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The Galilee Mission Trip

January 6, 2019, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Matthew 10:1-15) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Matthew
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: Matthew 马太福音

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Title: The Galilee Mission Trip
Date: 5th Jan 2019
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

Mission trips these days take on many different forms. There are mission trips to do street evangelism in a foreign land. There are mission trips to do good works such as providing medical services. In Jubilee Church, we are currently involved in an annual mission trip to Dagudi in northern Thailand to run a youth camp for a Church and mission school there, as well as mission trips 3-6 times a year to Seremban, West Malaysia to support a church that was planted by the Presbyterian Synod of Malaysia. We will continue to seek new ways to reach out to non-Christians whether local or abroad. Today, I want to share about the Galilee mission trip that was commissioned by Jesus to the twelve disciples.

First I will explain the objective of this mission trip. If we follow the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the earthly ministry of Jesus can be divided into 3 phases. The first is the ministry in Galilee (Mark 1-6), the second is a road trip all the way to Jerusalem (Mark 6-10), and finally the last phase is concentrated in Jerusalem till his death and resurrection (Mark 11-16). At the beginning of the ministry in Galilee, Jesus called disciples to follow him. The most famous ones were brothers Peter and Andrew, and brothers John and James, who were fishermen by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4). Others included Matthew who was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9), the presumed author of this gospel. Having accompanied Jesus and observed him up close for at least a year, they could now imitate Jesus to carry out the same mission work on their own. So by the end of the first phase, which was the ministry mainly concentrated in Galilee, and before Jesus embarked on his road trip to Jerusalem, Jesus selected 12 of these followers. They were commissioned to go 2 by 2 on a mission trip to the villages of Galilee. “The Jewish historian Josephus records that there were over 200 villages in Galilee in 66 CE, so it was heavily populated by this time.” 【1】 Even though Jesus had been preaching from town to town for more than a year, there were still many villages, especially in the remote areas that had yet to hear about the good news. The Galilee mission trip would be a systematic way of spreading the message geographically throughout Galilee as quickly as possible. Jesus could have visited all 200 villages personally. But there was also an urgency to start his road trip towards Jerusalem as soon as possible to complete his overall mission. So by commissioning these 6 mission teams, they could distribute the workload and finish the task of covering all the villages of Galilee quickly. That was the main objective of this Galilee mission trip by the 12 disciples.

The nature of such a mission trip was the reason for the instructions from Jesus. They were told not to bring any excess provisions along, and just rely on the basic hospitality of the villagers. So if they were received warmly in a place, they could stay for a while to do their work. But if they were rejected, they had to move on quickly until another hospitable place was found. The key was to keep moving so that all the villages of Galilee had a chance for a visit from Jesus’ disciples. By the end of the mission, Mark told us that the Galilee mission trip was very successful. Mark 6: 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat. They were so successful that it resulted in the feeding of the 5000 because so many people in Galilee were looking desperately for Jesus. (Note that in Matthew, this only happens much later in Matthew 14.) 5000 may not be a lot compared with the entire population of Galilee. But these 5000 had a chance to respond to Jesus because of the work of the Galilee mission trip by the 12 disciples.

If the objective was to spread the word throughout Galilee, then what was the task that they were supposed to do in each village? The job itself was actually not very different from what John the Baptist and Jesus himself had been doing all along: it was to preach that the kingdom of heaven has come near (display on ppt Matthew 3:1; Matthew 4:17 ; Matthew 10:7). We can observe that the messages from all of them are the same. Even though the message comes together with miracles of healing and exorcisms, but these miracles were just signs of the kingdom of heaven, as it was prophesized by the Prophets (see Isaiah 61:1,2). The miracles were only visual illustrations of the message, and not the message itself. The main task remained to declare the coming of the kingdom of heaven. There are 2 things you should know about the kingdom of heaven.

The first thing you should know about the kingdom of heaven is that it begins with the restoration of Israel. We might wonder, why should Israel and the Jews come first (Romans 1:16-17)? Isn’t the kingdom of heaven for all humanity? This is because God is the God of faithfulness and he had a covenant to fulfil with Israel. How can God possibly ask us to have faith in his promises of salvation if he did not first keep his promise to Israel? So even though salvation is eventually for all humanity, the message of Jesus first goes out to the Jews, starting with those in Galilee and then ending with the rest of the Jews in Jerusalem. The twelve apostles were chosen and sent to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. 【2】

In our passage today, Jesus instructed: 5 Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. It wasn’t because the Gentiles or Samaritans were not part of the salvation plan. They would be evangelized to later in Acts 8 and 10. But Israel must come first because they had the old covenant with God. Jesus called them the lost sheep of Israel as a reminder that the Jews were still missing the true shepherd. Shepherds were a metaphor for kingship in the Ancient Near Eastern culture. The official king of the kingdom of heaven is God himself. Yet the king in flesh and blood is Jesus Christ. 【3】 “Jesus 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) So the twelve apostles were sent for the harvesting, to gather the lost sheep, so that they can come under the great Shepherd Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20). Jesus is the true king. 【4】

This brings me to the second thing you need to know about the kingdom of heaven: we need to respond with repentance. Even though repentance is not mentioned explicitly in our passage in Matthew (unlike Mark 6: 12), it is implied by the judgement from Jesus about Sodom and Gomorrah. Matthew 11: 20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. So before you talk about life in the kingdom of heaven, you must first turn to God in repentance. Perhaps this is why before Jesus spelt out the values of his kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, he said Matthew 5: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, 4 Blessed are those who mourn, 5 Blessed are the meek, 8 Blessed are the pure in heart. These are all descriptions of a repentant and contrite heart.

