In the military, soldiers are sent out on a mission, following clear directives from their leaders. They need to be ready because they do not know when they will be sent or where they will need to go. They do know that they will need to follow their leader’s command.
When Jesus sent His disciples, He gave them the same power and purpose as Himself: They could do healing miracles and drive out demons (v. 1), and they were to proclaim the good news of the kingdom (vv. 7–8; see also Matt. 9:35). One order that may puzzle us today is that He instructed them to go exclusively to the Jews (vv. 5–6). This was not because He didn’t love Gentiles, but as their promised Messiah Jesus was sent to the “lost sheep of Israel” first (v. 6). Later, Jesus commissioned them to take the gospel to all nations (v. 18; see also Matt. 28:19–20).
This mission would fulfill God’s promises to His people. In Genesis 48, Jacob was nearing death and called his son Joseph and grandsons to him. He formally blessed them in the name of “the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day” (Gen. 48:15). Through all the ups and downs of life, Jacob recognized the sovereign hand of God had cared for him. And in Jesus’ command, we see the keeping of this covenant with God’s people.
The Twelve were to go out like sheep among wolves (v. 16). Jesus warned them that they would face opposition and persecution and suffering for His name. In the midst of it, they were to model the kind of leadership and shepherding God intends for His people. True disciples put the Lord first, no matter what it costs (vv. 37–39).
>> A key purpose of the disciples’ “internship” in Matthew 10 was for them to learn the compassionate heart of Christ. How can we learn and practice this quality in our own lives?
Father, sometimes we have more compassion for strangers than for our own family members. Teach us compassion in our closest relationships, where proximity can breed callousness. Soften our hearts where they have grown hard.