Healing a Broken World


The expansiveness and intensity of the ministry of Jesus is breathtaking. He treated every aspect of the curse that has descended on this fallen world. Diseases that insult every part of the human body and compromise all the connections of physical life Jesus saw and confronted. More sinister in its devastating effects is the progress of sin in the affections reaching the mind and will with calcifying results. Though eventually the gospel would be preached to all the nations, in this first missionary deployment, Jesus sent his followers to the “Lost sheep of the house of Israel,” even forbidding them to go to the Gentiles (10:5). How deeply embedded sin and its natural and judicial consequences are in this present world always escapes any truly accurate perception on our part, for none in the present age has ever seen a world free from pain, sickness, strife, and corruption and given over solely to the enjoyment of God and his glory. As we will see, Jesus’ warnings, including the sobering statement “Beware of men” (10:17), fully anticipated the resistance on the part of Israel to this overture of gospel proclamation. About Jesus himself they said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (9:34; 10:25; 12:24).

I,. Jesus takes on the world – Jesus entered an aggressive program of work.

A. Ministry of the Word: Jesus had to give the message of his coming throughout the entirety of Israel, for the Messiah, the King, has come. That the prophecies have been, and are being, fulfilled they all must know. If scattered among the towns and villages there are those of the true faith of Abraham, they will welcome this message and see in Christ the one on whom their hopes have been fixed. Jesus did this by teaching in their synagogues (as in Luke 4:16-30) and proclaiming the gospel. Here was the original giver of the word now proclaiming it among those who originally received it being “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 2:2) and having been the ones to whom belong “the  covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4). He was the one about whom all of these things spoke (Luke 24:27) and, in the flesh, he had come among them to say “I am he” (Luke 4:21; Matthew 7:24, 26; John 3:12-15; John 6:51, et al.).

B. Ministry of physical healing – He did what the Messiah was to do in the manifestation of power over the results of the fall (See how Jesus answered the question of the disciples of John the Baptist in 11:1-6). He himself placed the curse on the earth (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:20-23) and he himself can remove it in harmony with his redemptive work. In connection with that, he showed that when the full reign of Messiah comes at the close of the age, the Kingdom will be a place in which none of the effects of the fall will remain.

C. Motivated by compassion – That the offended creator should have compassion is a marvel of grace in itself. He saw the destitute condition of people in their sin—sickness, ignorance, futility—and from the deepest affections residing in the God/man revealed a plan of compassion to rescue such forlorn wanderers. “God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

1. They were harassed and helpless. Confusion and copelessness surround those who have lost sight of the glory of God and have been released to their own light and their own wisdom. Harassed could refer to the presence of the demonic, evil rational forces constantly bringing  disconnectedness and agitation in all relations. Probably here it refers to the agitation of life that is the immediate result of sin.

2. They were like sheep without a shepherd. Having lost the unclouded knowledge of God and his goodness and his path of righteousness, people wander in the maze of their own short-sighted lives, constantly setting goals that fall short of their conformity to God’s glory. The capacity for such conformity is the peculiar distinction of the human race; our sin, however, has set before us all a variety of idolatrous things, goals, visions, and worldviews that consistently lead us astray and away from that which alone will satisfy. We have forsaken the only shepherd and consequently are scattered.

D. The necessity for other laborers. The plan of restoration involves the work of laborers who will tell the truth and manifest something of the restoration that redemption through the Messiah involves.

1. Pray – In this matter related to his eternal plan and specific gracious intervention into the aimless, compromised lives of his creatures he will be invoked.

2. To the Lord of the Harvest – The harvest that will come through the teaching, preaching, and healing ministry is under the sovereign disposal and will of the Lord who has ordained such a harvest.

3. He will send forth – These laborers must be prepared, gifted, and sent by the Lord; this labor calls for willing workers who love God and his gospel, but is not a merely voluntary army composed of those who go before they are sent or with a message of their own brains.

4. Laborers into his harvest –God has so ordained this harvest that it will not come apart from the involvement of those to whom the work is given. Although its success is completely supernatural, the work is accomplished through means consistent with the end in view. The end is a restoration of God’s image-bearers to a right relation with him. They, in turn, manifest his infinite excellence demonstrated particularly in the wisdom and mercy that wrought the plan of redemption. Recipients of redemption become its messengers. According to his pleasure, God grants a variety of gifts to proclaim its riches by which God calls others to receive this unspeakable gift (2 Timothy 1:9-12; 2 Corinthians 10:13-18).

II. Jesus Sends out the Twelve to Israel – Jesus identified himself as the Lord of the harvest. Having just asked them to pray to this end, he sent them forth with specific instructions.

A. He commissioned them and equipped them  -verse 10:1, 7-15. From him they received both the authority and the power to do as he had been doing. They did not have this intrinsically but were to recognize and conform to his authority, having the same faith and submission as manifest by the centurion (8:5-13).

