As I read this chapter with fresh eyes this morning, I feel excitement, caution, worry, and pride all wrapped up into one. I see a Jesus who was calling his troops to battle. In his eyes, these men were ready for the challenge. They were ripe for the picken! I can see the excitement in the disciple’s eyes, fresh, ready to take the charge. After all, the ultimate King of Kings was calling them to duty. How proud and honored they must have felt.
Yet, Jesus speaks with authority and caution, trying to make them understand what is before them. He tells them they will be persecuted. He uses the metaphor of sheep and wolves. I don’t know about you, but I would be scared to death to be a little newborn sheep, white as snow, without a blemish, thrown out to pasture with wild wolves all around (or coyotes for that matter). Yet, that is basically what he is telling them here. They are the “sheep among wolves…therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” 10:16
While he is sending them into dangerous territory, he is also equipping them with every tool he has. He gives them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Wow! Now those darn evil spirits have to listen to these 12 as well as Jesus. How empowering it must have felt to know they had that ability. Up until this point, only Jesus could do such things.
Later he tells them, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” 10:26 All events surrounding Jesus had been somewhat mysterious. People didn’t understand who he was or how he could do the things he did. How exciting to know that all this mystery was now going to be fully understood by the chosen disciples. They were going to know and understand! As I put myself in their shoes, I’m getting pumped up for the challenge even more, and standing a little taller because Jesus himself is disclosing mysteries to me, a mortal man!
I can see Jesus sensing this pride his disciples are feeling. He continues with love, grace and cautious optimism, warning them not to worry about those who can kill the body because they can’t kill the soul. (Yikes. You mean there is a chance this could end in death?) And then he discloses another mystery: He hadn't come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. (Balloon now somewhat deflated, eyebrows raised, got the disciples attention on that one!) Jesus probably would not have said it had they not been thinking it. Isn’t that what we all want…peace on earth, no more wars, everyone being of one accord? I’m sure it was no different then. “Sorry guys, it ain’t happening,” is basically what he told them in today’s vernacular. “But don’t worry too much about that,” he continues!
This charge set before them was exciting and yet a bit scary. But these men were willing. They had obviously experienced something supernatural in their short time with Jesus…something that pushed them on toward the goal. Something that made them leave their father, mother, sons and daughters. Something that lasted even after Jesus' death. Those secrets must have been revealed in order to live out this call of duty. They certainly knew something that made them so brave and fearless to preach the good news.
Jesus deposits all of that on the inside of each of us when we become his beloved and walk in his word. He casts out all fear. He gives us perfect love. These disciples were given all of that. They were fully equipped by Jesus himself, and so are we if we take up our sword daily and follow him.