What a marvelous time for these chosen few. For the first time in their lives they had real hope. It was not a hope based on fantasy but firm reality. How many times had they seen injustice and needless suffering and dreamt or had visions of a better world and a better life?
And then came this carpenter-rabbi from Nazareth proclaiming to all within the sound of his voice that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And, through him, the blind see, the lepers are clean, the deaf hear, the sick are well. People are turning to God once again, through Jesus as he teaches about the kingdom, and they can really see that yes the kingdom of heaven is really at hand.
What's more is that Jesus has specifically set apart the twelve of them. First of all, they had all been personally blessed by Jesus. He had healed family members and considered them when they had not been so highly regarded before. They had a front-row seat of what Jesus was doing. He would make sure that they understood the stories that he would teach the crowd. They ate together. They traveled together. It must have been the ultimate experience.
Then Jesus turned to them and asked them to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Jesus likely prayed this prayer daily in his ministry. He had healed. He had taught. He had forgiven. He had explained. And now it was time for his apprentices to go from receiving and watching the kingdom of heaven to becoming an active worker in the kingdom of heaven.
I'm not sure they realised when Jesus gave them his prayer request that they would be the answer to their own prayers. But they were. And, just as Jesus did during his ministry, they were to pray for the Father in heaven to send workers into his fields, find people who needed and wanted kingdom blessings and then convert into workers in the Lord of the harvest's fields.
To those of us who have grown complacent as an audience or consumer in the kingdom of heaven, when did Jesus give his disciples the command to stop making disciples?
Here are some observations as Jesus begins this phase of training for his apprentices:
- Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits and disease. Without this authority, they would not be able to do the things he was doing.
- At this point Jesus sent them only among Jews. These were their fellow people. This was not cross-cultural.
- They were to proclaim what Jesus proclaimed, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
- They were blessed by Jesus expected to pass that blessing on to others. And they were to pass that blessing on with the same generous spirit that Jesus blessed them with.
- They were to find a "worthy person" and depend on them for daily needs as they ministered to people from that person's home.
- They were to go from town to town NOT house to house. Once they found a house that welcomed them, they proclaimed the kingdom from that house.
- They were to maintain their peace in the face of rejection.
- The fate for any town that rejected the kingdom of heaven by not welcoming its workers or hearing their message is God's and God's alone.