Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-two through forty-two of the tenth chapter. When we come to this particular passage of scripture we find the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew drawing to a close. I have to admit that I have probably read this passage a number of times, yet upon reading it this time, I saw something I had never seen before. I am convinced that is one of the most beautiful realities surrounding Scripture we can possibly find, for scripture has the ability to speak to us in different ways and at different times. There are times when we can read the same passage a year, or perhaps two or more years later, and upon reading that passage this latter time, we find something completely and utterly different. Upon reading the tenth chapter of the gospel which Matthew wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ I can’t help but be utterly and completely fascinated by the words we find contained within it. More specifically, I am absolutely and wonderfully amazed with how this tenth chapter opens up and begins, for it begins with a wonderful and powerful testimony of twelve men whom Jesus band picked and hand selected according to the divine will of the Father. When we begin reading the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus calling unto Himself the twelve disciples who walked with and followed Him as He engaged Himself in public ministry in Judaea, in the surrounding towns, villages and cities within the land of Israel. I briefly wrote about this in a past writing, but I find it absolutely interesting reading the opening verses of this chapter, for as we read them we find Jesus now walking with twelve men who followed Him wherever He went. By the time we come to the tenth chapter of the gospel written according to Matthew we find Jesus being followed—not by two brothers, nor by two sets of brothers, nor even by two sets of brothers plus one. This chapter begins and opens with Jesus being followed by twelve distinct and unique men who were individually chosen by Him “for such a time as this.”
I have to admit that as I read this particular passage of scripture, I can’t help but notice a marked and noticeable difference between what we read in the fourth chapter of the gospel, as well as in the eighth chapter of the gospel. In the fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel we find Jesus entering into Galilee, and upon walking by the sea, He saw a set of brothers—Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew—who were finishing up their labor and toil with fishing in the midst of the sea. Upon seeing these two sets of brothers, we find Jesus calling unto them, and inviting them to walk with and follow Him. When we read this particular passage of scripture we find these two brothers being specifically called by the Lord Jesus Christ, and invited to follow Him wherever He went within and upon the earth. What is truly unique about the invitation of these brothers to walk with and follow Jesus is that immediately after inviting them to walk with and follow Him, He also declares unto them that He would make them fishers of men. This is in all reality the only invitation found within the four gospels that carries with it any type of promise associated with and connected to the invitation to follow Him—at least as it pertains to the disciples. As you continue to read the fourth chapter of this gospel you will find Jesus coming upon another set of brothers—the two sons of Zebedee, James and John—who were with their father in a ship mending their nets. Now being accompanied by Simon called peter and his brother Andrew, Jesus proceeds to invite this new and distinct set of brothers to follow Him. The one difference between the two invitations, is that when Jesus invites James and John to follow Him, there was no promise made that He would make them fishers of men. This doesn’t mean that He would not also in turn make them fishers of men—only that it is not recorded in Scripture. When Jesus left the Sea of Galilee age was now joined and accompanied by two sets of brothers who had begun walking with and following Him wherever He went. These four disciples were undoubtedly present when Jesus sat down and delivered the Sermon on the amount, for in the opening verse of the fifth chapter we find the multitudes sitting down and Jesus calling His disciples unto Himself.
