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20230305 Seek His Lost Sheep

Matthew 10:5-15, 40 NET

5 Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Do not take gold, silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for the journey, or an extra tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions. 11 Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, give it greetings. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town! 40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

Jesus has prepared the twelve to preach the gospel that he preached, and to back up the claims of the gospel with demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power like he did. In today’s text, we see Jesus sending out the twelve with a specific evangelistic goal. They were sent out into their home region – Galilee. They were to preach the gospel to people like them. Jesus did not accompany them on this evangelistic tour. He sent them out to represent him, to reach who they could reach, and then to return and report to him.

He told them to seek his lost sheep. What did he mean by that? I think that command is instructive for us today as we attempt to evangelize those around us. We believe – as the apostle Paul believed – that we have no reason to be ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to save the lost sheep around us. We believe that Jesus promised us the same Holy Spirit that he gave to the apostles, and that the Holy Spirit will empower us to witness in Delco, in Dallas, in Detroit and in Delhi and Dubai.

So today we are looking at this passage to see what Jesus was telling his disciples when he commanded them to seek his lost sheep. We want to know how these instructions can help us fulfill our role in evangelizing the lost.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to do it on his terms (5-6).

For this evangelistic campaign, Jesus specifically told his disciples to avoid Gentiles and Samaritans, and only target the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He wanted them to seek other Galilean Jews like them, and to focus their evangelistic efforts on that people group.

In our missions literature, we are learning about our churches in Tanzania, who have established a link with an unreached people group called the Hadzabe tribe. These brothers are going on evangelistic trips to teach and preach Christ to this tribe who have no access to the gospel except through them. They are targeting the Hadzabe because they believe Jesus has specifically called them to that area to reach those people with the gospel.

Now, for us here in Delco, we should be in prayer to find out just who he is specifically calling us to reach. It is okay to contribute to the Penny Crusade for World Missions, but that is not all that Jesus wants for us to do. He wants us to evangelize the people in our own neighborhoods and towns. He might want us as a church to seek out a specific group of people who are not being reached by other churches. We will not know who he wants us to reach until we dare to ask him.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to preach his message (7).

By the way, when he said “lost sheep of the house of Israel” Jesus was referring to the whole house of Israel. He sent them into a particular territory, but to obey his command they had to go to every synagogue, speak to every family member, and explain the gospel to every soul. It was a call to bring the gospel to a particular area, but the gospel they preached was the same gospel that we are called to preach.

Jesus told them “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’” This is the message we are called on to preach as well. The kingdom is the kingdom of God. The king of this kingdom is Jesus Christ. We are called on to tell people who are presently living against that king that they need to renounce their opposition to him because he is coming back to earth to claim his rightful place as king of kings, lord of lords, president of presidents.

Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven, but most people misunderstand what he meant by that. A better translation of the phrase is “the kingdom from the sky.” The prophet Daniel saw a vision in which the Messiah was coming down from the sky to earth. That is the kingdom from the sky that Jesus is talking about.

Jesus was not talking about enrolling in the kingdom of heaven and then getting to go to that kingdom in heaven when you die. That is not the blessed hope of the believer. The blessed hope of the believer is the glorious appearing of the coming king – the king who is going to return to this earth from the sky, any day now.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to be open to his power (8).

Jesus told the twelve to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. He said, “Freely you received, freely give.” The power to do all these things was given to his disciples because Jesus wanted them equipped to do what was necessary to reach the lost sheep.

In the book of Acts, we find that all the believers were given the same commission to reach the lost sheep of all nations, and that the power of the Holy Spirit was available to enable them to do that.

Throughout history, many Christians have questioned whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available. Some have suggested that Jesus only intended the power of the Holy Spirit to manifest at the beginning of establishment of the church, and that the gifts are no longer available now. People saw a powerless church, and they concluded that the power was no longer available.

But this passage of Scripture tells us what is wrong with that kind of thinking. It tells us that the power is available to those who dare to stay true to the mission. Jesus has not promised to empower us if we refuse to evangelize. He has not promised to empower our church if our church has ceased to seek the lost sheep. The empowerment is always connected to the mission.

The good news for all of us is that we don’t have to earn God’s power by being better people or by giving more money or sacrificing something we want. God’s power is available for everyone who is doing what he has called us to do.

If we want to seek his lost sheep, we need to leave the consequences to him (9-15, 40).

Jesus told his disciples that they were going to go in his power to do what he had called them to do, but even then there would be problems.

He tells his disciples not to hoard a bunch of resources for this mission. They were not to prepare for the mission by gathering supplies. God was going to take care of them by providing through those very people that he sent them to reach. God was going to provide for their needs through the converts that they win to Christ. This evangelistic tour was going to be a lesson in trusting God to give them what they need if they were focused on accomplishing his mission.

But Jesus also told them that there would be opposition and rejection. They would not be able to convert all the lost sheep. The book of Acts is the historical record that shows that this is the case for all evangelistic missions.

For this evangelistic mission, Jesus tells his twelve disciples that there would be some who welcome them, and others who did not welcome them. They would be welcome in some households but rejected by others. They would be welcome in some towns but rejected by other towns. Jesus recommends a little ritual for those twelve evangelists. He says if anyone will not welcome them or listen to their message, they should shake the dust off their feet as they leave that house or that town. We don’t know how many houses got the dust-off. We don’t know how many towns got the dust-off. But every time these evangelists did that, they were saying that they came with the good news, but the good news was rejected. So, now they are going to someplace else. Some of the lost sheep would remain lost. But it would not be for lack of trying by these disciples.

Jesus has some people that he wants you and me to bring the gospel to. Often we fail to even try to reach others because we are afraid of the consequences. Perhaps we think that if we knew for sure what the consequences would be, then we would gladly preach the gospel. But the twelve in this Galilean mission never knew what the consequences would be for them. One day they might have a good response, another day they might have to beat a hasty retreat to avoid getting stoned to death. We need to learn to leave the consequences up to Jesus and continue with the mission.

Jesus has given us a broader commission than that he gave to the twelve in today’s passage. He has not limited our commission to one nation. He has commissioned us to reach all nations. But the principles that we have seen in today’s text apply not our efforts at evangelizing as well. We need to follow our Lord’s lead. We need to preach his message. We need to be open to his power. We need to trust him no matter what consequences we experience. There are lost sheep that need us, and we must go to them.