I tried to imagine myself among the twelve men Jesus called and then sent in chapter 10 of the gospel of Matthew. As I read the scriptures, I pictured myself standing among them, hearing these instructions for the first time with them. I then wondered how I would receive His instructions today, in the world I inhabit, in the Church as it is today. What follows are my thoughts as I read chapter 10 as though I am standing with the twelve. In all fairness though, these are not just my own thoughts. I have heard the same kind of thoughts expressed by others, so I can’t take all of the credit (or the rap) for what follows.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” What if it doesn’t work? What if I don’t have enough faith in that? What if I pray for them and they don’t get healed or come back to life? Then I’ll look like an idiot, and I’ll make people doubt Your power.
“Do not take any gold or silver…take no bag for the journey or extra tunic or sandals…” No provisions? No money? That doesn’t seem very prepared to me. What if there’s an emergency? How can I wear the same clothes the whole time? Is it wise to depend on the generosity of the people we are being sent to?
“Be on your guard..they will hand you over…and flog you.” Beg your pardon? Surely there is some other, less dangerous way to do this.
“All men will hate you…when you are persecuted, flee…” I don’t want people to hate me. I work very hard to make sure people like me. And I can’t run very fast. Seriously. I can’t.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Don’t be afraid? I’m already afraid. I was afraid when you said “flog”. Now you’re saying I might die. I don’t know about this. I have a family to think about.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” There must be some other meaning to that statement.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” I don’t know. This all sounds extreme. I’m going to have to pray about this. You can’t make this kind of commitment without a lot of prayer and counsel. I need to be wise and figure out if I am really being called to do something this radical.
I wonder. If Jesus chose 12 of us today, how many of us would still be standing there at the end of His instructions? Would there be one who would say “Here I am. Send me.”?
We don’t know what those disciples were thinking or feeling. What we do know is this. Because of the commitment of the early followers of Jesus, you and I received the good news. The willingness of a few to lay down their lives for Christ completely changed the world. We also know that the world still needs to hear about Jesus.
As I put myself among them, hearing the instructions Jesus sent them out with, I marvel at their courage. And I am inspired by their love for the One sending them. I am also very aware that I don’t really know if I would have remained standing there. I need to search my heart and examine the strength of my love and commitment to Jesus and the radical way of life that comes with being His follower. And then I need to get at His feet and ask Him to strengthen that in me that feels so weak at the moment.
I should probably also stop trying to figure out just how much a flogging would hurt. I think I may be obsessing.