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(1.) Objects of the Mission.—Powers of the Missionaries.
The extended period of time which Christ spent in Galilee was employed, also, in the education of the men who were to carry on his work upon earth. The disciples, at first, accompanied him as witnesses of his ministry; but, in order to accustom them to independent labours, and to test their qualifications for the work, he sent them forth on a trial mission. An additional object was to spread, by their agency, through all the towns and villages of Galilee, the announcement that the kingdom of God had appeared. He by no means sent them to proclaim the whole truth of salvation; they were as yet incapable of this; and it was at a later period only that he promised the gift of the 258Spirit to qualify them for it. So long as HE remained upon the earth, HE was the sole teacher. They were only to proclaim every where that the kingdom of God, the object of all men’s desire, had come; to point out to the people of Galilee the great grace of God in calling the Founder of that kingdom from their midst. Their present work was to be a type of their future one, when the great work within them should be accomplished. As they were to become bearers of the word, the Spirit, and the powers of Christ, so preparation was already to be made for this, though as yet incompletely.
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” We see that Christ could communicate certain of the supernatural powers that dwelt in him to those who devoted themselves to serve him as organs. But as these powers emanated from the source of Divine life in him, so we conclude that the degree in which they were imparted to others depended upon the degree in which they had imbibed that life from him.
The disciples thus sent forth were to confirm the truth of their announcement by miraculous acts, pointing to Him who gave the power to perform them. At first, the general attention of the people was only to be called to the great epoch that had dawned; the developement of the doctrine of the kingdom was to be left to Christ’s own teaching, and to the subsequent operations of his Spirit. This explains why he did not further direct the Apostles as to what they should teach. Their mission was to Galilee alone; and the exclusion of the Samaritans and heathen462462 Matthew evidently connects many things with the instructions given to the Apostles in view of their first journey, which, chronologically, belong later, viz.: to those given at the mission of the Seventy, which he omits. But it is likely that Luke, ix., 1, seq. gives but an abridgment, and we may fill it out from Matthew. is, therefore, not at all inconsistent with what we have said of Christ’s plan for the universal establishment of his kingdom. All the difficulties that have been found in this restriction flow from considering it apart from the proper period of Christ’s life to which it belongs. During his life on earth, His ministry was to be confined to the Jews. Before the kingdom of God could be planted among the heathen by the proclamation of his truth in this new form, it was necessary that the knowledge of it should be fully developed in the disciples; and this could only be done, after his departure, by the enlightening power of the higher Spirit that was to be imparted to them. The links of the chain of internal and external progress, by which this last great event was to be brought about, were closely bound to each other; a 259premature developement would only hinder instead of hastening the result. Before the Apostles could teach the heathen, or find access to their hearts, they had to learn the peculiarities of the Gospel itself, as well as its relations to the religion of the Old Testament. Even had they succeeded in reaching the mind of the heathen with their defective apprehension of Christ’s doctrine, and thus making Jews of them, it would only have been the more difficult afterward to eradicate the laboriously—planted errors, and impart a pure form of Christianity. But this knowledge was among the things of which Christ himself said to his disciples, “Ye cannot bear them now;” it was bound up with many truths that were as yet veiled from them. Nor could he, consistently with his plan, as we have above unfolded it,463463 Book iv., pt. i., chap. ii. impart these truths as separate and ready—made; the fruit of knowledge had to grow up in their religious consciousness from the seeds of knowledge sown there by the Spirit of God.
The direction, therefore, given to the Apostles, not to go to the heathen in Galilee and on the border, necessarily followed from the plan of Jesus. “But,” it may be asked, “why did he not explain to them the grounds of this restriction?” It might be enough to reply to this, that it is not likely that the full instructions, with the reasons in detail, are preserved to us, but only an extract containing the most essential features. But, apart from this, Christ could not at that time have given them all his reasons; for, in that case, he must have imparted to them what they could not as yet comprehend. They were then unconscious organs for the execution of his commands.
But their relation to the Jews was quite a different thing. To the latter they were to impart no entirely new doctrine; and there was, therefore, no fear, as in the case of the heathen, that they would plant seeds of error which would have to be uprooted afterward. The Apostles were to take hold of expectations already cherished among the Jews, and to proclaim that the object of desire had come. The errors which yet biassed their own minds were shared by the Jews as a body; errors from which nothing but the spirit of the Gospel could free either them or the Jews. And, besides, they must have received many seeds of the higher life from the society and teaching of Christ; and, in scattering these, they could aid in preparing the ground for subsequent culture.
Perhaps, also, the Saviour, in pointing out “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” as the first objects of their toil, had in view, also, “other sheep, not of this fold,”464464 John, x., 16. belonging to those whom he had come to collect into one flock, under one shepherd. There was sufficient ground, moreover, for excluding Samaria from the sphere of this trial—mission, in the brief duration to which it had to be limited; apart from the fact that the 260Apostles did not stand in the same relation to the Samaritans as to the Galilean Jews. They were not prepared to adapt themselves to the feelings of the Samaritans, nor to meet the controversies into which they must inevitably be led among them; the way in which the two sons of Zebedee treated that people at a later period is proof of this. There was no danger, however, that the disciples would so misunderstand Christ as to infer that the Samaritans were to be excluded from the kingdom of God; what they had seen of his personal intercourse with that people, and of the love which he cherished for them, sufficiently guarded against that.
And so, too, they could not but infer that the exclusion of the heathen must not be extended too far. Besides, the Jews themselves465465 Cf. p. 88, 89. admitted that the heathen were to obtain a certain share in the kingdom of God, on condition of observing the Jewish law; and the disciples could hardly think less would be granted by their Master, whose words and actions breathed so very different a spirit.
(3.) The Instructions continued; the Apostles enjoined to rely on Providence
Christ sought to train his ministers to perform the duties of their calling without anxious care for the future. He bade them make no provision for their journey,466466 This is the essential part of the instruction; differences of detail are of no moment. but to trust in God, who would not see them want while faithfully doing their duty; to be content with what was offered them; to abide in the first house that was hospitably opened to them; and thus, having made one family their home, to extend their labours around it as a centre. The issue satisfied them that their Master had predicted rightly; they found, as he had promised, all their wants supplied.467467 Luke, xxii., 35. At that time the fame of Christ’s miracles had rendered the dispositions of the Galileans favourable; they had to fight no battles with fanatical enemies. Moreover, the substance of their teaching was not as yet so inconsistent with the prevailing modes of thought as to excite hatred and opposition.
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