Disciples called and commissioned

2024-02-02 A

Please read Mark 1: 16 -20

A. Jesus plans for the future

In the previous study guides we dealt with many miracles that Jesus did and teachings He gave, but He was not sent by the Farher to heal all the sick people on earth, nor to give all the teaching that we would need. His main task was to die on the cross that mankind may have the opportunity of being saved from eternal damnation.

He knew that His ministry on earth was limited to a period of approximately three-and-a-half years and would be mostly confined to the Jewish people in the land of Israel. The Gospel, however, had to be taken to all the nations all over the world. So Jesus had to call and train people to take up this task once He had laid the foundation and ascended to heaven. They would then proceed with the work He had started.

Let this be a lesson to Christian leaders. We are not called to lead forever. We have a limited lifespan during which to complete what God the Father planned for us beforehand. Let us not hang on to our position, convinced that no-one else can do it. No-one could really do the work as well as Jesus, yet He would pass the responsibility on to them. Let us see how He did it.

B. THE PEOPLE He called TO BE his disciples

In the quoted Scripture we read about the first four people He called. They were Simon and his brother Andrew; also James and John. These were fishermen. Like many other, they made a living by using a boat and nets to fish to provide in their needs. The Lord found and called them while they were thus busy with their daily task. They were not sleeping or sitting around at home, idling the time away.

God’s work of restoring his Kingdom in the hearts of men, is of utmost importantance. It requires industrious, trustworthy, respected workmen for they are also ambassadors for the King of Kings, the Creator of all. It is a great honour to work for Him. Lazy people are not welcome in His service. His servants must work harder and better than all the people around them. They must get up very early in the morning and devote time to seek their Master’s will by studying his Word. Before beginnng with the day’s work, they must minister to Him in person by means of worship and praise. Then they must receive his orders for the day and pray for wisdom to accomplish it all.

C. JESUS AS EXAMPLE OF A CHRISTIAN WORKER

The Lord Jesus trained his disciples, first of all by personally setting an example for them to follow. Apart from setting the standard for holy living He also set an example of zeal in ministry. The zeal for his Father’s house consumed him (Joh 2:17).

In the previous study guides we had a glimpse of his daily strain. When He was in the boat crossing the lake, it met with a terrific storm that interrupted his short period of sleep. The minute He set foot on shore on the other side of the lake, He was confronted by a demon-possessed man. To fight the devil, saps both one’s spiritual and physical energy. He had hardly driven out the demons from this possessed man, when He was confronted by the community who pressurised him to leave their territory. If you are surrounded by a crowd of shouting people, it taxes your emotional strength. So He had no time to rest for a couple of minutes, but mmediately had to get back into the boat and sail back to Capernaum.

On stepping ashore, a huge crowd was awaiting Him. They urged Him to serve  them. They wanted to be healed, devils to be driven out and to be taught. It was then that He healed the woman with the issue of blood and said He could feel power flowing from Him. Straight after that, He arrived at Jairus’ house to raise his daughter from death. What a work day!

This is the example Jesus would set to the people He was about to call into his service. He once said that He was to work while it was still day because the night was coming when no one could work. A person who wants to be in full-time service for the Lord, must understand that it is hard work and sometimes demands great sacrifice. A person in full-time service of God who is lazy, is a disgrace to God and should resign and find other work to earn his living. He must not take the money that was given to advance the Kingdom of God and apply it for his own use.

D. He called his disciples by promising them a greater FUTURE

Jesus did not plead with these four men to follow Him; He just called them, promising them something much greater. They were trained to catch fish; He would train them to catch human beings. “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” is what He promised Peter and Andrew. No wonder they immediately left their boats and nets and followed Him.

James and John were with their father and their hired people in the boat mending the nets. They were blessed above many others to have there own family business, yet they were common fishermen. To be a member of the Mesiah’s Kingdom team, was so much greater. They would never have dreamt of something so exalted. So they did not hesitate for a moment, nor did they ask their father’s permission. They just jumped up and followed Jesus.

E. ON CALLING THEM HE demanding their wholehearted commitment

In Mat. 8:21 we read that a certain man said to Him, “Lord let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” This sounds like harsh words, but the Lord wanted him to understand the tremendous importance of His work.

When a person has passed away, you can’t really do anything which he would percieve and enjoy. Thereore, if the burial prevents you from following the Lord, it is better to allow the unsaved relatives to take care of the funeral so you can be free to do God’s work. To follow Jesus, means to be a fisher of men, and that means being instruments of God for the rescue of the living from eternal death. That is of so much more value than giving a dead person an excellent funeral. (What is more, some people meant that they wished first to take care of their elderly parents up to their death before following Jesus. That could be for many, many years.)

