Jesus began His ministry with the Sermon on the Mount in which He painted a graphic picture of the kingdom of heaven. He demonstrated His authority by His miracles – healing the sick, driving out demons, and raising the dead. As word got out, the crowds grew and there were more people eager to hear His teaching than He could possibly attend to. For this reason Jesus anointed his twelve disciples to begin teaching on His behalf.
“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)
The disciples were to proclaim the coming kingdom of heaven. This mission is the same mission assigned to all believers today. Jesus Christ came to earth to gather His sheep and shepherd them into His kingdom.
“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Matthew 10:7
During the ministry of Jesus, the disciples were given the same miraculous powers of healing that He had. This was to be their calling card and a powerful demonstration of their authority to teach on His behalf.
“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Matthew 10:1 (NIV)
Unfortunately, we no longer have these miraculous signs with which to identify true teachers of the gospel. What we have been left with, is the miraculous Word of God. We have the complete Biblical text that includes the New Testament’s word-for-word teaching of Jesus. We have the documented evidence of His miracles and the miracles performed by His disciples. Today, we identify true teachers of the gospel by their adherence to a strict interpretation of the Bible.
Jesus also instructed his disciples to travel light. They were to essentially take nothing with them on their journey. They were to remain in total dependence on the Lord.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.” Matthew 10:9-10 (NIV)
This is another indicator of a true follower of Jesus Christ that we can look for today. It is quite obvious that some people who proclaim to be teachers of the Word seem to be more dependent on personal wealth than they are on God. Of course, we can’t see inside anyone’s heart, but a lavish lifestyle may not be the kind of advocate Jesus would employ.
Finally, Jesus made it clear that His message was only to be delivered to those willing to listen. The disciples were not instructed to force the good news on anyone. Today we sometimes see street preachers shouting through a bullhorn to an uninterested crowd. Based on the instructions of Jesus to His disciples, this would not likely be a method that would receive His approval.
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 (NIV)
The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few today. Is God calling you out into the field to seek and save the lost? Jesus teaches to leave your money behind and depend completely on Him. He also teaches that you are to take His message only to those who are willing to listen. Your authority is the Word of God. If you keep these three things in mind, there is no doubt you will reap a bountiful harvest.
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