In Japan, it’s still common for parents to send their preschool age kids out into the world to run errands. Not only does it teach the younger generation how to be responsible and how to navigate the world, but it also teaches the community to be mindful of the most vulnerable among them.
As you will see in today’s reading, Jesus sends the Twelve on a similar type of errand. Although they took no money. And no note. They had something special that Jesus gave them to help them with their mission. Here's the story according to Matthew 10:1-8
You may not have caught this small but important shift that just happened here. In one sentence, the Twelve go from being called “disciples” to “apostles.”
You might be thinking, these are interchangeable names, right? Not really. One means “student.” And the other means “sent.”
That’s to say a disciple is someone who is learning the disciplines of their craft, while an Apostle is someone who is sent to practice what they’ve learned.
We don’t know the exact number of people who are following Jesus, but these Twelve that Matthew names are singled out for a specific mission. They are the ones who have been with him the longest, and who’ve observed firsthand how the gospel comes alive. So, it makes sense that Jesus would choose to send these guys out on a test run.
Before they go, Jesus passes on some of his power so that they can heal people, cure every disease, and overcome any evil. This tells me that Jesus doubted their ability. And probably for good reason.
We sometimes forget these guys didn’t start out as spiritual gurus. They were just like you and me – full of faults and foibles. They had bad days and bad attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failures. They were ordinary, everyday people like you and me, who made mistakes and misstatements.
Jesus could have chosen the best and brightest from the rabbinical schools. Instead, he selected a group of slow learners who were untested and often spiritually dense.
Most of them were young and inexperienced. Some were unexceptional fishermen. One a fanatical Jewish Nationalist. Another, a despised tax collector. And yet, “With all their faults and character flaws,” writes John MacArthur, “they carried on Jesus’ ministry, leaving an indelible impact on the world.”
God bet the whole enchilada on these Twelve ordinary people. “There were no second string, or backup players. There was no Plan B if they failed.” God took a chance with them; revealing just how much faith God has in human beings. Talk about a risky endeavor.
During my interview for seminary, I was asked what my greatest fear was. I confessed it was my lack of biblical and doctrinal knowledge. The woman interviewing me smiled and said, “Perfect. You’ll have less garbage to deconstruct.”
Four years later, before I had mastered anything, I was handed a diploma. The very next day, on Father’s Day, I was ordained and sent out to share the gospel.
I am here today because of this Holy Spirit Jesus first gave to these twelve ordinary people who didn’t have the luxury of seminary. Or time for that matter.
From his baptism to his resurrection, Jesus’ entire ministry was roughly three years. The disciples training was barely half of that.
In less than 18 months, Jesus taught and trained these ordinary men for the monumental task of ushering in the kingdom of heaven. With nothing more than the Holy Spirit, Jesus sent them to proclaim the gospel by being the living examples of it. (MacArthur)
Matthew’s passage assures us that one doesn’t need a seminary degree, or to have extensive knowledge in church history, doctrines, or creeds to be useful to God.
You just have to be willing to follow Christ. Which means you have to be willing to be sent by the Christ to live out the gospel like he did.
So here’s the thing, if Discipleship is about learning God’s divine love, Apostleship is how we express that love in all the ways we engage and serve the other.
The Twelve weren’t saints, or scholars, or even religious sages. They are merely a perfect example of what God can accomplish in any one of us.
So, we can’t forget it’s not our power or ability that does anything. It’s all God.
Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to be here among us and in us, working and loving others through us. God does all the heavy lifting. We just have to be willing to go where God’s love and mercy is needed.
By following the way of Christ, we can make a difference in the world. We can help heal a broken people, and renounce evil as we know it, if we are willing to go.
As kids we’re sent to school and summer camp (or the liquor store). When we grow up, we’re sent to college, to work, which for some of us could mean getting sent to new cities and new communities.
We are always being sent somewhere between this space and that one. This tells me we’re always given opportunities to proclaim the good news - the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Anamesa is that space in this heavenly kingdom that space between where you are now and where you are going where real needs are met. Jesus sends us there because he knows that’s where God needs us to bear the good fruit of the Spirit.
Jesus sends us there because he knows there will always be someone who is hungry and thirsty – be it physical or spiritual.
Jesus sends us there because he knows there will always be someone who is suffering from injustice or hurting from inequality.
Jesus sends us because there are those who are poor, and marginalized and ostracized.
Jesus sends us into Anamesa to love those who have none; to forgive those who need our forgiveness; to show mercy and grace to anyone who asks. This is what it means to follow him. To be like him.
We might see ourselves as disciples, as students learning about the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus is calling us to be Apostles, to go and proclaim the good news by being visible agents of God’s love through works of charity and mercy.
Love is our purpose. Love is our mission. Love is the bridge between heaven and earth that connects us to God. And God to us. Christ sends us to continue his mission of love. How long that takes isn’t the point.
Love is a day-by-day job that starts now. And then starts over again tomorrow. And the next day and so on.
So let us go, boldly and confidently, into Anamesa proclaiming the good news of God’s redemptive love by being the good news, sharing God’s love everywhere we go.
Adopted from A Dirty Dozen of Sorts from June 14, 2020.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word Year A, Vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011).
MacArthur, John. Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness And What He Want To Do With You. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002).
Samuel, Joshua. Discipleship and Mission. June 12, 2023 (accessed on June 18, 2023).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”