In Mat 8:19 and 20, we read the following: Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus warned this man of the hardships of following Him. Often Jesus had to sleep in the open air as He travelled from one place to another. On one occasion, when He was travelling through the territory of the Samaritans, He sent two of disciples ahead to find them accommodation for the night. The Samaritans refused point blank because He was a Jew and the two races did not mix. Jesus did not have a car so that He could quickly turn back to the previous town or push on to the next one. In all probability they then had to sleep by the roadside, without food, no water to wash away the day’s sweat and dust, nor a bed to sleep in. Some might have found a stone to serve as pillow.

Enlisting for Jesus’ “Fishers of men course” is not meant for those who love their comfort.

F. People called into fulltime service normally have been prepared by the Lord beforehand

Just another question before we proceed: How could those four men have just followed Jesus so readily when they didn’t even know who He was?

Well, firstly there was such a degree of authority in His voice that they could sense that this truly was an exceptional person.

Secondly, it was not the first time some of them had seen Jesus, or had at least heard of Him. John the Baptist had been preaching and baptizing people at the Jordan for some time with the specific purpose of preparing the way for Jesus to minister to the nation. Huge crowds, those that had a spiritual interest, had been flocking there to hear Him.  Jesus Himself had also gone there to be baptized. On that occasion one of John’s disciples, Andrew, was present (Joh 1:40). As Jesus emerged from the water, John pointed to Him, calling out, “There is the Lamb of God Who is taking away the sins of the world.” Andrew then left and, finding his brother Simon (Peter), took him to meet Jesus personally.

Since Simon and Peter were fishermen, same as James and John that were fishing nearby, they would probably have shared with them the good news of having found the Messiah.

Then too, every devout Jew was expecting that God would send them the Messiah and these four men were therefore open to recognise him at His appearance.

So the answer is that God had prepared their hearts beforehand, and when they were called, they were ready to follow Him.

G. Christ’s commissioning (Sending forth) of his disciples.

(Please read Luke 9:1-6)

The twelve men who Jesus called, followed Him continually for a long period of time. They went wherever He went and shared the hardships. They endured the hatred of the Phariseesand witnessed His mighty miracles. They also absorbed His profound teaching regarding the coming Kingdom of God.

But it serves no purpose for a son to continue just watching his father slaughtering sheep for the table. Some time or other he himself must go out, select one, catch it, slaughter it, skin it and prepare the meat for cooking. By just watching, he would never learn how to do the job. So, one day, Jesus gathered the disciples to Him with the purpose of sending them forth to make disciples themselves.

H. Power and authority for the work

The first thing He did, was to confer power and authority upon them. The same power that had flowed from Him when He healed the woman with the issue of blood and all the other miracles, that power He now betowed upon them. Also the authority with which He drove out the demons from the man of Gadara, the selfsame authority He imparted to them.

No person can do God’s work unless he receives his power and authority. A person can shout as hard as he can, but unless he received power and authority from God, the sick will not be healed, the demons will not depart and the dead will not be raised. To heal the sick and to drive out demons, is supernatural work, and requires supernatural power.

This episode in connection with the sending out of the twelve disciples is also recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In those books, besides the healing of the sick and the driving out of demons, it is also stated that they were to cleanse the lepers and raise the dead.

Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus had so much confidence in His disciples that He commanded them to raise the dead? He knew they were just normal, weak people, but He also knew the power of the Holy Spirit that would work through them. He knew that the same Holy Spirit, would work through them, doing the same  powerful works He had done.

In John 14:12-14, we find a more astounding truth from the mouth of our Lord Jesus: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

To do greater works than Jesus seems impossible and if anyone besides Jesus himself had spoken these words, we would have considered him to be deceived by his own pride. Yet, we must remember that these mighty deeds are meant to bring honour to the Son and to the Father. They are not accomplished by the power of man, but by the power of God. The more mighty works the disciples did, the more honour He would receive.

Such mighty deeds have another purpose as well. They demonstrate God’s love for mankind and His power and authority over the powers of nature and of evil. Many people grew up with no concept of the enormous authority and power of God at all. They find it difficult to believe the Gospel but when they see what God does, it drives the darkness from their spirits and infuses faith within their hearts to trust Jesus for their salvation.

