Today we return to the main study of Matthew. The title of today’s devotional is a little misleading, but what I mean by it is Jesus’ final instructions before he sent them out “on their own.” Up to this point, he'd always been physically with them, but now there was a new phase in the Father’s plan. Jesus wanted Israel to be told about the coming of the Messiah, and he was now sending the Twelve out to make the grand announcement.
Before we go forward, we need to include a little side-note on Jesus’ teaching in this chapter. At least some of it is not directly applicable to us. Not everything that Jesus said to an individual is applicable to every believer at all times. On this mission, he told the disciples to avoid all contact with Gentiles, and spend all their time with their fellow Jews. Later on, in the last three verses of this very book, he told them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Some of this is specific instruction for those men at a particular time and place. Having said that, there's a lot we can learn from this chapter, so we’re going to spend the next few days dissecting it and seeing how the Lord can use it to change us.
First we notice that the twelve apostles were appointed as his special representatives, and he gave them unique authority to drive out evil spirits and heal all sickness. Do I believe that every believer is called to do these things? No. All of us have different callings, and even Paul didn’t heal everyone at every point in his ministry.
So what about his instructions about lodging and money? Are we forbidden to pack any money or extra clothes when we go on a mission trip? Is there something wrong with moving to another set of accommodations if the first is not suitable? I don’t think so. I believe God wants us to plan ahead. But in this time and under these circumstances, they were to trust the Lord to provide them for everything they needed. And aren’t we all? For most of us, we need to trust God but still prepare for the worst. But if he ever calls us to abandon all creature comforts and throw away all physical means of support, then we can rest in the fact that he knows what he’s doing.
There are, however, some principles which are universally applicable. The first we already mentioned: Trust the Lord to provide for your needs. He'll never call where he’s not prepared to provide. Second, don’t take rejection personally. If we’ve accurately represented him and his message, then the response is between them and God. We should recognize, though, that for someone to reject the Lord's messengers is a very serious thing. The custom of wiping the dust off your feet was actually quite common for Jews. They'd do so every time they crossed over from Gentile territory to “holy ground.” Now Jesus boldly told his apostles that any town that doesn’t receive him will face harsher judgment than Sodom on the Last Day. Pretty frightening and shocking when you think about it.
Third, we need to be careful when dealing with people. Jesus told his apostles that as they step into the world, they need to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Not everyone is worthy of our intimate trust. The Enemy has scattered his children among God’s church, and we won’t know about all the fakes until the Lord returns. But if we rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to worry about that so much. There are bad people in this world, but our Savior is still in charge. We just need to trust and obey.
Lord Jesus, that is what it comes down to, isn’t it? Trust and obedience? I do trust you, and I want to obey. Please help me.
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