The Apostles Sent

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Excellent organisations have a very clear sense of their purpose. More recently this has led to organisations trying to distil their mission into just a few words – a mission statement. I've got some examples here; see if you can guess the organisation they refer to:

Google - 'to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful'                                                                                                                                    

Toyota - 'to lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.'                                     

Ben and Jerry's - 'to produce the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way'                                                                                                                                                                 

However, no matter how well a mission statement sums up the aims of a person or organisation it doesn't mean anything unless it actually happens. It's all very well having a catchy mission statement in the boardroom but if it doesn't reflect what happens on the ground people will quickly become cynical.

This morning in Luke 9.1-9 we see Jesus commissioning his disciples but it's no set of empty words. Jesus is going to extend his mission by giving the disciples his power and authority so that they can go out and proclaim the kingdom of God. So the big idea this morning is simply this:

Big Idea: Jesus shares his power and authority so that his mission can be extended

If you're not there already please turn to p731 Luke 9.1-9. I've got three points this morning the first of which is this...

1. Jesus shares his power and authority, v1,2

Jesus gives the apostles power and authority like his own to equip them to preach thekingdomofGod.

1When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

We've seen over the past few chapters how Luke has been stacking up blocks of evidence that reveal Jesus' power and authority and which cause us to grapple with his true identity. Jesus has demonstrated his power and authority through his teaching as well as through his absolute control over, well everything, as with just a word: he calms the storm, frees the demon-possessed man, heals the untreatable and brings the dead back to life.

Here Jesus extends his ministry by sharing that same power and authority with 'the Twelve', the Apostles. They are given both power (the ability) and authority (the right) to do the same type of things that Jesus has been doing. However, the focus here is not so much on the Apostles and their new ability to: 'drive out all demons and to cure diseases'. No, in fact Jesus will warn his followers specifically in the next chapter not to rejoice that the spirits submit to you.

Rather, the focus remains on Jesus and on how the sharing of his power and authority will allow the Apostles to preach the kingdom of God. Notice the order in v1,2: First, Jesus calls the Twelve together, then Jesus confers his authority on the Apostles in order that they may fulfil the commission that Jesus now gives them to: preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

The disciples are like a football player being congratulated after scoring a goal in the post match interview says: 'It's not important that I score, what's important is that the team won the game'. The disciples have been given these abilities not to impress people or to gain a reputation but as a sign that this kingdom of God they are preaching about is really here.

The disciples are to extend Jesus' ministry. They are to act with Jesus' authority, power and compassion as they heal the sick but primarily as they proclaim the kingdom of God. The disciples are to tell as many as possible that something incredible is happening, that God's kingdom is near in the person of Jesus, that now is the time to repent and turn back to God.

Now it's important for us to understand up front that Jesus commission given to the disciples is not our commission. Jesus instructions are particular to the disciples and are time specific. That means that we can't just lift the commission given to the disciples out of its context and apply it directly. However we do have a mission that has been given to us by Jesus; Matthew 28 records Jesus' call to all his followers and says:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Three things for us to understand here:

(i) Jesus commissions his followers. Christians are sent people. They are people who have been commissioned and hence who have a mission to accomplish, to: make disciples of all nations by witnessing to the Lord Jesus Christ and by living lives worthy of him. We have a job to do - all of us. Not just the extroverted, the keen or those in paid 'full-time' ministry - all of us have a part, different parts, to play in the same mission. Christians may not be, by definition, passive, individual consumers of religion. Rather we are to be an active, zealous even, community committed to a shared mission and calling: to make disciples of all nations and he, the one whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to, promises to be with us as we do so.

(ii) Second, Jesus is the source of all authority. The disciples' authority was not their own it was derived from Jesus. He is the one to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given. The same is true for us; we derive our authority from Jesus. HTG is not our church it is Jesus', he is the head of the church, he is the boss. We are not therefore free to do whatever we see fit here - we must stay true to the commission that Jesus has given us, we must do as he says. Other authorities; denominations, bishops, ministers, elders and home group leaders derive their authority from Jesus and not the other way round.

(iii) Thirdly, Jesus sends his followers out in power. In Luke 9 we see Jesus granting power to the Apostles as he commissions them to preach the kingdom of God. Similarly Jesus sends all Christians out not just with a tightly written mission statement but with a promise. Matthew 28:20 promises that Jesus will be with us as we go and make disciples, he will help us. The gospel is the power of salvation not us our job is simply to obey Jesus' call to proclaim it.

Jesus has shared with the apostles his power and authority to equip them for the great task of preaching the kingdom of God but what will that look like, that's our second point...

2. Jesus' mission is extended by an uncompromised message, v3-6

Jesus has commissioned the Twelve in v1 and 2 with this great task of extending his ministry by preaching the kingdom of God. Now Jesus sends them out in total dependency to freely offer and boldly preach the kingdom of God to anyone who will listen.

3He told them: "Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.

Jesus has shared his power and authority with his disciples now he wants them to fully rely on his provision. That seems to be the meaning of Jesus' instruction not to take a staff, a bag, bread, money or extra clothing. These are not bad things but something bigger than money, food and clothing is at stake here. The disciples must rely on Jesus, they must abide in him because their power and authority is derived solely from him. Jesus' power and authority not material resources or personal ability must be what the disciples place their trust in.

