Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sending Out Apostles

Jesus knew that he would not be with his disciples forever.  He had to prepare them to be on their own and to face the difficulties that he had to face.  All night long, Jesus prayed to the Father, asking him for guidance.  In the morning, Jesus called all of his disciples to him and he chose 12 of them to be apostles, or “sent ones”—representatives of Jesus.  Among the twelve was Simon—whom he called “Rock”,  James and John—whom he called “sons of thunder”, Andrew—who was Simon’s brother, Matthew Levi (the toll gatherer), Nathaniel, Phillip, and Judas Iscariot.  Jesus specifically chose 12 to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

            After he chose these twelve, he placed his hands on them and appointed them as representatives of him.  He gave them the power to command unclean spirits in his name, and told them to go out to heal, cast out demons and to preach the coming of God’s kingdom.

            As he sent them, he told them, “Take nothing with you.  No money, no extra clothes, no food.  The laborer is worthy of his hire—the people I send you to will care for your needs.  When you go into any town, go to the elders and give them your message.  Then heal those who need healing.  Also, listen to see if you can find a man of peace who lives in that town.  When you find such a man, ask him to stay in his house.  If someone welcomes you, all is well, and give that house a blessing of peace.  Stay in that house the whole time you are in the town.  Eat there, sleep there, teach there and pray there.  If they listen to you, allow your peace to remain on the house.

            “But if no one in the whole town welcomes you—even though they heard your message and saw the works of God by your hands—then testify against that town.  Wipe the dust of that down from your feet, and it will be held against that town on the final day before God.  I tell you the truth, it would be better for Sodom on the final day than for that town!  If they persecute you in one town, run away and go to another one.

            “There will be many who are against you as you go out.  I came not to bring peace among God’s people, but a knife of division.  The prophets said that ‘Brother will hand a brother over to be killed, and a father will be against his children and a mother against her daughter.’  This is what I am bringing.  You will be hated because of my name, but the one who remains following me until the end will be saved.  If they hated me, they will hate you.  If they listen to me, they will listen to you as well.

            “But not everyone will hate you.  There will be many who help you and offer assistance.  Whoever is not against you is for you.  Even if someone offers you a cup of cold water because you are my disciple, that one will not lose their reward.  The one who receives a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.  The one who receives a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.

            “And on the final day, the Son of man will come to earth to judge all the world.  And all peoples will be separated into two.  The King will then say to those on his right, ‘Welcome to my kingdom!  You will gain all the reward of God because you have helped me when I was hungry and sick and weak, when I was naked and when I was in prison.’  And these righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, what do you mean?  When did we help you?’  And he will say to them, ‘When you helped my brothers—my disciples who came in my name—you helped me.  Enjoy your new life!.’ 

            “And then the King will turn to those on his left and say, ‘Get away from me, you workers of evil!  Go to the fire prepared for the devil and his spirits!  For you refused to help me when I was hungry and sick and weak.’  And they will say, ‘Lord, when did we refuse to help?’  The King will reply, ‘When you refused to help my brothers, even the least of them, then you refused to help me.’  And these will go to eternal fire, but the righteous to eternal life.”

            Later, Jesus also sent out seventy more apostles, for he said, “The harvest is huge, but there are few workers.  All of you, pray that the Lord will send out more workers to prepare the kingdom!”  When the seventy returned, they exclaimed, “Lord, even the demons do as we command!”  And Jesus replied to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  But don’t be happy because you can command demons—be glad because your names are written in heaven to enter God’s kingdom!”

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