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Apostles Third Sunday

Season of Apostles

APOSTLES THIRD SUNDAY
LUKE 9:1-6 SENDING THE APOSTLES

INTRODUCTION

Jesus spent only three years and a few months for his public ministry and to offer his life for the salvation of humanity. In order to continue his mission in the world until his second coming, Jesus established the church through the intervention of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Jesus selected and prepared 12 apostles and trained them, besides his other 72 disciples. These 12 represented the 12 tribes of Israel that he reconstituted as the church. Jesus gave the apostles authority and power to preach, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons. They had relied on the villagers for their lodging and food. This practical training gave the apostles self-confidence to become missionaries all over the world after the Pentecost. Like the Christian believers who worked with the apostles, all of us are called to work with the bishops and priests for strengthening and expanding the church.

BIBLE TEXT (LUKE 9:1-6)

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

(Lk 9:1) Then Jesus called the Twelve and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. (2) And he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (3) He instructed them, “Do not take anything for the journey, neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even take a spare tunic. (4) Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. (5) And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust off your feet: it will be as a testimony against them.” (6) So they set out and went through the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

INTERPRETATION

Background

After spending a night in prayer on a mountain, Jesus selected twelve apostles out of his disciples (Lk 6:12-16). They were his full-time followers, learning from his teachings (Lk 6:20-49) and actions like healing the sick, and casting out demons (Lk 6:17-18). They witnessed Jesus healing a centurion’s slave from a distance (Lk 7:1-10) and raising a widow’s deceased son during his funeral procession (Lk 7:11-17). Along with the disciples of John the Baptist, the apostles also saw and heard, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Lk 7: 22). The twelve witnessed Jesus revealing his divinity by forgiving a sinful woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house (Lk 7:36-50). They, along with some devoted women, accompanied Jesus when he journeyed to towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God (Lk 8:1-3).

Though Jesus told the parable of the Sower to the crowd (Lk 8:4-8), he explained that only to his disciples (Lk 8:9-15). They saw Jesus doing further miracles like calming the storm at sea (Lk 8:22-25), healing a demoniac at Gerasene (Lk 8:26-39), curing a woman with hemorrhage for 12 years (Lk 8:43-48), and raising Jairus’s Daughter (Lk 8:41-56). After such training, Jesus sent his apostles for field visit and hands-on experience.

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

(Lk 9:1) Then Jesus called the Twelve and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases.

Jesus called the Twelve

Besides the regular crowd who gathered in different regions to listen to Jesus, some groups of people accompanied Jesus like the twelve apostles, 72 disciples, and the women followers. Luke reports, “Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources” (Lk 8:1-3). Apostles were his full-time companions and future pillars of the church he intended to establish. He separated them from the others to assign them for field work with special authority and power.

Gave them power and authority

The people welcomed Jesus as a prophet and crowded to listen to him because of his power to cast out demons and his good will to heal the sick. He taught the people with authority, unlike the Scribes (Mt 7:29), and his was a message of hope. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18). So, most of his listeners were enthusiastic to hear his preaching different from the Rabbis of the time.

Jesus wanted the same experience for his apostles when they visit the towns and villages representing him. Without sharing his power and authority, their efforts would be futile. So, he shared his power and authority with them so they could perform the miracles as he did and teach what he taught. When they did such unusual service, people realized the divine power they had, welcomed them to their villages, and listened to the word of God.

to drive out all evil spirits

Evil spirits have been influencing humans since the time of the first parents. Such influence can be in various ways and through different means. In demon-controlled cases, the possessed cannot act freely because an outside force controls the person’s behavior like acting under the influence. That makes the person behave strange, hurting himself or others. By liberating from that external influence, the person is freed in body and soul.

The demons in the possessed persons could identify the divinity of Jesus. “Whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’ He warned them sternly not to make him known” (Mk 3:11-12). Luke reports, “Demons also came out from many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Messiah” (Lk 4:41).

Jesus, who liberated many from the demon possession, shared his power with his disciples. In the name of Jesus, they healed the abnormal people and manifested Jesus’ power over the evil spirits. When the 72 disciples returned after their assignment, they shared with Jesus, “‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.’ Jesus said, ‘I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky’” (Lk 10:17-18).

The disciples continued casting out demons after the Pentecost. When Philip preached in Samaria, they paid attention to him, “For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:7-8). While Paul he was in Philippi, he cast out demon from “a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16-18).

to heal diseases

Jesus healed the sick for several reasons:  

1. Compassion for the suffering: Jesus healed all the sick who approached him or whom others brought to him. These he did out of compassion for them. Matthew reports, when Jesus “saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick” (Mt 14:14). When two blind men sought his help, “Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him” (Mt 20:34). Once a leper begged Jesus to heal him. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand” and even touched him out of compassion which others would never dare to do those days. The leprosy left him immediately (Mk 1:40-42). Jesus never declined the request for healing from anyone.

