least, with some clothes and food. But if I don’t, there’s one thing I always, ALWAYS take: my credit card. I can buy anything I need along the way, with my credit card, right? But Jesus told the disciples: don’t take anything. Don’t even take money. Just go. In essence, you’ve got a credit card in the bank of heaven—and I’m going to take care of you. Let those you meet have the privilege of ministering to your physical needs, as you share with them the good news of God’s heavenly kingdom.
Jesus goes on in this chapter to tell how some would receive them, while others would reject them. They weren’t to worry when they were rejected. If they will not received you, Jesus says, “shake off the dust from your feet.” He warns them of the persecution they will face, but His promise is that God will go with them, and protect them.
(verses 29-31) Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
So the disciples went, and did just what Jesus had said. Luke records that when they returned, they told Jesus everything that they had done. Afterwards, he sent out not twelve, but seventy, with the same instructions. When those returned, in excitement they exclaimed, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17)
This was many, many years ago. This was early in Jesus’ ministry—before the cross, even before His disciples had a true concept of the purpose of His mission. Since that day, we’ve seen Christ’s work culminated in His infinite sacrifice, there on the Cross of Calvary, and his ascension to heaven.
Just before his ascension, Jesus left his disciples, not with a little commission, but with a Great Commission:
(Matthew 28:18-20) “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Not just to the children of Israel, but now to every part of this world. My friends, I want to submit to you, today, that if you are a disciple of Jesus – if you are a follower of Him – then this commission includes you. It’s not up to the preacher, or the Sabbath School teacher, or the missionary overseas. It’s up to you to take the good news of His kingdom to a world in need.
Think about it—how long would it take to reach the world, if we left this work up to the preachers? How long would it take for one person to tell everyone in this area about Jesus?
Let me tell you a little bit about this mission field we live in here. Laurel County, Whitley County, and McCreary Co are all part of a 31-county area known as the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. This area is home to about 730,000 people. Within this area, there are about 10 small Seventh-day Adventist congregations, including three churches in this district here. There are about five pastors who pastor these churches, as well as others outside the coalfields.
Let me ask you: Who did Jesus give the Great Commission to? To the pastor? The head elder? The ones with theology degrees? The ones who hold church office? No! He was speaking to ALL his Disciples. To ALL His followers! Are you a follower of Jesus? Then what is your excuse?
If you can, picture with me again that picture of Jesus, so many years ago.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
Jesus is sitting with his disciples, weary from the constant crowds, but with compassion borne from His heart of infinite love, he exclaims:
“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
I truly believe, my friends, that now, as then, Jesus is praying for laborers in His harvest. Now, more than ever before, there is need in this world for Jesus love. There is the need to hear of his everlasting Kingdom. Just as Jesus had given His disciples the message, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” now we have the same message: “Jesus is coming again—He is coming soon!”
But who will go? Who will tell the message of His soon return? Will you let Him send you to a world in need?
My friends, you don’t need to go across the ocean to find a mission field. Yes, God may call you there, but if He doesn’t, He’s calling you here.
My friends, are you a disciple of Jesus? Will you let Him send you to find His lost sheep?