Kingdom Surrender - Matthew 9:37–10:16
Hudson Taylor was born in England in the 19th century, he spent over 50 years of his life as a missionary to China, founding the China Inland Mission. But as Taylor began to carry the gospel from the coast of China to the interior of the country, he found that people did not take his message seriously. Because he looked and sounded distinctly European, he was a novelty to the Chinese people.
And so he realized it was necessary to immerse himself in Chinese culture, adopting their lifestyle, even down to the way they dressed and wore their hair. To reach the Chinese, he determined to become Chinese. And as a result, he pioneered a new approach among Protestant missionaries. At one point, as he and his team worked to further the message of Christ, an opportunity presenting itself, which, on one hand, would allow the gospel to reach new people, but, on the other, possessed the potential of great difficulty for the missionaries.
At that time, Taylor reminded the group that there are different ways of working for God. Taylor’s own son recorded his father’s words. Listen to what Taylor said to the missionary group regarding the choices before them. He said, “One is to make the best plans we can, and carry them out to the best of our ability. This may be better than working without a plan, but it is, by no means, the best way of serving our Master. Or, having carefully laid our plans and determined to carry them through, we may ask God to help us, and to prosper us in connection with them. Yet another way of working is to begin with God; to ask his plans, and to offer ourselves to him to carry out his purposes.”Hudson Taylor’s words here describe not only how to make plans for spreading the gospel in China; they describe how each of us may approach the way we live our lives.
All of us naturally make detailed plans for our lives based on our own desires. But we learn in the Scriptures that God has made detailed plans for our lives based on his desires. And while His desires are always pure,ours are very often tainted by self-centeredness; while His plans are always wise; ours are often riddled with foolishness or fear. And for those reasons, we should surrender to the Lord’s plans for us. But how do we do that? What are the characteristics of a surrendered life? And for that matter, because we know that God looks not only at the outward appearance, but at the heart, what are the characteristics of a surrendered heart? The apostles of Jesus Christ, who laid the foundation of the church in the new covenant era, demonstrated those characteristics as they fulfilled God’s special calling on their lives.
And in doing so, they not only joined God as he furthered his kingdom on earth, but also, they showed followers of Jesus how to live a life of kingdom surrender. In this section of Matthew, we see three characteristics of a heart surrendered to God. You can see the outline there on page 6 in your worship guide. A surrendered heart embraces the role God assigns, accepts the provision God supplies, and endures the path God prepares.
Now, this passage of Scripture is not first of all about you and I and our roles in God’s kingdom. It is about the apostles, those 12 special disciples of Jesus. Their historical setting was unique. It was first-century Israel, under Roman occupation. And the kings of Israel at that time did not descend from the great king David. First-century Jewish kingship was installed by the Romans. So, they were not legitimate heirs to the throne of David. And they were worldly, sinful leaders, concerned not with following the Word of God, but with pleasing the Roman empire. And the religious leaders of Israel, such as the Pharisees mentioned back in verse 34 of ch. 9, were also worldly and sinful in their leadership.
Because of them, the people of Israel were, as Matthew says in 9:36, “like sheep without a shepherd.” That statement was a direct reference to the indictment of Israel’s leaders in Ezekiel 34 in the Old Testament. But Jesus says that the people of Israel were ripe to respond to godly leadership. Verse 37 compares their readiness to a plentiful harvest waiting to be gathered. And so, in verse 38, Jesus tells his followers to pray for God to send out gatherers, to send out laborers who would reap the harvest. The harvest comes in as the kingdom comes - as the reign of God increases over the hearts and lives of people who receive Jesus as Lord. In verse 1 of chapter 10, Jesus then commissions the 12 apostles for a special mission. He gives them the authority (or divine ability) to do what he has been doing.
Notice this: in giving this authority to his 12, he was clearly not giving it to the religious leaders of the day. Jesus was wiping out their whole religious leadership structure - not adapting it to the present. Earlier in chapter 9 Jesus commented on this. The old structure could not contain the new era. But the new era is strikingly similar to the old era. How? Well, we see the foundational structures are parallel.
In the Old Covenant era, there was Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob, who God renamed Israel. And from Jacob (aka Israel), came 12 sons, who fathered 12 tribes – the 12 tribes of Israel.
In this NC era, we see Jesus, who descends from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who Matthew shows to be the true and better Israel – the true descendant of Abraham through which the whole world will be blessed. And like Jacob (aka Israel), from Jesus comes these 12 leaders. But Jesus didn’t call his 12 leaders from the Jewish religious ranks. He goes wholly outside of that. And in doing so, Jesus shows that he rejects the established leadership and their credentials as leaders in Israel. No wonder they hated him and eventually killed him.
This is comparable to how the leaders in the Protestant Reformation were either put to death or sought out to be executed. Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther as a threat to the Roman Catholic Church leadership structure. Those bad leaders wanted to eliminate the leadership of the new movement. That is what was done to Jesus. We see leaders doing this repeatedly throughout history.
