Discipleship means watching, then doing – learning, then acting on that knowledge. Jesus called his twelve main disciples and gave them genuine supernatural power to heal the sick and release people from demonic powers. He himself had been demonstrating those powers already, and now it was time for his disciples to demonstrate them too.
The message was simple: “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near” – which could not be refuted in the face of the evidence: healings, raising of the dead, and driving out of demons! Perhaps it was the beginning of the greater fulfilment of Isaiah 61. Notice that even Judas Iscariot was empowered to do all this. Supernatural power is given as a free gift and not a wage for good behaviour! We need to identify and start to use our spiritual gifts before we think we are good enough. Let not allow our self-esteem to be a barrier to our power – although a true understanding of our identity in Christ really does help!
The aim was to go to a series of nearby Jewish towns, to find a peace-loving host who would put them up for free, and to use that household as a base from which to evangelise the town. They would visit other households and also preach in the streets, just as their Master had already done so often.
Halfway through the chapter (verse 16), the tone changes and it becomes obvious that Jesus is no longer talking just about a short local mission trip, but about world mission over the centuries. Persecution and death were part of the package. The good news would no longer be restricted to the Jews but would go far and wide to the Gentiles.
Sometimes the persecutions would become violent, extended, and intense – but don’t worry! Human families and relationships will break down and the gospel will become the great social dividing line. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body (human persecutors) but do be afraid of the One who can destroy body and soul in Hell (God himself). He knows and cares and reaches out to support you.
What matters are priorities: God before parents, before children, and before members of one’s own household. The key is to let go of one’s own life, in order to gain His life.
GENESIS 25 and 26
Abraham took another wife – or ‘concubine’ since the resulting children would not inherit – at the age of around 135 and could only manage to father six more children (weakling!). At the age of 175 he finally went to be with the Lord and was buried alongside his beloved Sarah. His role as the man of faith was ended – except for his huge legacy to us – but his status as God’s friend continues for eternity (as will ours).
Meanwhile, Rebekah was barren until Isaac interceded on her behalf, resulting another generation of miracle children in the form of twins Jacob and Esau (God often gives you more than you ask for). God sovereignly chose Jacob over Esau (see Romans 9:10-16) for reasons known only to him, and many years later, the man Esau rejected his birthright by his own choice.
Isaac fell into the same fear and temptation that had twice beset his father, Abraham, and denied that Rebekah was his wife, so as to save his skin. Why is it that too many sons follow their fathers’ poor examples rather than learning from their mistakes? But this does show that even great men of faith (Hebrews 11:20) have human weaknesses and failings. The power of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the only sure way of living a faithful life.
Finally, in Ch. 26 verses 3-5, 12-13, 23-24, God continues to bless Isaac, as part of his ongoing promise towards Abraham and his descendants. The story of Isaac re-opening the wells that his father had dug (26:18) is a heavy hint to us that each generation in Christ cannot rest upon the labours of their spiritual fathers but must find their own personal source of refreshment and power in the Lord, even if it is based upon timeless principles and methods (see Jeremiah 6:16). Get out there and dig your own wells!