After being moved to compassion by the scene of the weary and scattered multitudes, Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”(9:37-38). It is then that Jesus chose twelve from among His disciples to be His apostles (cf. 10:1-4). He commissioned them to “preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (10:7). This is often referred to as the “Limited Commission,” as the apostles were told to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6). In the text, Jesus gave instruction, and warned His apostles of things they would experience on their journey. The expected hardships, and ways in which the apostles were to deal with them can be applied even to our discipleship today. While this “Limited Commission” was for them, we along with them are given the “Great Commission” (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). When we go into the world preaching the gospel, and stand in the gospel as faithful adherents, we can expect much of what the twelve experienced in their commission to preach to the house of Israel. As such, our mindset and resolve should be the same as what Jesus required of them.
It is imperative that we first understand there will be rejection. This we must understand to avoid discouragement and a waste time. When we bring the gospel to another, we should do so with the optimistic hope that they readily receive the truth, but also with the understanding that they may not. Jesus told the apostles, “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust form your feet” (10:14). We must not “give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast…pearls before swine” (7:6). Rather, we should shake off the dust from our feet and move on to the next (cf. Acts 13:46, 51). Jesus also said, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (10:40). The converse is true as well. Those who reject the bearers of truth reject the One who authored the truth. We should not take it personally when we are rejected for teaching the truth. Ultimately, it is the Lord who is rejected.
This rejection may come in a form which does not cause much harm to us. Yet, harm may come. Truth provokes those who wish to remain in darkness. Regardless of the messenger, the aversion to the light which some have will cause them to lash out. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (10:16). We come bringing the gospel of peace, but are often met with bared teeth. We may be opposed by governing authorities (cf. 10:18), but it could even be our own family who turns against us – “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. You will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (10:21-22). The Devil is well practiced in his craft and is able to subdue those who should trust us the most. It is out of love we speak the truth, and even take disciplinary measures (cf. 1 Corinthians 5). However, this does not ensure immediate positive results. Jesus has prepared our minds with the possibility of great hostility between us and those closest to us. This can be a most difficult truth to face. We can take solace in the fact that even Jesus’ brothers were opposed to Him in disbelief (cf. John 7:5). We are not above this – “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (10:24). Fortunately, the Captain of our salvation can lead the way through these trying situations.
The proclamation of the gospel and submission to its message has never fomented strife. It has never been the cause of another’s pain. It has never produced any negativity. The cause of such trouble has always been the gospel’s antithesis, Satan’s “different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). The peacemakers who have made it their purpose to uphold Christ’s doctrine in their practice and proclamation of it are often combatted by those who have bought into a fake good news. Its messenger, the one who “transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), has deceived many into thinking the truth is the enemy. Therefore, those who defend the truth are persecuted. Jesus lived a life of truth and was severely mistreated. He knew the same awaited His apostles, and those who follow Him today. Such a threat could cause one to forfeit his faith. Jesus encouraged the church of Smyrna saying, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (cf. Revelation 2:10). Our faith should be steadfast in the direst circumstances, even if the end is our own demise. Only then will we attain the promise.
This faith is not spontaneous upon the scene of adversity but is built in preparation before it ever comes. We do this by establishing a fear of God in our lives – “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (10:28). Our greatest fear should not be the reaction of man to our confession of the Christ, but the judicial wrath of God when Christ denies us before His Father because we denied Him (cf. 10:32-33). If the former does not exist due to the perceived severity of the latter, we will be able to remain faithful amid external threat.
A truly devoted disciple will keep his faith in the face of such turmoil (cf. Proverbs 24:10). His love for the Lord is overwhelming. Any relationship of love he is involved in pales in comparison to that which he has with his God. Christ is the preeminent one, and therefore has the preeminence in his heart (cf. Colossians 1:15-18). When he is set against his father, mother, children, or any in his household, the love of Christ compels Him to choose the path of righteousness. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (10:37). We must bear the cross of shame, anguish, and reproach as we tread the path which our Savior trod, not even letting family come between us and Him. Our ways should not be dedicated to the preservation of this temporal life, but to the heaping up of treasures for the next (cf. 10:39). This is discipleship. To this we are called.