In Luke 6 we read how Jesus chose twelve of his followers to have a special relationship with himself.
Luke 6 12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Jesus called these Twelve his “apostles.” That word means somebody who is sent or commissioned. But up until Luke chapter nine the Twelve apostles haven’t really been doing anything different from any of the other followers of Jesus. In Luke 9 everything was going to change.
Up until then, all the followers of Jesus had just been watching him as he went around preaching and healing and driving out demons. From his first sermon in Nazareth Jesus had been fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 61.
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’….
21 (Jesus) began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
So Jesus preached the good news of the year of the Lord’s favour, the good news that the Kingly Rule of God is at hand, the good news that the time has come when God will save his people. And at the same time as declaring that good news in words, Jesus brought the good news in action, freeing the prisoners, making the blind see and setting free those who were oppressed.
Luke 4 ends with the story of Jesus driving a demon out of a man in the synagogue at Capernaum. And we read
Luke 4 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’ 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
Everybody recognised that Jesus had authority and power to drive out demons and to heal the sick. Now in Luke 9 Jesus delegates that same power and authority to his Twelve apostles.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill.
In just the same way as Jesus was bringing the good news of the kingdom and God’s salvation in words and in actions, so now the Twelve were being sent out to continue and extend that mission.
We saw in Luke 5 how Jesus had called Simon Peter, together with Andrew, James and John following the miracle of an astonishing catch of fish which almost caused the fishing boats to sink.
Luke 5:10 … Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Now the time had come for all the apostles to start catching men, by proclaiming the good news and setting free all those who were captives of sin. Jesus gave the apostles all the authority and power they would need and then he sent them out to continue his mission of bringing God’s salvation to a lost world.
It is very important to recognise that preaching the good news in words went hand in hand with bringing the good news in actions of miracles of healing and deliverance. The miracles were not just signs to prove that the good news was true. The miracles were concrete physical expressions of that good news. The preaching announced that God would set people free and make the blind to see, and the miracles brought that new reality into the lives of the hearers. Salvation was not just an intellectual belief but a physical and emotional experience.
And it should be the same today. Miracles of healing and deliverance should go hand in hand with preaching the good news in every age. God is King and when the King speaks, things happen! That is the way it was as the apostles obeyed the commission Jesus gave them. 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
As he sent the Twelve on their way, Jesus also gave them instructions on how to conduct themselves.
3 He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.
Up until that point Jesus and his followers had been welcomed everywhere they went. They had received generous hospitality in every town and Jesus was expecting that this would continue to be the experience of the apostles as they went out in his name and with his message. The apostles would not need a staff to defend themselves or a bag to beg for money. They wouldn’t need lots of cash or a spare shirt. Whatever they needed would be provided and this would keep them trusting in God.
That aspect of their mission was particular to apostles. Luke 9:3 is not giving us rules which apply to every Christian in every place in every age. In fact at the Last Supper Jesus gave the same apostles very different instructions.
Luke 22 35 … Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’
‘Nothing,’ they answered. 36 He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag
The situation for all Jesus’s followers would be very different after he was crucified, so the rules would change.
But when Jesus sent out the Twelve in their mission In Luke 9 Jesus gave them specific instructions to keep them depending on God to provide for their needs. Rules appropriate for the urgency of their mission which would make sure they weren’t distracted by riches or comfort or security. How sad it is that some celebrity evangelists and preachers today seem to be distracted by popularity, money and comfort. ‘Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. This need to depend solely on God and the generous hospitality of the villages they visited was the reason for the other slightly unexpected rule. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.
In those days there were all kinds of travelling preachers who would go from village to village. They would accept hospitality in one house but if somebody else offered better accommodation they would move on to that house instead, and then again and again looking for better and better accommodation and more lavish hospitality. Jesus makes it clear that the Twelve were not to do that. They should be satisfied with the first offer they get. They shouldn’t bring the gospel in disrepute by appearing to only be in it for the money or the fancy food or the most comfortable beds. Another important lesson for some celebrity evangelists and preachers!
There are still principles here for all Christians. We should be putting our trust in God and depend on God and not on having lots of money. We should not be chasing luxury or even comfort all the time. Like the Twelve we should be focussed on the urgent and vital mission God has given us to proclaim the good news in words and in actions.
And then Jesus gave the Twelve one more instruction as they continued Jesus’s mission.
5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’
In those days when Jews visited Gentile towns they would shake the dust off their feet as they left. They believed that even the dust of a non-Jewish town would make them ceremonially unclean. That was the background to Jesus’s words. It was not that the dust on their feet would have any spiritual effect on the Twelve in any way. But it was a symbolic action, even a prophetic action. Shaking the dust off their feet was saying that the town was cut off from God’s salvation because they had rejected God’s messengers. Rejecting the message of the Twelve was just the same as rejecting Jesus himself, and Jesus was the only way of salvation.
That is still true today. Our mission is different from that given to the Twelve. We are not called to go from village to village and town to town. So we won’t often walk away from people, shaking the dust off our feet. We will keep on sharing the love of Jesus with our friends and neighbours in words and actions until they put their trust in Jesus too. But if people reject us they are rejecting Jesus as well. He is the only Saviour!
The Twelve apostles obeyed the commission Jesus gave them, and God blessed their mission.
6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
At our morning of prayer David asked an important question. What is the vision of the church? What do we see as our mission? When we read the Gospels some of the things that the apostles did were unique to the Twelve and to that time and place. But most of the time when we read about what Jesus said to the apostles or more generally to the wider circle of his disciples, we read those things as applying to ourselves as well, because we are Jesus’s followers. So the vision of our church is simple. We are aiming to follow Jesus in the ways his first followers did. And we seek to continue with that same mission Jesus gave to the twelve.
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,
Jesus has given his church in every age the same power and authority to bring deliverance and healing that he had and that he delegated to the Twelve apostles. That is just as true today as it was in Jesus’s lifetime. In fact, since God poured out his Holy Spirit on the church at Pentecost, we have the power and authority of Jesus even more than the apostles had then in Luke 9. And we share the same message.
2 … he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill.
In the same way, God sends us our to share the good news about Jesus, in words and in actions. People need to hear that God loves them as much as ever. Our friends and neighbours and indeed every stranger we meet need to experience that love of God through our words and through our actions. The poor still need to hear the good news, those imprisoned by sin need God to release them, The oppressed need God to set them free. It is still the year of the Lord’s favour. This is the good news God gives us to share.
There is a story about a messenger in a faraway land who was sent by the King to the prison with a message for the Governor. But it was a hot day and the messenger stopped at a taverna along the way for a tequila. He was thirsty so he had another tequila. And another. And another. So it was dusk as the messenger arrived at the prison as the bell was tolling as another prisoner was executed. The messenger delivered his message – it was a letter of pardon, for the prisoner who had just died.
6 So (The Twelve) set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.