And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.
And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.
For Lives Unaware!
Initially in our gospel reading, the stage is set in the divine contest between good and evil. The creative process will be held over an extended period of time and is described by our author using the agricultural setting known by the faithful Jews in Israel. The scene opens with Israel's remaining sheep being endangered by ravenous wolves, which are devouring the flock within sight of the shepherds. Using the metaphor, our author then introduced the initial empowerment of our Lord's disciples, notably naming each apostle given the commission.
However, as persons in the Church today who hold to the traditions passed along to us, we find that the warnings to those first witnesses carry over in our own calendar. The message of Church history clearly states that societal wolves plot to yet devour some of our Lord's sheep. This is true for us therefore from the manger to the harvest... by mean of abortion, dissolution of marriages, persecution and euthanasia.. each a methodical power attempting to nullify the influence of righteous shepherds.
Consequently we of the Church need to pay very close attention to the message passed along here by the church of Matthew. We shall be delivered up by many in this modern world's societies, but during the trials shall be given the Word to speak in the midst of the public square. Congregations are subsequently warned, therefore, to heed the words of our Lord given in the last of this week's text.
You see, as disciples our mission for the whole Church continues in Israel and elsewhere. When we are persecuted in answer to our proclamation, we are told by our Lord to move on unless incarcerated. We are not to stubbornly attempt revivals of the many whited-sepulchers of former times, but are instead called to declare salvation through Jesus Christ to those lost sheep who are found wandering in fields of any societal setting. May our misson be so empowered by the Holy Spirit, thanks be to God!