1. From the bounty of the divine authority of Jesus, and from his prerogative as Messiah, he empowered these twelve to cast out demons and heal sickness and affliction. In the days of apostolic preaching, those who coveted these powers without the authorization of Jesus were guilty of blasphemous covetousness and given severe warning or immediate punishment. Simon the Magician was one of these in Acts 8:18-24 as were the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11-16.

2. Unlike these imposters interested merely in the external manifestation of personal power, the Twelve were to realize that they had these gifts in accordance with a particular commission about the nature of the kingdom of God. They had received all of it freely, that is, by the sovereign disposal of gifts according to God’s own purpose, and were to give in the same way (10:8).

B. The names of the Twelve – There are at least two sets of brothers in this group, all fishermen. Matthew reminds his readers that when he was called he was a hated tax collector. One also was Judas Iscariot who in the end became the means through which Jesus was given over to the authorities through a stealthy arrangement and whose foul treachery led him to the despairing act of suicide. This reality illustrates the teaching of Jesus in 7:21-23 and the revealed observations of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Throughout Scripture there are manifestations of powers granted by the Spirit of God for the performance of external acts of power, but these gifts are merely functional and are inferior to the gift of regeneration by which a person is transformed in the mind, heart, and affections.

C. They are to go only to Israel – “The lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It was under this image of needy sheep that he had seen them in his own preaching ministry. The preaching first was to be done to them to draw forth those, like Anna, Simeon, Elizabeth, and Mary whose faith was formed like Abraham’s. Secondly, their mission demonstrated the justice of God’s sending the gospel eventually to the Gentiles in light of the massive manifestation of hardheartedness among the Israelites. Note how this phenomenon forms a part of the deeply theological argument of Paul in Romans 11:11-16. In God’s providence, the large-scale rejection of Jesus as the Christ set the stage for the rapid and overflowing inclusion of the Gentiles.

D. They minister to places that respond both with support and receptivity to the message as well as hostility.

1. Those committed to a kingdom built on the superiority of Jewish ethnicity and privilege (see Romans 2:17-24) would not be pleased to hear the proclamation that the Kingdom is not ethnic or ceremonial but spiritual, focused on humble repentance and earnest desire for the manifestation of the righteousness of God. These are the ones from whom opposition would come and would establish the foundation of opposition that would endure throughout the ministry of Jesus and into the time of the apostles (See 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

2. They were to seek out those who were “worthy,” (verse 13) that is, whose expectations were sincere and who responded to the message with genuine faith and profound messianic hope. From these the necessary support would come as they proclaimed and healed in the cities and villages of Israel.

3. If this offering of the kingdom and its power were rejected, the messengers were to leave and have no sense of either failure or continued responsibility. They intended to bring peace through a message of reconciliation to God, but in being rejected that same peace would accrue to their conscience, it would “return” to them. Nothing about the place of rejection should cling to them if they had faithfully proclaimed the message. They were to leave with confidence that their commission had been faithfully executed even in the absence of positive response. “If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet, when you leave that house or town” (verse 14).

4. Those who have had the privilege of hearing this message of the presence of the kingdom in the person of Christ, and have rejected it, will receive aggravated judgment. Jesus expanded his proclamation of this moral truth in 11:20-24. Indeed, though all and every sin is worthy of eternal punishment and there is none righteous, no not one, there also are degrees of culpability and aggravated aspects of punishment in the final, perfect manifestation of the justice of God (See also 2 Peter 2:1-10 [“and especially . . .”].

III. Jesus warns about violent opposition. 10:16-25. Though they could well have experienced this during this particular missionary outreach to Israel, the general principle of opposition seems to be more widely applicable far beyond their task on this occasion.


IV. Jesus assured them they are not to fear (10:26-33). Though the opposition will be strong and dangerous and will at times expand to the full extent of Satan’s fury against a holy gospel, none can destroy them finally. Final judgment, and final destruction, resides only in the hands of the just judge of all. Moreover, every moment of their existence, every condition of their body, is in the hands of the God who has decreed all for them. The one against whom this railing is done, Jesus himself, will in the end be the one whose person and work constitutes the final criterion of judgment.

VI. 10:34-39 – The gospel of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation will cause division.

A. Hostility toward God and his holiness infuses all the thoughts, intentions, actions, and values of the world. Given that as an abiding condition of humanity, the call of God for reconciliation through a righteous redeemer will surely provoke resistance, hatred, and division. Spurgeon commented, “He wars against war, and contends against contention. In the act of producing the peace of heaven he arouses the rage of hell. Truth provokes opposition, purity excites enmity, and righteousness arouses all the forces of wrong.”

B.  Jesus established his own worth as of greater consequence than all earthly relations or possessions.

1. Jesus claimed a place of preeminence over all family relations, all personal comfort and advantage, and even over the preservation of life in this age (35-39).

2. Because of the infinite worth of Jesus and the message about him, any one who encourages and approves those that embrace the message of the kingdom, because they also approve and promote that message, will gain a reward. (40-42)

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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