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Disciples to apostles

Jesus sent the 12 to the lost sheep of Israel.  They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  They left as disciples and returned to Jesus as apostles.
Jesus sent the 12 to the lost sheep of Israel. They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. They left as disciples and returned to Jesus as apostles.
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Read Matthew 10:1-20

OK post modern world, here is how you remember the 12 disciples. Do it 2 by 2. There is no acronym to memorize. We just remember these men the way that Matthew’s gospel lists them.

Peter and Andrew.

James and John.

Phillip and Bartholomew.

Thomas and Matthew.

James and Thaddeus.

Simon and Judas.

Matthew provides some extra descriptors. The first two sets of two are brothers. Besides being brothers, James and John have a father worth mentioning by name—Zebedee. Elsewhere in the gospels, they are known as the Sons of Thunder.

Of course, Judas is noted as the one who betrayed Jesus.

As you can see, the gospels don’t always abide by the rules of historical writing. This section gives us insight into the future infamy that would mark Judas for all history.

A bit more subtlety, this section also talks about the 12 first as disciples and then as apostles. An apostle is one who is sent.

We think about the sending of the apostles after Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came upon these few men who followed Jesus, but there was an earlier sending.

Perhaps, it was OJT for apostles, but Jesus sent the 12 to the lost sheep of Israel. After the resurrection, these same men would set out with great purpose being commissioned to take the gospel to the world. OK, there was one substitution. Matthias would take the place of Judas.

For now, they would just work among the Jews. This mission was not to the gentiles or even the Samaritans. It was to those who were expecting the Messiah and who regarded themselves as sons of Abraham.

The message was that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.

They were empowered to accompany this message with signs and miracles.

· Healing

· Raising the dead

· Cleansing lepers

· Cast out demons

This was no minor league exercise. The only thing these men were to equip themselves with was the authority that Jesus gave them.

· No gold or silver or anything worth trading

· No overnight bag

· Not even a walking stick

This is the prescribed load for an apostle.

As a Marine officer, I sometimes needed to cross deck to another ship while at sea. This often involved a short helicopter ride. I didn’t pack a bag, but everyone knew to put a razor and a toothbrush in your cargo pocket in case the sea state changed and you couldn’t get home that night.

In my tour with the United Nations, I would often volunteer for the air patrol. Again, I had my toothbrush and razor in my cargo pocket. I also had some water. It was the desert after all. And there were occasions when we took off from the dirt strip next to my headquarters and when we came back we couldn’t see the headquarters much less the airstrip due to huge dust storms. We landed where we could see the ground.

These disciples would become apostles in this exercise and they were sent equipped only with the authority of God. Jesus didn’t even tell them to take their toothbrush and razor. When you set out with the authority of God, you might call that thoroughly equipped, toothbrush or not.

Where they were welcomed, they would stay. Where they were not welcome, they distanced themselves from those who rejected them. God will not be mocked and there will be a judgment day. These apostles were not to convince or cajole or even negotiate their billeting.

They would be welcomed or they would not. God would settle the lodging bills in his time.

But this was no watered down sending. This was not a case of taking batting practice with 70 mph fast balls that you could lay into. Jesus told them that they would be like sheep going into the middle of a wolf pack.

He told them they were on a mission from God into a world that didn’t love God very much. At best, the folks they would meet played the religious game of do’s and don’ts and ritualistic fasting and sacrifices.

So Jesus tells them to be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

The buzzword of the 1980’s was to keep your SA up. Always be aware of what is going on around you. Keep your situational awareness up.

Know what’s going on around you but stay out of the stuff that will get you in trouble.

Stick to the mission.

But if you do get ambushed, don’t worry. You will know what to say. God’s own Spirit will give you the words.

God’s Holy Spirit would be present with these men who were sent.

How do you go from being a disciple to an apostle?

· You follow Jesus—that is—you are his disciple.

· You are sent into the world on a mission from God.

· You are commissioned with God’s authority.

· You are accompanied by the Holy Spirit

It is just that simple and it is just that amazing. These 12 men had become apostles. One would never become a part of taking the gospel to the world; but even Judas had a taste of what it was to take a message from God to his own people.

That was the model for the first apostles. It still applies. Today, we might differentiate a little and call most of the people who are commissioned, sent, and accompanied by the Spirit missionaries.

But these were the first and this was their first apostolic work.


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