By the time we come to the eighth chapter of the New Testament dispel of Matthew we find the Sermon on the amount being concluded and Jesus beginning His public ministry of teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news concerning the kingdom of heaven, and healing all manner of disease and illness that plagued men and women. When we come to the ninth chapter of this New Testament gospel we find Jesus coming unto a man by the name of Matthew who was sitting at the receipt of custom collecting taxes or the Jews on behalf of the Romans. Upon seeing this man sitting at the receipt of custom, Jesus called unto Him and invited Matthew to follow Him. Much like the two sets of brothers whom Jesus has called at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus now invites this man called Matthew to follow Him. By the time the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew draws to a close, we find Jesus being joined and accompanied by five specific and distinct men who had now begun to walk with and follow Him. By the time the ninth chapter draws to a close, the two sets of brothers had not only witnessed Jesus heal many of their various diseases, infirmities and illnesses, but also casting out evil spirits, as well as raise a man’s daughter from death to life. What is interesting about the tenth chapter is that when the ninth chapter of the gospel of Matthew draws to a close, Jesus was joined and accompanied by five men who were chosen and selected and invited to walk with and follow Him. Now when we come to the tenth chapter of this gospel we find Jesus having twelve men who were walking with and following Him. The more I read the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew the more I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the other seven disciples to be called by Jesus and invited to walk with and follow Him. What was it like when Jesus called men such as Thomas, and men such as Simon the Canaanite, and even Judas Iscariot. What was it like for these men when Jesus came unto them and called and invited them to walk with and follow Him wherever He went. Did each of these seven men immediately rise up from where they were found and begin walking with and following Jesus wherever He went?
Scripture is entirely unclear concerning the invitations which were given to the remaining seven disciples, and what it was like when Jesus found them and called and invited them to follow Him. The only accounts of specific invitations being given to follow Jesus were in the case of James and Hohn, Simon also called peter and his brother Andrew, and Matthew the tax collector. As we come to and approach the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus now being joined by and followed by twelve distinct men who were now walking with Him and following Him wherever He went. Undoubtedly walking with and following Jesus, these disciples—which now totaled twelve—had witnessed Jesus heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. What’s more, is that these men undoubtedly heard Jesus teaching the multitudes, as well as even within the various Jewish synagogues present within the land. This is quite interesting, for there was a serious multiplication which took place from the time the ninth chapter drew to a close, and the time the tenth chapter began and opened. In fact, I can’t help but wonder how much time has elapsed between the time Jesus called Matthew, and the time the tenth chapter opens and we find Jesus now being accompanied and joined by twelve men. Though we won’t know the testimony of the remaining seven disciples who were invited to walk with and follow Jesus, I can’t help but wonder what it was like when Jesus found them and called and invited them to walk with and follow Him. What was it like for these men when they encountered Jesus during their lives, and were invited to walk with and follow Him? What was it like for a man like Judas to experience Jesus finding Him along the way, and being invited to walk with and follow Him? What was it like for Thomas who we know to be one who doubted later on after Jesus’ resurrection to be found by Jesus and be called to follow Him wherever He went? What did Jesus say and what did Jesus speak unto these other seven men who now walked with and followed Jesus wherever He went? What’s more, is I can’t help but wonder how much time had elapsed between the time Jesus called the final disciple and what find and what we read in the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel. How far into Jesus’ earthly ministry had elapsed before we come to the event which we find and read in the tenth chapter? I say event, because there really is only one central theme found within the tenth chapter—namely, that Jesus called unto Himself these twelve disciples and gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Within the first verse of the tenth chapter we find Jesus calling unto Himself the twelve disciples and giving them power over and against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and disease. When we come to the second, third and fourth verses, we find the names of these twelve men specifically mentioned by Matthew Himself.
