Jesus Loves to Delegate: Sending Out the Twelve

Jesus Loves to Delegate: Sending Out the Twelve

Jesus Loves to Delegate: Sending Out the Twelve.

“And Jesus called His twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits… So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” (Mark 6:7, 12, 13).

Please read the story of Jesus sending out His disciples, in Matthew 10:1-15, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6).

“God could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food, or give us food without the aid of framers, bakers and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned teachers; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, God allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds and will of humanity to cooperate in the exercise of His will. For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what he could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, He allows us to fail. Enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication.”  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

Sent Out. About midway through His earthly ministry, Jesus decided to build on the experience the twelve disciples have had with Him, by sending them on their first missionary journey. This will be an extended training session to help them prepare for their many journeys after the Ascension and Pentecost, when they fan out to spread the Good News. So Jesus empowered them to represent Him, to display the spiritual power displayed by Jesus. He gave them power to preach the Kingdom, to encourage repentance of sins, to cast out demons, and to heal diseases. They will effectively do what Jesus had done to this point. They will graduate from disciples (“learners”) to apostles (“sent out on a mission”). They will be His messengers, His ambassadors, His representatives. They will physically expand Jesus’ ministry, since Jesus can only be in one place at a time. So Jesus sent them out in pairs to preach and to heal. Jesus and the disciples had earlier prayed for more workers for the Harvest. And now they are the answers to their own prayers. By giving His disciples His spiritual power and giftedness, He is establishing a pattern with all His future disciples through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As the Orthodox Church puts it, “He shares with us by grace what is His by nature.

Pairs. In His wisdom, Jesus sends the disciples out two by two. The pair of disciples will be present for mutual support. They can be present to encourage and strengthen each other, to comfort each other during difficult days, to offer discernment when decisions are called for, and to stir each other up when weary or tempted to be idle. Dividing into pairs will be an excellent team-building experience as they learn to rely on each other. Having a partner will also provide something important in Mosaic Law, a corroborating witness if one is needed (eg, Deut. 17:6).

Jesus the Delegator. Jesus provided an example of good leadership. He empowered His followers and invested His skills in His disciples. He gave them the authority to represent Him and use the gifts invested in them. He helped them to grow and mature by giving them responsibility to act on His behalf. Jesus, in a word, was skilled in the art of delegation. He shared his power, and He put them to work in order to learn by experience. He built up their faith as they worked and they saw the results of their efforts. He gave the disciples a sense of ownership of the mission as they took part in it. The disciples became participants instead of mere spectators. Jesus affirmed the dignity of each disciple by giving them a vote of confidence in their abilities. Jesus had only so much physical energy, and He could only be in one place at a time, yet He yearned to spread the word of the Kingdom far and wide in Judea. What better way to multiply His presence and power than to enable His disciples to preach and heal in His stead? Jesus loved to delegate, and it seems a part of His nature.

Instructions. Jesus had a few important instructions for His disciples. He had a vision for how he wanted the disciples to conduct themselves on their visits to various towns and villages.

  1. Travel light. Keep it simple. Depend on God for essentials. No extra money; no change of clothes; no extra sandals; no traveling food. There will be no “insurance” if left empty-handed.
  2. Go to the Jewish people first. That is Jesus’ mission right now. At this point don’t go to Gentiles or Samaritans. His priority is God’s lost sheep of Israel. He wanted His fellow Jews to be the ones to spread the Good News later, after He has returned to the Father and the Spirit has come down. Jesus’ Great Commission was very clear in Matthew 28:19, “Go to all the nations.” For now, start with the Jews. Everyone else will get involved in due time.
  3. Engage in a significant healing ministry. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matt. 10:8). Jesus is telling them, “I can do this, and now so can you!”
  4. Accept hospitality. Stay in the home that welcomes you, and give them your blessing of peace on that house. Stay in that home till you leave town, and receive whatever they give you for food and lodging. Don’t jump from one house to another as if you are dissatisfied with their hospitality. Be good guests.

Shake the Dust. Pious Jews would do this literally whenever leaving a Gentile town. They are making a statement that they are separating themselves from Gentile practices and influences. Even the very dust of a Gentile town was considered unclean. This was practiced as a way of staying pure from the heathens. The fact that Jesus wanted the disciples to do that act for unwelcome towns implies that those places who reject the Good News are no better than the heathens. If a town rejects you, Jesus is saying, shake the dust, shrug your shoulders, and move on. Leave them to their fate. You are not responsible for them anymore.

Give Freely. Give as freely as you have received.” (Matt. 10:8). I have graciously given you these spiritual gifts free of charge, so offer those same gifts in the same way in your travels. Jesus wanted them to invest themselves fully in this ministry. Don’t hold back and keep something in reserve. You have been generously empowered to do mighty works. It is not because you have somehow earned that power. It was freely given to you. So offer yourselves to others to the same extent I have offered myself to you. You have abundantly received, so in turn abundantly give to others.

Clever and Innocent. Jesus was frank about the opposition they would likely experience. He said they might seem to be sheep in among the wolves. So He wanted them to be as clever and shrewd as snakes, and as innocent and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16). Be street smart in your interactions. Don’t let the opposition outthink you. Be discerning and sensible, look deeply into the situation and be full of understanding. Be without guile or deviousness in your shrewdness. And another thing… Don’t fight back with those who resist. Don’t add to the problem by being defensive or vengeful. Don’t seek retribution or payback. You are not to harm or belittle anyone who doesn’t welcome you. You will not be doing the will of God if you try to get even. Be innocent of all that. When you shake the dust off your sandals, remember that you are also shaking off any resentment or unforgiveness. Shake the dust off, and move on without keeping any of that discord in your spirit. Depend on God for your protection, don’t think it all depends on you.

Accountability. As every good leader does, Jesus wanted a full report of the mission once they returned. He wants to process the whole experience with them so He can affirm them, encourage them, and provide what is needed to make it a learning experience. So, “when the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done.” (Luke 9:10). The content of their report was never recorded, but we can certainly imagine that they returned much like the way the Seventy returned in Luke 10:17, full of joy at the success of their mission.