I. What the disciples were to do on theIr OUTREACH

We have already discussed this in detail, so let us summarize: They had to heal the sick, cleanse lepers, drive out demons, raise the dead and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Proclaiming the Kingdom of God; what does that mean? Well, basically it means passing on all the teaching that Jesus gave. But the apostle John said that if all that Jesus taught and did, were to be written down, all the books in the whole world would not be sufficient to contain them. Therefore it means that they were to proclaim selectively whatever was relevant in each particular situation. In this they would naturally need to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus always taught with wisdom. In this context He taught his disciples that they should not cast pearls to pigs. It would be of no value to them. They would be angered because they were not getting pig’s food. They would turn around in anger and tear the giver of the pearls to pieces.

This means that not all people would be able to understand the truths of God’s Kingdom. Some would reject it and boil over with anger towards the speaker. They would regard the truth as poison that could be damaging to them. (I recall how a relative with whom I shared the Gospel, accused me of trying to destroy his faith. His faith however consisted of an objective belief that there was a god, but he had no personal relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth and with His Son and with the Holy Spirit).

This does not mean that we must preach only what people would accept, but that we must use our common sense to decide which message would suit the particular person. We must be led by the Holy Spirit. He knows the heart of every person and discerns which message would be most beneficial to each.  

J. Charging a fee for the proclamation of the Gospel or for healing of the sick, etc.

In the book of Matthew (10:8) it is also recorded that Jesus warned them to share all these truths and deeds of grace without desiring any payment. They had received all this from him without paying for it and were to give it out, free of charge as well.

In this world it is only the rich that can afford good things. Poor people must just stand and look on and long for the beautiful clothes, houses and cars, but they are not in a position to own them. They walk around in the shops but go home empty-handed.

In God’s Kingdom it is not so. Jesus’ shop has no till. There is no check-out or person where you must pay. You can take anything you want off the shelves and put them in your bag and no one is going to search you. There is no security guard at the gate for it is not possible to steal anything in Jesus’ shop, because it is all free! All that you need is a heart that truly desires and an arm and hand of faith that reaches out and takes it. If you have two arms and hands of faith, so much the better.

What Jesus doesn’t like to see, is someone leaving His shop emptyhanded. When you enter at the door, there is a big bag labelled “Salvation”. That is the first thing you must take; salvation for your soul. That includes forgiveness of your sins, as well as eternal life. Then there is a new heart which means an earnest desire to love the Lord and to serve Him. In this bag you can also pack love for your fellow men, freedom from lust and from desires to drink, smoke, swear, steal, etc.. All of these are free of charge!  

K. Rules for conduct and daily living

After He had instructed His disciples on their ministry, He also taught them as to their daily living. They were not to take a walking stick with them to protect themselves against snakes or robbers, because God’s angels would watch over them. They were not shoulder a bag of clothes, blankets and “what not”. That would just be a heavy burden that would delay them. It would cause them to trudge along slowly from village to village where they were to minister. They were not to take money with them, because if they did, robbers would be sure to ransack them on lonely paths. They were not to take two sets of clothes, because God would provide for their washing and ironing. God would provide all the food and drink that was necessary, as well as a house in which to sleep at night.

Furthermore when they entered a town and somebody made his house available for them to stay in, they were not to be shy of eating the food so provided. God himself would amply reward their benefactor so that he would not lose out by hosting God’s workers. Changing from one home to another would waste a lot of time that they were rather to use to do God’s work.

L. What to do when not accepted

Lastly, He said to them that if the people of a particular village would not receive them, they were not to take anything from that village. They were to move on, shaking off even the dust from their feet. That would serve as a public testimony against the residents. It means that they had not taken away anything from that town; not even the dust.

Servants of God are not to accept things from people who really do not want to give it to them. God’s labourers are not beggars. They should not humiliate  themselves to the extent of receiving gifts not given from a thankful and loving heart. God does not appreciate gifts given sulkingly. 

M. FEEDBACK ON THE DISCIPLES’ first outreach

In the last verse of this passage, v 6, we read that they went everywhere, from village to village, and preached the message and healed the sick. In that way they were obedient to the Lord and did what He had asked of them.

Would we be willing to do the same: to leave home to care for others; to launch out with just the clothes on our backs? Would we walk from town to town in the heat, cold and rain, heal the sick, preach the Gospel and trust in the Lord alone to provide in all our needs? Would we? Would I? Many people who want to serve the Lord would first ask, “How much? How much will I be paid? What about a house, a car, a cell phone, air tickets?” 

You may wonder how it all turned out. Did they return weak, sick, hungry, grumbling? In Luke 10:17 it is recorded what happened at a later stage when Jesus sent out 70 of His disciples:

(They) came back full of joy and testified, “Lord, even the demons were subject to us in your name.”

This means that they were successful in their mission; and so it will be for us too.

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