What does it say?
Varying numbers of people followed Jesus as his disciples (learners). After a good period of time being with Jesus and learning from him, and following a night of prayer, Jesus formally commissions 12 of them to be his apostles (sent ones). Though still called disciples at times, these 12 form the leadership core of Jesus’ followers. A few of the names will appear differently in other gospels, though the 12 individuals are the same. Cultural and linguistic differences and what we might call “nicknames” account for these differences.
Jesus is sending them to announce the presence of the kingdom of God to Jews living in Galilee. In Matthew 10:5-15 he instructs them how to go about this first solo mission without him. In the remainder of the chapter Jesus makes it very clear that they will face opposition and even persecution. This is a major discourse that begins to define what it means to follow Jesus. Following Jesus involves following him into suffering and self-denial.
What does it mean?
Our modern word missionary that comes from the Latin word missio (to send) is influenced by the Greek word translated here as apostle – sent one. The term implies an official representative. Though these 12 occupy a formal position of leadership, there is a sense in which we all are ambassadors of Jesus Christ (2Cor 5:20). Being this type of ambassador (apostle) is not a matter of geography or vocation, but of commitment to represent Jesus Christ in all we say and do.
A striking emphasis in this chapter is the cost of following Jesus. We will face opposition, persecution and suffering. Through the centuries countless believers have sacrificed their lives as martyrs, and more have been martyred in the last century than all previous church history combined. Not all suffering is physical, of course, and those of who live in relative safety and prosperity will face the same realities one way or the other.
How will I respond?
If I am an ambassador of Christ, what does that look like in my life? What can I do this week to be a more effective ambassador? Who in my sphere of influence needs to know God’s love and how can I be an effective one sent to that person? Am I willing to suffer in some way or even be inconvenienced to be an ambassador for Christ? Why or why not?