If there is one thing I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by when I read the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew, it’s that almost immediately after Jesus emerged from the wilderness after overcoming the devil and his manifold temptations, one of the first things He did was call and invite men into fellowship and relationship with Him. One thing we must recognize, one thing we must understand concerning Jesus’ call and invitation to these men to follow Him was that it wasn’t merely about ministry, and it wasn’t merely about healing the sick, casting out demons and evil spirits, cleansing the lepers, and raising the dead. When Jesus called Simon who is called Peter, Andrew his brother, as well as James and John, and even Matthew, we don’t find Jesus’ invitation to them seemingly having anything to do with ministry as we have come to know it. We don’t find Jesus inviting these men to walk with and follow Him, and His promising them large and massive preaching ministries, or even health, wealth and prosperity. When we find Jesus calling these men within the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Him simply inviting them to do one thing—namely, to follow Him. In all reality, I am convinced that more often than not this concept of following Jesus gets overlooked and misconstrued by preachers and leaders alike. I have to say that the more I read and the more I consider Jesus’ calling of these five men within this New Testament gospel, the more I can’t help but see this call and invitation to follow Him as an invitation to walk with, and an invitation to experience fellowship and relationship with Him. The call Jesus issues to men to walk with and follow Him is not one that has at the very heart and center of it any type of ministry, nor anything we would normally attribute to following Jesus. More often than not, when we think about the concept of following Jesus, we think about it in terms of calling, and what we can somehow do for Jesus and within the kingdom. When we think about being called by Jesus to follow Him, we tend to think about it in terms of being called and chosen to pursue some intense and tremendous calling to preach the gospel concerning the kingdom, and to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out evil spirits, and raise the dead. I am firmly and utterly convinced that to think about the call and invitation of Jesus Christ to follow Him merely in terms of ministry and what we can somehow do on behalf of the kingdom is to be sorely and severely deceived. We would be incredibly naïve to think that the call and invitation to walk with and follow Jesus is centered upon engaging ourselves in some type of ministry which we have been called to.
Please note and please understand that I am in no way suggesting that our being called and invited by Jesus to walk with and follow Him may not, and in all reality does not have some degree of ministry connected and associated to and with it. I am in no way suggesting that following Jesus may not very well include a wonderful and powerful sense to engage ourselves in some type of ministry that is glorifying to God—one which furthers the establishing of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. What I am suggesting is that when we are called and invited by the Lord Jesus to walk with and follow Him, that call and that invitation is not centered upon what we can do for Jesus within the earth, as though we are somehow something more than what we actually are. Jesus’ call and Jesus’ invitation to walk with and follow Him has at the very heart and core of it the invitation to walk with and have fellowship with Him. Any sermon, any teaching, any doctrine that preaches the call and invitation to walk with and follow Jesus for anything other than having fellowship and relationship with Him is one that is absolutely, utterly and completely false. If there are two things we must understand considering our walking with and our following Jesus, it’s that we don’t walk with or follow Him for what we do for Him, and we don’t walk with or follow Him for what we can receive from Him. There are far too many men and women who will hear the call to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ, and yet the only thing that goes through their heart and mind is what they can receive from Jesus in direct result of their walking with and following Him. It’s almost as if such men and women hear the call and invitation to walk with and follow Him, and their response is simply, “Jesus, I hear you calling me to walk with and follow you, yet what will you give me in return for walking with and following you? What do I get in return and what do I get in exchange for my leaving everything to walk with and follow you? Jesus, what can you promise me if I commit my life to walking with and following you wherever you go and wherever you lead?” With that being said, I am convinced that there is another side to the same coin, and that is men and women who may very well make the decision to walk with and follow Jesus, yet they do so largely based on what they can do for Jesus in the earth. In other words, there are certain men and women who walk with and follow Jesus based on that which they can receive from Him, and there are others who walk with and follow Jesus based on that which they can do for Him within and upon the earth. I would emphatically, boldly and without reservation declare that such a thought within our hearts and minds is severely misguided, and we are not only naïve, but also very much so deceived by such a thought present within our hearts and minds. We have never, we will never, and we can never be called and invited to walk with and follow Jesus based on that which we can somehow do for or receive from Him within the earth.
I find it absolutely necessary to present you with the words which are found and recorded in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the fifth verse, and continuing through to the fifteenth verse. Consider if you will the words which are found in this chapter beginning with the fifth verse, for I am convinced that they bring us face to face with something truly remarkable and incredible when we think about and consider it:
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans, enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devil: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but it if be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew 10:5-15).
