Interactive Flash presentation of the Gospel:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It was their mission - is it ours?

“5These twelve (disciples) 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. 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as you go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. … 23 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 10:5-7, 23)
Matthew writes primarily to a Jewish audience. When Jesus says in verse 5 to not go here or there but to the house of Israel, it is because the Jews believed they were better than the Gentiles or the Samaritans, that they were The Chosen Ones. And, yes, they were/are God’s chosen people, but they refuted/refute much of what Jesus said. They were disobedient, arrogant, given in to personal preferential thought.

The mission, “And as you go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” stated in verse 7, is the same as in the gospels of Mark (chapter 6: 7-11) and Luke (chapter 9: 1-6). The instructions to follow do vary dependent upon what Biblical scholar is writing and to what type of audience.

  • The way of the Gentiles

The Gentiles walked in darkness. They lived in the shadows of evilness and wickedness, which was not God’s way, but then they witnessed Jesus, a great light, and upon them the light shines – salvation has come.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2) This verse is similar to what is written in Matthew 4:15-16.

Isaiah also prophesies Jesus’ mission: “I, the Lord have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes.” (Isaiah 42:6-7a)

The Jews were to also be a light to the Gentiles and to the Samaritans; everyone who was foreign. “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good words and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

  •  The way of the Samaritans
Samaria had been the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom (of 10 cities). The city was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C. and its inhabitants were exiled to locations in the Assyrian Empire. Samaritans were a mixture of Jew and Gentile.

“Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.” (I Kings 17:18)

“They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods – according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.” (I Kings 17:33)

There was much hostility, animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans and each would go out of their way to avoid any encounter with the other.

The hostility, however, was not going to stop Jesus, who was determined to meet his opposition head on. Jesus illustrates to His followers how to handle rejection / opposition … anger is not the way.

“For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)

In the story of the 10 lepers cleansed (Luke 17:11-19), one was a Samaritan. The rest are presumed to be Jews. It is only the Samaritan, who upon discovering he had been healed, returned to Jesus to thank him. A foreigner, Jesus says to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (v. 19) Faith comes from unexpected sources – women, tax collectors, Samaritans.

Of the lepers, all are shunned. The one who is Samaritan is shunned by Jewish society because he is a Samaritan. Yet the Samaritan leper is the only one who expresses his thanks.

In the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4:19-26, 28-29), her perceptions bring light and the truth.

“19The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshipped on this mountain and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. 21Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. 25The woman said to Him, I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things. 26Jesus spoke to her, I who speak to you am He. … 28The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Chronologically, Jesus’ visit with the Samaritan woman came before He sent out the 12 disciples. The destruction of Samaria/Israel was hundreds of years earlier.

  • The lost sheep of the house of Israel

Jesus is determined to spiritually reach His own, but along the way, in his travels to the regions of Tyre and Sidon, which are Gentile, He encounters them, these Gentile foreigners and finds their faith true.

“25For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birh, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27But Jesus said to her, Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs. 28And she answered and said to Him, Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs. 29Then He said to her: For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” (Mark 7:25-29)

It is not good to steal from the poor, to take for yourself things belonging to another simply because you can. Jesus came to feed, spiritually feed, the lost sheep – His own, His Jewish brothers and sisters. The physical food the poor have is theirs to partake and another perhaps higher class of people should not take it for themselves just because they can. The same is true of spiritual food. Israel was God’s chosen people; therefore Israel had priority over the Gentiles, just as one’s children had priority over dogs. The Samaritan woman understood this; her faith in the Lord thereby healed her daughter.

Even though Israel was and is God’s chosen, their rejection of the gospel, of the Son of God, resulted in salvation being brought to the Gentiles.

“44On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ (also Isaiah 49:6) 48Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region.”

The lost sheep of the house of Israel – all people of Jewish standing who do not know, understand, believe and accept the True Shepherd, The Messiah, Jesus Christ. They are not to be found where you would think they are; they are scattered.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

Some shepherds are false prophets.

“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountains to hill; They have forgotten their resting place.” (Jeremiah 50:6)

“11For thus says the Lord God: Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 15I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment. 22therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them. 25I will make a covenant of peace with them. 30they shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people, says the Lord God. 31You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God, says the Lord God.” (Exekiel 34: 11-16, 22-23, 25, 30-31)

“For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to The Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion, Says the Lord of hosts. Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land, Says the Lord. That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; And each one will say, The Lord is my God.” (Zechariah 13:7-9)

Jesus is the True Shepherd. The Good Shepherd. “7Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 11Iam the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:7-11)

  • As you go

As you go, on the way, take only your person, not extra, not more than is necessary. Jesus gave His disciples power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.

"He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts – but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.” (Mark 6:8-9)

“And He said to them, Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.” (Luke 9:3)

  •  Preach, saying The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Preach repentance, salvation, everlasting life, eternal life.

We who believe the Lord Jesus is the Son of God – born of the Virgin Mary, and met death, being crucified on the cross at Calvary for the sins against God made by all of mankind, was buried, and after three days, was resurrected – “18(He who believes in Him) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21) “and saying, Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

John the Baptist came baptizing in the wilderness. He is the fulfillment of promise/prophecy made in Isaiah 40:3 – “The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

“3And he (John the Baptist) went into all the region; around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; And the crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways made smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:3-6)

  • When they persecute you in this city, flee to another

“But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the Kingdom of God has come near you.” (Luke 10:10-11) “and whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:11)

In Old Testament time, shaking off the dust was symbolic of a complete break in fellowship and a renunciation of any additional responsibility. Perhaps it is like wiping the slate clean, move on, don’t let the negative result in unnecessary grief.

“ But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.” (Acts 13:50-51)

In Acts 17, Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica to discuss the Scriptures with the Jews there. Some were persuaded, including women and Greeks, but for the most part the Jews were antagonistic, inciting a mob against them.
“But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” (Acts 17:5)

Paul and Silas went on to Berea, where the Jews were more open-minded. But those from Thessalonica heard and came and stirred them up again, therefore forcing Paul to move on.

  • Be assured, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

There is and there continues to be great persecution, resulting in large scale scattering of people.

“Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1)

Only the apostles were not scattered. And they were to go forth, to the lost cities, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

And we as well are to go forth and preach repentance to all. There is much urgency. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, will return before all will be found, before all will hear and see and understand.

"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." (Matthew 28:18-20)

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"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6