When Jesus sent out His disciples into the world for the first time (Matthew 10), He commanded them to follow very specific instructions. As with other “student teachers”, the disciples needed precise limits set on whom and how they would teach. Jesus set especially firm boundaries because the teaching of the Gospel news had to follow exactly the plan God had given His Son.
Jesus first commanded them where not to go. The disciples were forbidden to venture out of the land of Israel. Specifically, they were not to enter Samaria or any Gentile nation, no matter how great the temptation. Jesus had thus far restricted Himself to ministering to the Jews by order of His Father and He expected His disciples to do the likewise. Logistically, this strategy posed somewhat of an issue. Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee, so the disciples could not avoid passing through Samaria. Nevertheless, Jesus did not permit them to enter any of the cities.
Having placed Samaria and the entire Gentile world off-limits, Jesus commanded the disciples to go to the remaining land, the house of Israel, whom He referred to as lost sheep. Jesus had a very special and tender concern for the house of Israel, “As far as the Gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as the election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs.” (Romans 11:28). They were loved for His Father’s sake.
As their shepherd, Jesus looked upon these lost souls with compassion. His mission on Earth was to gather them into His fold and extract them from the sin into which they had fallen. His flock had gone astray and, if not brought back, would be reduced to wandering endlessly.
The Gentiles were also astray (1 Peter 2:25), but Jesus had a continual longing to gather His own first. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
When the time came to preach the Gospel, the Jewish people were given the right of first refusal. As God’s chosen people, they had the right to hear it first and, if they so chose, to reject both the Savior and His message. As Paul tells us, “First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Jesus would not have the Gospel preached to the Gentiles until the Jews first refused it. Through God’s love of His people and the patriarchs, they were given the right of first refusal. Unfortunately, most did refuse the Good News.
Ironically, the Jews cultural and spiritual background should have made them more receptive to the news of a Messiah than those of other nations. They were familiar with the Law of Moses and the prophesies of God’s appointed messengers. They were on the lookout for the One who would deliver them. The disciples spoke this same moral, cultural, and scriptural language and should have found an easy audience awaiting them. Yet, as their Master did not, neither did they.
The disciples were only restricted to the house of Israel on their first mission. After that, they were allowed to go into all parts of the world and to teach all the nations, as we too are called (Matthew 28:18-20). God set apart His chosen people to hear the Good News of the Gospel first, but He wishes none to perish under His normal plan of salvation (2 Peter 3:9). Today, each of us has the right to accept Him as Savior or to refuse His offer of eternal life. Be normal. Don’t be like the lost sheep of Israel, who, with their first right, refused Him and made an everlasting wrong decision.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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