What we find within this particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture of Jesus calling His twelve disciples unto Himself, and not only calling them unto Himself, but also sending them out for a very specific purpose. When Jesus called the twelve disciples unto Himself in this passage of Scripture, we find Him calling them unto Himself in order that He might give them power over and against unclean spirits, to cast them out, to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, and so much more. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for when we read the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples in this passage of Scripture, we find Jesus building upon that which He had previously spoken in the final few verses of the ninth chapter. If you read the ninth chapter of the same New Testament gospel—specifically verses thirty-five through thirty-eight—you will find Jesus going about into all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. When Jesus saw the multitudes, however, He was moved with compassion on them, because they. Fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Jesus then turning to His disciples emphatically declared unto them that the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. What Jesus does next is instruct them to pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He might send forth labourers into the harvest. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this awesome reality, for to do so would be to miss something truly remarkable and astonishing. Having just declared unto His disciples that the harvest is plenteous but the labourers are few, and having just instructed them to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest, Jesus then calls unto Himself His own labourers whom he would send forth into the earth to engage themselves in the very same ministry which up until that moment in time He had done alone. It’s imperative we recognize and understand that in this passage of Scripture we find Jesus calling the disciples unto Him as labourers in the harvest to carry out the same work which He had begun doing since He finished delivering the Sermon on the Mount. Having walked with and followed Him for a specific period of time, the disciples had witnessed Jesus perform extraordinary miracles in the lives of those whom they encountered, and had witnessed Jesus heal all manner of sickness, disease, illness and infirmity. The disciples had witnessed Jesus cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and even cast out evil and unclean spirits. Now, however, the time had come where Jesus felt they were ready—not only to continue walking with and following Him, but also joining and partnering with Him in the same ministry for which He was sent. Before we move any further in this writing, however, I feel it absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that before we can be released and entrusted in public ministry, we must first learn how to walk with and follow Jesus. I am absolutely and completely convinced we must learn how to follow before we can labour, and we must enjoy relationship before we can enjoy ministry. There are far too many men and women who want to labour before learning how to follow, and there are far too many men who want to engage themselves in ministry before they have experienced and enjoyed fellowship and relationship with Jesus Christ. The last thing the world needs is men and women without relationship and without fellowship with Jesus Christ in the harvest and among the fields of the world doing more damage than good.
What I find to be so incredibly unique and powerful about this particular passage of Scripture is that it would be very easy to read it and stop at verse fifteen as I did previously in this writing. It would be very easy to read this passage of Scripture and focus solely on Jesus calling the twelve disciples unto Himself in order that He might release them into public and full time ministry within the earth. It would be easy to read this passage of Scripture and to focus solely on ministry, and to think that this is the end of the matter with why Jesus called these twelve disciples unto Himself. I am convinced that such a thought and such an idea within our hearts and minds is not only incredibly naïve, but also incredibly deceptive. We do ourselves a great injustice and a great disservice when we read this chapter and choose merely to focus on ministry and ministry alone. In fact, I would dare say there are countless men and women who would read this particular passage of Scripture and would deliberately and voluntarily stop at the fifteenth verse, for they want to focus solely on Jesus calling men and women unto Himself in order that He might release them into the earth. I must be as forthright and as forthcoming as I possibly can be at this point in the writing, and emphatically declare unto you that what we find in this particular writing is not merely Jesus inviting these disciples to join and partner together with Him in the same ministry He had been involved with, but He is also revealing unto them exactly what they signed up to when He first called them to walk with and follow Him. I have previously written that there are essentially two distinct calls which are found within the gospels—namely, the initial call to follow Jesus, which is an invitation to walk with and fellowship with Him; and the second call to join together and partner with Jesus in the same ministry which He Himself was called and sent to fulfill and accomplish. What I find to be so incredibly interesting and profound is that when Jesus called and invited Simon called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, as well as Matthew to follow Him, He didn’t immediately reveal what following Him would require of them. When Jesus called and invited these men to walk with and follow Him wherever He went, He didn’t immediately invite them to partner together with Him in the same ministry, nor did He reveal unto them what following Him would mean for their lives. Having left everything and agreed to walk with and follow Him, Jesus didn’t immediately reveal unto them what following Him would require of them on a daily basis. Up until this moment I would imagine the disciples thought that following Jesus simply meant accompanying Him as He walked upon the earth healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, casting out evil spirits, raising the dead, and preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom. Up until this moment, the disciples might have been under the impression that they were called and invited by Jesus to walk with and follow Him to enjoy His company and His presence, and to watch Him “do His thing” in the earth. Little did they know what walking with and following Him would actually mean, for walking with and following Him would mean they would partner together with and join Him in the same ministry for which He had been sent.