Jesus even healed the sick without them asking him. When Jesus was in Jerusalem at a pool called Bethesda, he asked a man ill for 38 years, “Do you want to be well?” (Jn 5:1-6) and healed him. Peter followed his master’s example in healing a man crippled from birth begging at “the Beautiful Gate” in the Temple. When he asked for alms from Peter and John, Peter cured the man (Acts 3:1-10). Since Jesus had the power for healing, he made use of them because of his compassion for the distressed people.

2. To Glorify God: Jesus performed miracles, including healing the sick, to reveal his glory or to glorify his Father. After describing the first miracle of Jesus, John writes, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (Jn 2:11). “The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel” (Mt 15:31). When Jesus healed a paralytic, the crowds “were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings” (Mt 9:8).

3. Messianic revelation: One identification of the Messiah was his power to heal the sick as Isaiah had prophesied. “Then the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf be opened; Then the lame shall leap like a stag, and the mute tongue sing for joy” (Isa 35:5-6). “On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isa 29:18). Matthew documented, “He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: ‘He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases’” (Mt 8:16-17).

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus asking, “‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them’” (Mt 11:3-6).

Some Jews asked Jesus, “‘How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me … If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn 10:24-38). Thus, Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah through his actions of healing and proclamation of the good news (Isa 61:1-2).

4. To liberate the sick from the bondage of the evil: Sickness came as an outcome of the original sin. People might suffer also because of their own mistakes or of others. The evil in the world also causes sickness. According to Peter, Jesus healed “all those oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). Jesus healed many by casting out demons. The sickness is even personified when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. “He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her” (Lk 4:39). The ultimate destruction and elimination of the evil will happen at his second coming.

Jesus let his disciples heal the sick in his name for the same reasons.

(2) And he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

he sent them

After months of training with Jesus, the apostles were competent to preach and perform miracles of benevolence by themselves. Hence, Jesus sent them for practical training, so they get self-confidence to continue his mission after his departure from them.

In Matthew, Jesus restricted the apostles from entering to the non-Jewish territories. “Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Mt 10:5-6). Besides the apostles, Jesus sent out 72 “others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit” (Lk 10:1). According to Mark 6:7, Jesus sent the apostles two by two as he did with the 72 disciples.

to proclaim the kingdom of God

The miracles Jesus and the disciples did, such as healing the sick and casting out evil spirits, were only temporary and earthly relief. The permanent solution comes only through the entry into the kingdom of God. For that, they had to repent of their sins and work for eternal salvation with other Christians in the church Jesus was about to establish on the Pentecost through the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of God refers primarily to the rule of the Almighty over the entire universe with no territory, because everything belongs to God with no border. “The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all” (Psalm 103:19). In a specific sense, Israel was the kingdom of God because God’s dominion is a spiritual ruling over the lives and hearts of those who remain faithful to Him. Jesus reconstituted it, forming the church with Christ as its head. This kingdom is spiritual, and that is why Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). The church is only a foretaste of the perfect kingdom of God that will happen later in its fullness when the time of redemption is over with the second coming of Christ.

God will govern his kingdom that is eternal, peaceful, free from any struggle, and is open only for the faithful children of God. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). Thus, the Kingdom of God has different stages. God initially established it in the world at large, then among the chosen people of Israel, Jesus restored it later by establishing the church, and it will come to its perfection with the second coming of Christ.

John preached in the desert of Judea saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 3:1-2). The same was the message when Jesus sent out 72 disciples ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. (Lk 10:1-9). Thus, John the Baptist, the 12 apostles, and the 72 disciples were heralds of the Messiah. Unlike the apostles and other disciples, John performed no miracle.

to heal the sick

When Jesus sent out the 12 apostles, he asked them to heal the sick while proclaiming the kingdom of God to them (Lk 9:2). Matthew gives more details of the powers Jesus gave to the 12. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Mt 10:8). Mark gives the impact of the ministry of the 12. “So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mk 6:13). The apostles and the other disciples did miracles in the name of Jesus to help the less fortunate. That made their listeners hospitable to them, trust in their message, and excitedly wait to welcome Jesus, in whose name they did the wonders.

(3) He instructed them, “Do not take anything for the journey, neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even take a spare tunic.”

