When I was a boy growing up with a commited church environment, it was the weekly duty to fill out questions in a Sunday School lesson book. The class time would involve both teaching and the discussion of the questions we all answered and brought with us. I cannot remember a single class in particular or any one topic of discussion, but it must have accomplished some good instruction in my life.
After my 9th grade school year had concluded, my best friend in the church talked me into going to a Christian camp in South Jersey to work there with him on the staff. He was the pastor’s son and was really into cooking, so he was going to work in the kitchen (where one of the girls serving with him was Katie Williams’ mother!). I was targeted to work with the grounds crew on the large property that included many buildings and rustic cabins, along with three lakes.
The first day at the camp held a surprise for me. Whereas my friend was sent off to the kitchen while others were called aside to do grounds work, my name was read off as one of the children’s workers for the counseling staff. It was explained to me that they were short on having enough counselors, and that my former pastor (who was on the board of directors) told them that though I was younger than the rest, they should just tell me to do it.
But I had to pass a Bible knowledge test, and to my surprise, I scored higher than several of the Bible College students in the group. It was all of those years of Sunday School lessons paying off! After a week of training, the first group of campers arrived. Suddenly I was in charge of a cabin of seven 10-year-olds for a week, teaching a daily bedtime devotional that I had to do on my own without any supplied materials. Though a bit terrified at first, I was amazed at how easy it turned out to be. And I distinctly remember a sense of the Spirit helping me put thoughts together and bring them out of my mouth with relative ease.
It was a transitional period of life where I went from being the constant disciple and student, to being a teacher of others who had not yet heard the stories and information that were now familiar to me.
This is essentially what happens in our account today. The 12 disciples are sent out by Jesus with the power AND authority to preach the message of the kingdom (and the Messiah King who was now with them), authenticated by the power to heal and defeat the demonic elements encountered.
The 12 were certainly prepared in many ways by their personal association with Christ and his teachings to have the content to successfully complete the task. But Jesus sends them out with no reserve of material supports to depend upon. They would have to discover that God was able to sufficiently supply their daily needs in every way.
The mission throughout Galilee was to call people to a commitment about who exactly Jesus Christ was. There was confusion amongst the people, as the word about Jesus was spreading widely. And this news came to Herod the Tetrarch, the ruler of that area. He had beheaded John the Baptist and gave no credence to the suggestion that Jesus was a resurrection of the eccentric preacher. Others told him that Jesus was a return of Elijah or one of the prophets. Herod desired to see Jesus himself.
I see two timeless applications from these few verses today.
The first is that a time comes in our Christian lives when we should be moving from primarily being a mere hearer and follower, to a time where we are sharing that truth with others. We never stop growing and learning, but our lives are not to be ultimately about the mere gaining of knowledge. Rather it is for the purpose of being better equipped to serve in whatever place the Lord has for us to move about in our lives here.
A second application is to see that, be it then or be it now, the key question in life for every person is to accurately identify who Jesus Christ is. The answer to this means everything. There are people in religious leadership as a career who cannot and do not answer this question correctly. They think Jesus is merely a great teacher or moral example, if indeed there really was a historic Jesus at all beyond a legend that grew to enormous proportions. But the only answer that is correct and that gives life is to understand that Jesus is the divine Son of God who, in fulfillment of God’s promises dating back to the beginning of the human race, came in the flesh to pay the price of sin through his death and offer life through his resurrection.
Our mission in life is to accurately understand this truth, and then to grow in sufficient knowledge of it to be able to pass along that truth to others. We are all sent into the world in this regard. As God empowers you and supplies your needs, who are you telling about him today?
Luke 9:1 – When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
7 – Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8 others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. 9 But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see him.