With that being said, however, I have to admit that as you continue reading this passage of Scripture, you find the words which Jesus spoke unto these twelve men being something completely different from what they thought or expected when they left everything to follow Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus called and invited these men to walk with and follow Him in order that they might experience fellowship and relationship with Him, but He called and invited them to follow Him for something so much greater and so much more than simply walking with Him as He went along the way within the earth. In fact, it is when you come to the sixteenth verse of this particular chapter you find Jesus taking this concept of walking with and following Him to an entirely new level, for although they would now be invited to partner together with Him in the ministry, that partnership would come with a cost. Merely walking with and following Jesus would not require or demand anything of them, and yet what we find here in this passage of Scripture is Jesus revealing unto them what walking with, what following, and what partnering together in ministry with Him truly meant and demanded of their lives. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the sixteenth verse and continuing through the twenty-fifth verse:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speateth in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above His master, nor the servant above His lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matthew 10:16-25).
As you read this passage of Scripture you will find that it was true Jesus called these twelve men unto Himself in order that He might invite them to walk with and partner with Him in ministry, but that ministry would not come easy for them. In fact, as you read this passage of Scripture you will not only find that Jesus prepared the disciples to be hated, and hated of all men for His name’s sake, but He also prepared them to be persecuted in one city, fleeing to another, and being persecuted in another city. I DID NOT PREPARE YOU TO BE LOVED, BUT HATED! I DID NOT PREPARE YOU TO BE RECEIVED, BUT PERSECUTED! Oh, it was true that Jesus did in fact call these disciples unto Himself to invite them into a partnership of ministry, but that partnership would mean that they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and that they would be persecuted in one city, fleeing to another city, and being persecuted in that city. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that partnership together with Jesus in ministry does in fact mean that we will be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and it does mean that we might very well be persecuted by those whom we are attempting to minister unto. We tend to think of ministry as this glamorous gig and this glorious job, and yet Jesus didn’t prepare us to be received of men, but to be persecuted of men. Jesus didn’t prepare and call us to be loved by men, but to actually be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Pause for a minute and consider the thought that if you are loved by all those around you, are you actually doing something right within the earth. Is it possible that if you have this great and glamorous ministry—this lavish and plush ministry within the earth—you are actually not engaged in the same ministry Jesus Himself was engaged in. Jesus emphatically declared unto His disciples that they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and He declared unto His disciples that they would be persecuted in one city, and would flee into another city, only to potentially experience persecution in that city as well. I would dare say that many ministries we place much esteem and much emphasis on within the earth in this generation might not be those ministries which are actually partnering together with Jesus in the same ministry which He Himself did within and upon the earth. What we find in this passage of Scripture is Jesus calling the twelve disciples unto Himself that they might partner together with Him in ministry, but now that they would be sent forth and released into the earth, they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and they would undoubtedly experience persecution in whatever city of cities they went. What’s more, is that as you continue reading this passage of Scripture, you will find even more and even further what Jesus demanded and required of them. I would submit and present unto you that which Jesus demands of those whom He would call unto Himself to partner together in the same ministry which He Himself was engaged in. I leave you with the words which are found beginning with the thirty-second verse of this chapter and continue through the forty-second and final verse of the chapter:
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, Him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loveth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’ps reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:32-42).