Each journey of the apostles to nearby villages for preaching lasted only for a few days. So, they did not need to carry much luggage with them. Instead, they should be free for movement and detached from comforts of life. A second tunic was a luxury during those days. That was the reason for John the Baptist to teach, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:11). The apostles also had to depend on God’s providence through the hospitality of the people they served.

Jesus wanted his disciples to be detached from the worldly needs and comforts. He had warned them, “Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). They should rely on the people whom they served as representatives of God. In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus gives detailed instruction on this. Using the examples of ravens (v. 24) and flowers (v. 27-28), he said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear” (v. 22). “As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:29-32).

At the Last Supper, Jesus asked the apostles, “‘When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?’ ‘No, nothing,’ they replied” (Lk 22:35). Thus, God’s providential care was with them during their ministry. However, at the Last Supper, Jesus changed his policy because of the long-distance journeys and opposition from non-believers. “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Lk 22:36).

(4) Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place.

During their preaching, the apostles could find lodging in the house of hospitable people. Because of their prophetic style of preaching and miracles of mercy, people gladly invited them to their houses. Poor people welcomed them more than the rich because their ministry was more appealing to the less fortunate in the community. Though the families that provided them accommodation and food were mostly of inferior status, the disciples had to be satisfied with such offers than seeking favors from well-to-do families.

(5) “And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust off your feet: it will be as a testimony against them.”

It is natural that dust clings on to the feet of a pedestrian, especially on dusty roads. When the disciples traveled by feet from house to house preaching the gospel, the same could happen. The Jews during that time had the practice of shaking the dust from their feet and clothes when they exit from a Gentile land. It expressed their disgust against the Gentiles and to show that they did not want to bring anything pagan to Judea.

When Jesus asked the disciples to apply this in their ministry, it had a slightly different meaning. If the townsmen would reject the Word of God, Jesus asked the disciples to shake off the dust from their feet in public in the town square to show that they did all they could for the salvation of the townsmen. The disciples were no more obliged by the fate of the land. The Jews could understand it because they had done such acts against the gentile towns.

When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch in Pisidia, the Jews rejected them. So, they turned to the Gentiles, who happily welcomed their exhortation. The Jews “stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium” (Acts 13:50-51). However, they did not take the rejection from the villagers as a personal insult because they “were filled with joy and the holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).

(6) So they set out and went through the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Even before receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the disciples could preach the gospel and heal the sick. They could achieve them because they had shared the power and authority from Jesus. Unlike people in the towns, the villagers were simple people and were receptive to the word of God.

Good News

The Bible starts with the good news and the bad news. The good news is that God created everything in the universe for the humans. Unlike other creations, God created man in his own image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27). “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth” (Gen 1:28). However, the bad news is that the first humans failed in God’s test by disobedience. God expelled them from the paradise, giving them hope of victory over the tempter through a savior (Gen 3:15).

The humanity has been waiting for the God-promised savior of the world. Centuries passed while expectation for the Messiah continued through prophetic revelations. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and told them, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth, he quoted from Isaiah that the Spirit of the Lord anointed him to bring glad tidings to the poor (Lk 4:18).

The Greek word for good news is gospel. It entails the message of salvation. God’s promise of a savior is fulfilled in Jesus. He accomplished his mission through his incarnation, public ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. His victory and his promise of coming again to reward those who keep his commandments is the good news the apostles shared. The people have to repent and accept this salvation through baptism, observation of the commandment of love, and participation in the church Jesus established.

MESSAGE

1. Like Jesus, who had only three years and a few months for his public ministry and to offer his life for the salvation of humanity, we also have limited time in this world when we can work with the church for the kingdom of God. Let us effectively make use of our time and talents to accomplish our God-assigned mission in this world.

2. Most of us are blessed to inherit our faith and membership in the church from our forefathers. It should not end with our lives. We have to hand over our faith and church membership to the next generations by training our children in faith. The training Jesus gave to his 72 disciples and 12 apostles is a role model for us.

3. Jesus gave his disciples the authority and power to preach, to heal the sick, and cast out demons. God worked through them. When we work for Jesus through his church, God will generate abundant results even beyond our expectation.  

4. Jesus and his disciples faced rejection and persecution from people who were worldly. Jesus told the disciples they do not belong to this world though they are in the world. Let us also positively face challenges in our work for the church and for the spiritual wellbeing of our family and others.

5. The villagers who received the service of the disciples provided for the needs of their preachers. Let us also support our consecrated persons who serve us and the missionaries who work for the kingdom of God in remote areas.

6. The Christian believers worked with the apostles for the strengthening and expansion of the church. Likewise, let us also work with bishops and priests in building up the church.