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The Mission of the Twelve


Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

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The Mission of the Twelve Apostles.

1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.   2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.   3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.   4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.   5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.   6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.   7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead;   8 And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.   9 And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.

We have here, I. The method Christ took to spread his gospel, to diffuse and enforce the light of it. He had himself travelled about, preaching and healing; but he could be only in one place at a time, and therefore now he sent his twelve disciples abroad, who by this time were pretty well instructed in the nature of the present dispensation, and able to instruct others and deliver to them what they had received from the Lord. Let them disperse themselves, some one way and some another, to preach the kingdom of God, as it was now about to be set up by the Messiah, to make people acquainted with the spiritual nature and tendency of it, and to persuade them to come into the interests and measures of it. For the confirming of their doctrine, because it was new and surprising, and very different from what they had been taught by the scribes and Pharisees, and because so much depended upon men's receiving, or not receiving it, he empowered them to work miracles (v. 1, 2): He gave them authority over all devils, to dispossess them, and cast them out, though ever so numerous, so subtle, so fierce, so obstinate. Christ designed a total rout and ruin to the kingdom of darkness, and therefore gave them power over all devils. He authorized and appointed them likewise to cure disease, and to heal the sick, which would make them welcome wherever they came, and not only convince people's judgments, but gain their affections. This was their commission. Now observe,

1. What Christ directed them to do, in prosecution of this commission at this time, when they were not to go far or be out long. (1.) They must not be solicitous to recommend themselves to people's esteem by their outward appearance. Now that they begin to set up for themselves, they must have no dress, nor study to make any other figure than what they made while they followed him: they must go as they were, and not change their clothes, or so much as put on a pair of new shoes. (2.) They must depend upon Providence, and the kindness of their friends, to furnish them with what was convenient for them. They must not take with them either bread or money, and yet believe they should not want. Christ would not have his disciples shy of receiving the kindnesses of their friends, but rather to expect them. Yet St. Paul saw cause not to go by this rule, when he laboured with his hands rather than be burdensome. (3.) They must not change their lodgings, as suspecting that those who entertained them were weary of them; they have no reason to be so, for the ark is a guest that always pays well for its entertainment: "Whatsoever house ye enter into there abide (v. 4), that people may know where to find you, that your friends may know you are not backward to serve them, and your enemies may know you are not ashamed nor afraid to face them; there abide till you depart out of that city; stay with those you are used to." (4.) They must put on authority, and speak warning to those who refused them as well as comfort to those that received them, v. 5. "If there be any place that will not entertain you, if the magistrates deny you admission and threaten to treat you as vagrants, leave them, do not force yourselves upon them, nor run yourselves into danger among them, but at the same time bind them over to the judgment of God for it; shake off the dust of your feet for a testimony against them." This will, as it were, be produced in evidence against them, that the messengers of the gospel had been among them, to make them a fair offer of grace and peace, for this dust they left behind there; so that when they perish at last in their infidelity this will lay and leave their blood upon their own heads. Shake off the dust of your feet, as much as to say you abandon their city, and will have no more to do with them.

2. What they did, in prosecution of this commission (v. 6): They departed from their Master's presence; yet, having still his spiritual presence with them, his eye and his arm going along with them, and, thus borne up in their work, they went through the towns, some or other of them, all the towns within the circuit appointed them, preaching the gospel, and healing every where. Their work was the same with their Master's, doing good both to souls and bodies.

II. We have here Herod's perplexity and vexation at this. The communicating of Christ's power to those who were sent forth in his name, and acted by authority from him, was an amazing and convincing proof of his being the Messiah, above any thing else; that he could not only work miracles himself, but empower others to work miracles too, this spread his fame more than any thing, and made the rays of this Sun of righteousness the stronger by the reflection of them even from the earth, from such mean illiterate men as the apostles were, who had nothing else to recommend them, or to raise any expectations from them, but that they had been with Jesus, Acts iv. 13. When the country sees such as these healing the sick in the name of Jesus it gives it an alarm. Now observe,

1. The various speculations it raised among the people, who, though they thought not rightly, yet could not but think honourably, of our Lord Jesus, and that he was an extraordinary person, one come from the other world; that either John Baptist, who was lately persecuted and slain for the cause of God, or one of the old prophets, that had been persecuted and slain long since in that cause, was risen again, to be recompensed for his sufferings by this honour put upon him; or that Elias, who was taken alive to heaven in a fiery chariot, had appeared as an express from heaven, v. 7, 8.

2. The great perplexity it created in the mind of Herod: When he had heard of all that was done by Christ, his guilty conscience flew in his face, and he was ready to conclude with them that John was risen from the dead. He thought he had got clear of John, and should never be troubled with him any more, but, it seems, he is mistaken; either John is come to life again or here is another in his spirit and power, for God will never leave himself without witness. "What shall I do now?" saith Herod. "John have I beheaded, but who is this? Is he carrying on John's work, or is he come to avenge John's death? John baptized, but he does not; John did no miracle, but he does, and therefore appears more formidable than John." Note, Those who oppose God will find themselves more and more embarrassed. However, he desired to see him, whether he resembled John or no; but he might soon have been put out of this pain if he would but have informed himself of that which thousands knew, that Jesus preached, and wrought miracles, a great while before John was beheaded, and therefore could not be John raised from the dead. He desired to see him; and why did he not go and see him? Probably, because he thought it below him either to go to him or to send for him; he had enough of John Baptist, and cared not for having to do with any more such reprovers of sin. He desired to see him, but we do not find that ever he did, till he saw him at his bar, and then he and his men of war set him at nought, Luke xxiii. 11. Had he prosecuted his convictions now, and gone to see him, who knows but a happy change might have ben wrought in him? But, delaying it now, his heart was hardened, and when he did see him he was as much prejudiced against him as any other.