The other reason for Jesus' instructions may have been to disassociate the Twelve from other travelling philosophers and teachers who would peddle their message for profit. The word translated 'bag' here in v3 probably means a purse which would have been used by travelling teachers to beg for money. Similarly his instruction to stay in just one house until you leave is likely a corrective to the practise of visiting multiple homes in search of payment for teaching.

The disciple's ministry mustn't be like research into the effects of smoking paid for by tobacco companies. Rather it should mirror an independent inquiry free from accusations of impartiality.

The message about the kingdom of God is too important to be compromised by any desire for reward or payment. Compassion, love and obedience to Jesus' command must be his followers only motivation. This is particularly important because Jesus anticipates that the disciples message will not always be met with joyful acceptance. Look at v5:

5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." 6So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

Jesus instructs the disciples what to do when, not if, their message is rejected. The assumption is that the Twelve will be rejected in the same way as Jesus is rejected.

So what about us? We also have been commissioned to take the gospel out and to make disciples - what should that look like for us?

(i) Our mission should also be characterised by dependency. We cannot fulfill our commission in our own strength, no matter how strong we are, no matter how many resources we have. Jesus tells us in John 15:5 that apart from him we can do nothing. Our life as a church and as individuals needs to reflect our dependence on God. One way in which that dependence will shine through is in our prayerfulness. I used to have a quote written on a post it note on my desk that said 'work without prayer is atheism'. If we really believe that apart from Jesus we can do nothing then we will often be found asking him to do.

(ii) Secondly, proclaiming the gospel clearly must be our unadulterated aim. Jesus' instructions guarded against the Twelve being tempted to peddle the gospel for profit. Perhaps that temptation is difficult for us to imagine. However, the temptation to compromise the gospel, to soft-sell it in return for acceptance or influence is not so alien to us. The world is happy for the church to act as an optional, alternative voice to tell bankers off for being greedy but that is not why we are here. We must keep the main thing - proclaiming the gospel - the main thing and we must be willing to proclaim it clearly even when people choose to reject it.

(iii) Thirdly, we must be speak in love and therefore with clarity about what is at stake when the gospel is rejected.

When a town rejected the disciples and their message they were told to shake the dust of that town off their feet as a testimony against them. They are not to remonstrate or slander, still less stop preaching the gospel. Instead they were to move on but not before making it clear that rejecting that gospel has real consequences.

Our situation is slightly different most of us have not been called to a nomadic life of itinerant preaching like the disciples. Rather we have been placed in communities, in schools, in workplaces and in families longer term. However we must love those people enough to speak honestly about their desperate need to be forgiven.

One of the biggest limiting factors on the death toll of hurricaneSandywas clear and urgent warnings to evacuate to safe ground. We must keep urgently and clearly pointing people to the permanent safe ground found in Christ whilst there is still time to respond.

The disciples extend Jesus' ministry by not compromising the message they have been given. The last part of our passage shows us the results of the disciples ministry. That's our third and final point..

3. Jesus' mission is successfully extended, v7-9

The disciples extend Jesus ministry such that even King Herod is forced to grapple with Jesus' identity and is provoked to seek him out.

7Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. 9But Herod said, "I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?" And he tried to see him.

The disciples are doing a good job. We know this because Herod, the provincial king and executioner of John the Baptist, says in v9: '"Who, then, is this I hear such things about?" And he tried to see him'. The Twelve's message is not about themselves even Herod understands that their message is about a particular person someone in the line of one of the Old Testaments prophets, perhaps Elijah or even John the Baptist raised from the dead.

Remarkable things are happening the sick are healed, demons are driven out, even the dead are raised to life. Now the Apostles' extend Jesus' ministry but the core, the key question is still the same: Who is this Jesus?

That's the question that grips this part of Luke's gospel as these remarkable blocks of evidence are stacked up in front of our eyes they spell out in block capital letters: 'Who is this Jesus?'. That's the question at the heart of Christianity, the question that Luke demands that we answer for ourselves.

You must answer that question for yourself, who is Jesus. If you here this morning and you're not a Christian then that's the question we want to put before you this morning: Who is Jesus? Because Christianity isn't primarily about us, it's about him. That's why we run things like Christianity Explored because they give you the tools to look at the evidence, to look at the eyewitness accounts of Jesus life, like the one we're looking at this morning and grapple for yourself with this most important question of Jesus' true identity.

Even Herod the king must answer this question, even Herod who had previously executed John, Jesus' forerunner. Such is the incredible nature of the one the apostles are witnessing to that Herod this murderous, pagan ruler is desperate to see Jesus for himself. There's wonderful encouragement here for us as we try and share the gospel with people. Even pagan kings who have previously murdered preachers find Jesus Christ compelling.

So we go like the Apostles' did to anyone who will listen with the gospel. No matter their position in society, no matter their background, no matter how unlikely it may seem that they would become a follower of Jesus and we present Jesus the most compelling, the most incredible person ever to have lived before them and we say: Who do you say Jesus is?

Let's pray...

Father God thank you that you sent the Apostles out with the gospel about Jesus. Thank you that generations later we have heard that same glorious news. Lord we ask that as we go out we would trust in your Son the one who all power and authority has been given to and who promises to be with us always. We pray that you would give us boldness to speak with plainness and boldness as we testify to the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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