Listen to Today’s Lesson
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Our lesson this week is the third lesson within the first unit of lessons where we have been taking a look at understanding God’s kingdom. Thus far, we understand that the kingdom of heaven, by worldly standards, is an upside-down kingdom inhabitanted by those of faith. Our lesson this week takes a look at ministering the kingdom of heaven.
The Twelve Disciples
So, this week’s lesson opens with Jesus at the start of His earthly ministry going up on a mountain to call to Him those He wanted (v.13). Who did Jesus call and who did He want?
The call of God
In the past, I’ve answered the question as to whom the Lord chose and called. Paul wrote in his letter to those in Rome, “whom He (the Lord) predestined, these he also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Rom. 8:30).
I would tell you that the Lord first chose the world because He loved the Lord. I would then tell you that the Lord called all of those who would hear His voice. God, I want you to understand, did not call one person, nor did He call one group of people unto Him. God called whoever would believe and have faith in His only begotten Son (John 3:16).
So, to be clear, before we really dive into the scripture of our lesson today, I want you to know that God called all people to have faith in Him. God is not an exclusive God, He is all inclusive. So, why did the Lord call all of us unto Him? If we consider John 3:16, God called whoever would have faith in His only begotten Son so that they would not perish.
This is a fact, the divine truth from Christ, that I feel like this often goes forgotten. Let us not think that the Lord did not choose us when it is plainly stated in scripture that God loves and chose us first before we chose Him;
The call of the twelve disciples
In our lesson, we will see that Jesus goes on to pick the first of the twelve of His closest disciples. The first of the disciples Jesus picked was Simon, who He would go on to give the name Cephas (Peter) (v.16). Jesus gave Simon that name because he would be the rock that Jesus would build His church on (Matt. 16:18). As we know, Peter was essentially the de facto leader of the disciples.
Mark then talks about sons of Zebedee, James and John, being called by Christ (v.17). To both of them, we will see that Jesus gave them the nickname “Boanerges”, “Sons of Thunder”; this is only mentioned in Mark’s gospel. So, what was meant by this nickname?
Since it is a nickname, it essentially speaks to the personalities of the two brothers. I don’t know how you picture James and John, but I have come to recognize that both were a fiery (zealous) pair. With the nickname of “Sons of Thunder” they were likely a loud, boisterous, and charismatic pair.
If you remember, after the arrest of Jesus, John had no fear of being in the courtyard with the people because they knew him while Peter, on the other hand, was very fearful (John 18:15-16). I want you to also remember that James and John once went to Jesus and told Him that they desired to sit on his left and right hand in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:35-37). So, “Sons of Thunder”, I would say, is a very fitting nickname for the two.
The rest of the twelve are then mentioned joining Jesus, including Judas Iscariot who would go on to betray Jesus (vss.18-19). In the other synoptic gospels, it is explained that four were called to follow Him as they were cleaning their nets from fishing. Jesus called Andrew, Peter’s brother, who was with him along with both James and John (Matt. 4:18-22; Luke 5:1-11).
Now, all of us who follow the way of Christ today are also His disciples. However, the calling of the twelve was a special calling. The number twelve is, of course, representative of the number of the tribes of Israel. We will also see in their calling that the twelve would have the power to heal illnesses and cast out demons (v.15), along with being appointed to preach about the kingdom (v.14).
Is their calling any different than our calling? Not necessarily since we have also been tasked with ministering the good news to all people. However, the twelve closely followed Jesus during the three years of His ministry; they witnessed the many miracles of Jesus, and Peter, James, and John witnessed His transfiguration. Eleven of the twelve would eventually be the first ministers of the good news and the reason why it is well known today.
The first mission of the twelve
Our lesson skips a few chapters to when Jesus first sent out the twelve. Scripture tells us that He sent them out two by two, and again, it is stated that Jesus gave them the power over unclean spirits (v.7). What were they sent out to do? In Matthew and Luke’s gospel, it is recorded that the twelve were sent out to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick (Matt. 10:5-8; Luke 9:1-2).
The power and authority over demons was a gift given to them by Christ. This reminds me of what Jesus taught when He said that He is the true vine. When saying that He was the true vine, Jesus said that we, the believers, can do nothing without Him (John 15:5). Without Jesus giving them the authority, the disciples would have not been able to heal the sick, who in this case, would have been in need of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing.
Jesus said to the disciples, “take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics (vss.8-9). Why do you suppose Jesus sent the disciples out in this manner? The answer to this question is quite simple: they were supposed to rely on the Lord rather than have a reliance on anything of the world.
You see, we often become dependent on things of the world rather than dependent on the Lord, and that is in general. When it comes to ministering the Word of God, we should be totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. As we know, the Holy Spirit will guide our hearts, our thoughts, and our tongues as to what we should say when it comes to ministering the Word. So, rather than relying on self or the world, you should rely on the Lord to always guide you, especially when you are ministering about the kingdom.
Dealing with rejection
Now, the Word that we have to share is a good word. Sadly, not everyone will agree with the good news we share. How do you respond when people reject the gospel?
I shared this story with all of you in the first lesson of this quarter, so if you missed it, I am going to briefly share it with all of you again. There was a young man that once told me that he felt persecuted because he would often visit the same group of people that would reject him and the gospel. That wasn’t him being persecuted, that was people that simply had their minds made up when it came to the gospel; they never sought him out to attack his faith.
I explained to the young man that we are only suppose to encourage and persuade with the gospel; we cannot and should not force the gospel on anyone when they have turned away. Jesus touched on this thought to the disciples; He did this, I feel, because it can be easy for us to become combative when something special to us is rejected.
Jesus said to the disciples, “whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them (v.11).” Now, if they were received, Jesus encouraged them to stay till they departed from that place to another (v.10). Did Jesus advise them to stick around after they were rejected? No, He said to depart.
Let me say this, don’t go out to have fights over the gospel with anybody, whether they are another believer or one who is of no faith. There is nothing wrong with discussing the Word in a manner to learn and grow. However, Paul put it best when he wrote to Titus, “avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless (Tit. 3:9).
The Word of God, as you have heard me say recently, is a saving Word. The Word of God is meant for profiting – uplifting – us. So, if one rejects the Word of God (meaning they don’t want to grow and be uplifted in their soul), after you have shared it with them, go your way; you have done all that you were called to do by the Lord.
Ministering of the victorious kingdom
Our lesson closes out by telling us that the twelve went out and preached the kingdom of God and that people should repent (v.12). As you have heard me say before, the call of God is the same today as it was yesterday – it is a call of repentance. The Lord has called all of us who are of faith to go out and preach repentance; the message of turning away from wickedness and to the Lord.
The disciples were victorious in their mission. Why were they victorious? Because they ministered about the kingdom and they were able to cast out many demons and heal the sick (v.13). It’s not covered within the scripture of our lesson today but when they returned back to Jesus, the disciples were overcome with great joy and told Jesus what they had done (Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10).
We can all share in this victory when we let the world know the good news. Let us remember, when we share this good news, to do it through the Holy Spirit. If we try to do anything without Christ, we will fail. Yes, we may move through the Holy Spirit and people may reject the Word and our testimony, but that rejection will be on them and not us. However, we have a much higher success rate in leading lost souls to Christ when we are guided by the Spirit.So, I encourage all of you today to share the good news. And again, when you share the good news, allow the Spirit to guide your thoughts, your words, and your actions.