What does God do to prepare us so that we can be used by Him?
Before Jesus commissions the Twelve in Matthew 9, Mark 6 and Luke 9, several events happen that prepare the disciples before they are sent out.
When we read Jesus’ words to the Twelve as he commissions them, their meaning is amplified by what the disciples had just experienced through these events. Jesus challenges the disciples in at least five ways.
1. Jesus challenged the disciples’ Priorities.
Jesus tells the disciples they must “go to the other side.” This was the Gadarenes, in the Decapolis, a Gentile area. Going there would mean a shift in ministry, beginning to include the Gentiles, something the Twelve would never do without His nudge.
2. Jesus challenged the disciples’ Faith.
En route, they encounter a severe storm that threatens to capsize the boat. Jesus is asleep. When awakened, He challenges their faith and calms the storm. Actually, it says he “rebuked the wind.” Biblically, rebuke is generally used in a spiritual context. Was there something spiritual about this storm? Was Jesus being opposed by demonic forces? After the storm subsides, Jesus says, “How is it that you have so little faith?”
3. Jesus challenged the disciples with Spiritual Authority.
On the other side, they encounter two demon possessed men. They live in the tombs. They scream through the night. The one cuts himself with rocks. When they shackle him, he breaks the chains. Everyone is afraid of them. Everyone, that is, except Jesus. The demons identify themselves. They are Legion, many. A Roman Legion was made up of 5120 soldiers. With this many demons, it’s no wonder shackles couldn’t hold him. Could this be the spiritual force behind the wind, trying to prevent Jesus from coming to the other side? Jesus casts the demons into a herd of 2000 pigs (so there’s at least 2000 demons), which then run off a cliff to their death.
4. Jesus challenged the disciples to move beyond their excuses.
The disciples had multiple reasons for not wanting to go to the other side. It was a Gentile region. Jews didn’t associate with Gentiles. They would become spiritually unclean. There were tombs over there. Jews didn’t come in contact with dead things. They would become spiritually unclean. There were pigs over there. Jews didn’t come in contact with swine. They would become spiritually unclean. All of this, not to mention, there were crazy demon possessed guys over there. But is there ever an excuse for saying “no” to Jesus?
5. Jesus challenged the disciples’ understanding of whom God can use.
I like what my friend Benjamin Francis says. “If you want to see things you have never seen before, you have to do things you have never done before!” So what happened with the crazy man? Now in his right mind, Jesus sends him back to tell everyone what he’s done for him. And a few months later, when Jesus is back in that region, there are over 4000 people there to hear Him teach. How did they get there? Who told them about Jesus? Could it have been this demon possessed man, now delivered, whom Jesus sent to tell everyone in the Ten Cities?
Jesus accomplishes so much… in just 24 hours. He challenges their priorities, their faith, their authority, their motivation, their perspective. He’ll soon send them out 2 by 2, and all they learned through this experience will be needed to accomplish the work they’ll be sent out to do.
Jesus doesn’t waste an experience. He’s always preparing us.
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