So the disciples on this Galilee mission trip were supposed to prepare the people in repentance, so that when Jesus was revealed as king after his death and resurrection, they would be ready to receive his kingship wholeheartedly. You can imagine the disciples going in pairs from town to town, looking for people who were receptive to their message. If they were repentant, they would receive the blessing of peace. But if they were unrepentant, despite the signs and miracles that illustrated that the message of the coming of the kingdom of heaven was true, then the disciples would shake their dust off their feet. This was a gesture that the Jews did whenever they left Gentile land to return to Jewish land. So the gesture meant that these unrepentant Jewish villages would be treated as if they were Gentiles, separated from the covenant of God. As Paul described Gentiles in Ephesians 2: 12 excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. This was the judgment that Jesus was talking about.

As I reflected upon what was happening in those times, I wondered how I would have responded if it were me. And I realized just how precious is the grace of God, both the grace to serve the message and the grace to be served with the message. If those disciples had not responded earlier to Jesus’ calling, they would not have had such an honor to serve as representatives for the twelve tribes of Israel. It was a precious grace given to the twelve willing followers to become emissaries of the gospel. Similarly, it was also a precious moment of grace to the Jews living in Galilee. Yet if the villagers had been unrepentant to the message from the disciples, they would have missed out on a chance to become part of the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes we are given second chances and more, but sometimes the grace comes once in a lifetime and we do not appreciate just how precious is that grace. Do you ever think about the love and sacrifices that have to be made and planned for that moment of grace to come to you? Sometimes, I wonder about what I would be doing if I am not a pastor. I guess I will never know. But what I do know is that I took the moment of grace that was given to me, and I am blessed to be able to be a blessing to others here in Jubilee Church.

For the Jews in the remote villages of ancient Galilee, it took a special mission trip from Jesus’ disciples for the gospel to reach them. For all of us who are present today, we are so blessed to be able to hear the word from a shepherd every Sunday. I wonder if this makes us take things for granted. I don’t have to respond to God this particular week. I have next week, and then the next, and then the next. But beware, you might end up like some of the Jews in ancient Jerusalem. You think you have the Temple every week, but you missed the moment when Jesus comes along, thinking that it is like every other week. Let today become a precious moment of grace for you. There are two ways for you to respond to today’s message.

If you have been following Jesus for a long time, then let this be a moment to serve. You can join the upcoming mission trip we are organizing for Dagudi. You can be involved in sharing the word with the Chinese speaking youths there. Or you can approach your zone pastor. Your zone pastor can train and bring you along on visitations or caroling or outreach events, and give you opportunities to share the gospel with others. Or you can approach any of the ministry chairpersons about serving. In every ministry, we have needs for people who can share about the joy of following Jesus Christ.

However, if you have not yet affirmed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then I want to give you a moment to be served with the message. Dear friend, the kingdom of heaven has already come. I know because Jesus came. He is God in flesh and blood. He died for the love of humanity, but he was raised from the dead by God, conquering sin and death. He is now enthroned at the right hand side of God. He is the true king, the shepherd you should follow. You may have heard this message before. But let this moment be the moment you receive, so that your new life in Jesus can begin. Let’s pray.

【1】 https://www.thoughtco.com/profile-of-the-region-of-galilee-248850
【2】 And so later when Judas took his own life, it was necessary to replace him with Matthias (Acts 1:12-26). The restoration of Israel would be incomplete without the full representation of all twelve tribes.
【3】 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) To be like sheep without a shepherd is to mean that the people were not well taken care of by their rulers. The king in Galilee at this time is the son of Herod the Great, called Herod the tetrarch. He was an unfit shepherd who imprisoned and executed John the Baptist.
【4】 But take note, throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus’ kingship is only hinted at but never openly declared, until Jesus was officially on trial in Jerusalem. His identity as the Messiah remains a secret because it is politically dangerous. The moment this is openly revealed, the Romans will have the obligation to kill Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus the Son of God (which implies kingship in Psalm 2:6-7) is actually God in flesh and blood. It is not just kingship, but divine kingship. And that is something the Jews cannot accept theologically. Jesus’ divine kingship can only be understood fully after his death and resurrection, when he ascended into the heavens to sit at the right hand side of God. Therefore, even though the kingship of Jesus is a key point about the kingdom of heaven, it is not part of the gospel message until all has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and he is enthroned.

Matthew 10:1–15 (Listen)

10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And 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. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

(ESV)