Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Sending of the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Mat 10:5, 21-33)
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”
The sending of the twelve, the twelve have been following Jesus for some time because they are in awe of Jesus and his teaching. They marveled at the miracles that he did. And were overjoyed that he had chosen them to be his disciples. Here is a man who stunned the greatest rabbis of his day at twelve years old, holding their attention for three days with his knowledge of scripture, when other boys his age were perhaps more concerned about horses. And now Jesus is apostling them that is the word he used, apostling, that is sending them to speak on his behalf so that their words would be his words. To apostle someone is to basically give them power of attorney. He trusts these twelve that much. Now they are to go proclaim the gospel they love, to teach God’s word. What enthusiasm and excitement they must have been feeling at the opportunity to go share and teach what they had learned!
I think we can identify with that a bit. I mean we come to church Sunday after the Sunday because we can’t get enough of it. We give from our hard earned money to support the ministry of the church because we know how important it is to us, and we want to share it with others, our children and grandchildren, our neighbors, friends and coworkers, the whole community. Here, we show up happy, we show up sad. Joys, cares, burdens and worries follow us through the doors, and yet we come because it is God’s word. It is our chance to be with Jesus to grow in the faith, be forgiven and relieved of heavy burdens, to have them replaced by an easy yoke as we sing along in the liturgy, restore unto me the joy of thy salvation. It is time to be with others, to encourage and be encouraged, to lift our brothers and sisters in prayer. There is a love the Christian has for the gospel that is contagious. At least we think it should be, and often it is.  We can understand the excitement the disciples must have had when they were charged with this task. The enthusiasm they had to go and be of service to God, it had to have been palpable. The kind of enthusiasm with which a candidate for ministry receives his first call. The excitement we have all had at one time or another when the opportunity has shown itself for us to share our joy, share our faith, to tell others of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins in his death and resurrection. And then.
We’ve all run into the, and then. It just isn’t as contagious, this joy we have. Jesus begins warning the disciples. Not everyone is going to share their enthusiasm. They will be persecuted for it. We’ve all seen it. If we haven’t seen families killing each other over the gospel, we’ve seen it tear families apart. If we haven’t seen a father give his son over to death, we have seen sons shut their father’s out of their lives. The gospel, the forgiveness of sins, brings a sword with it, and not peace. We talk of forgiveness and the world asks us, who are you to tell me I need forgiveness? Then we begin to understand Christ’s warnings here, and why it was he spent time fortifying them for the unrest to come. And the encouragement to confess him even in the face of opposition, before men as he confesses us before his Father.
Then it hits us square in the eye. They don’t get it. That is normally the problem with the world. Even when people realize they are sinners they don’t think it is quite so bad that God had to die for their sins. Most people think sin is something they can overcome with some good direction, perhaps some self help books. Perhaps they think the church would be better off if we were sent out to teach self-help lessons, teach people to overcome vices, ground themselves, and change their personalities. There are plenty of so called churches that have replaced the gospel with such teaching.  And in reality there often isn’t a whole lot bad about doing that sort of thing, getting rid of those sins, those things in your life that are causing you problems, that cause discontent in your marriage, are driving wedges between you and your children, as long as the gospel isn’t thrown out. Every one of us have had to confront ourselves regarding specific sins at one time or another. But that isn’t what Jesus has charged his church with preaching, because as much as we can improve our lives on earth, we can’t overcome sin. For that we need Jesus. And every one of us has had to come to grips with that. That is what we come to grips with Sunday after Sunday as we partake of our Lord’s body and blood given for the forgiveness of sins, and we do it again because we spent a week sinning, and failing to live and love as we know we ought to. We know we can’t overcome our sin, but the world will not accept this depressing notion. They will tell us things aren’t as bad as we make them out to be. And that we are just settling for forgiveness because we are lazy, rather than trying to overcome it. It is for these things that sons will turn on fathers.  But if they weren’t as bad as all that, the Father would never have had to hand over his son to death on the cross to die in our place, so that those who acknowledge the son in the face of laughing friends, and bitter parents, jaded children, even in the face of death, would never perish, but believing him would have eternal life in Jesus who confesses you before the Father with the scars of crucifixion. Amen.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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