Now, notice verse 6, Jesus says that the people Israel as a nation were like “lost sheep.” The shepherds were not shepherding. And so, in agreement with the covenant with Abraham, (part of what I mean by Old Covenant), the apostles’ mission began within the nation of Israel; not yet to non-Jews, as verse 5 states. However, the New Covenant is better and it expands on the Old Covenant, which is clear because Jesus himself go outside of ethnic Israel and he instructs the apostles to join him in that worldwide work later on.
But at this point in history, we see a special beginning. There would never be another group like this group, assigned this role of standing in the overlap between the Old Covenant and New Covenant eras. There would never be another group given this kind of authority. Not only would they preside over this mission during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but they would preside over the expansion of the church beyond Israel, to the ends of the earth, and they would preside over the recording of God’s special revelation in the New Covenant era.
The church today does not simply benefit from the apostles’ influence; we depend on it. They laid the foundation of the church, with Jesus as the cornerstone of the foundation. There was nothing in themselves that was special about them,
but what we see in them is that by God’s grace, they embraced the role God assigned to them. Now, you see in verse 1 and down in verse 8 that the apostles would cast out demons, heal diseases, raise the dead, and cleanse lepers. These were the signs that the kingdom of heaven had come. The Messianic age was dawning.
God was working through these men and so people should listen to them. Jesus was the messiah and these men were his representatives. But they were not to be worshipped or revered. Their role was all grace. And Matthew hints at that in verses 2-4, and he reiterates it later. Matthew lists the 12 apostles. Peter is referred to as “first.” We understand Peter not to be above his peers, but rather, to be the first among equals. He was the most outspoken one, but not more powerful or more holy. Certainly, he alone was not the rock on which the church was founded, as some say.
All 12 had this authority and mission. But interestingly, we know very little about most of the apostles. There simply isn’t a lot of information available about most of them. But we see a few things here. Matthew mentions again that he was a tax collector, a dirty outsider. Jesus called him, but also, Jesus called a Zealot named Simon. Zealots were revolutionaries who fought against Rome’s occupation of Israel. Matthew had embraced Roman occupation; he worked for the enemy. Now Matthew and Simon were on the same team. Sounds like something God would do. Also, we see Judas Iscariot, who would later betray Jesus. The presence of wicked Judas emphasizes that we all have roles assigned to us by God. Peter says in Acts 1 that Judas’ betrayal fulfilled Scripture – it fulfilled God’s plans. There is something much bigger going on than just our short lives. There are plans much grander and weightier than our temporary plans.
So much research has been done in the area of human personality. People have been observed, data has been collected and examined, and a profound declaration has been made: people are different. Not everyone is wired exactly the same, so to speak. Not everyone has the same natural abilities, same talents, same automatic responses, same set of life experiences and opportunities. Who decides those things?
The universe? Random evolutionary processes? No, the one true God determines those things. You and I don’t choose our parents, the location of our birth, the age in which we are born, and the hard-wired traits of our personalities. We don’t choose a host of our life experiences. And we don’t choose our roles in the kingdom. In fact, listen to what Jesus later tells his disciples. John 15, Jesus says,  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”
If you are born again, if you are a true follower of Jesus, you are divinely appointed by God in a special role as he increases his reign over his people. Just like the founding fathers, the apostles, you and I must carry out God’s plans in God’s way by God’s ability and for God’s glory. Are you embracing the role God has assigned to you? Do you treasure that role? Are you giving yourself fully to what the Lord has laid before you? What are the roles assigned to you by God and how can you better fulfill them, fulfilling them with a surrendered heart?
Not only does Jesus assign our roles; he also addresses our needs on the mission.
Notice the last part of v.8. He tells the apostles, You received without paying; give without pay. They were not to do these divine works for payment. With these things that the apostles would be doing, there would naturally be people who would want to offer them money for miracles. Jesus makes it clear that you can’t buy miracle from God. The apostles’ calling was a gift which they didn’t buy or earn. And the works they would perform should be free of charge. But it they were not accepting payment, how would their temporal needs be met? Well, Jesus implies that it will be taken care of, because, verse 10, a laborer deserves his food.
The apostle Paul later refers to this as he explains that there will be those in God’s kingdom work who earn their living in gospel ministry. 1 Timothy 5, Paul speaks of those who labor in preaching and teaching. He writes,  For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” God would make a way for the apostles, and he makes for his preachers and teachers, but they must walk by faith and what God provides must be accepted as sufficient. Obviously, Jake and I earn our living serving as pastors of Good Shepherd. And we walk by faith in that. But you also must walk by faith and trust God for your temporal needs. Walking by faith includes being content with what supplies as you follow his will. You may experience great gain, and you may have to go without things others enjoy.
I’ve mentioned in previous sermons George Muller. He was a pastor in England in the 1800s and the founder of an orphanage. He set out to establish and maintain the orphanage simply by prayer and faith. His journals recount the amazing ways God provided without continual pleas for money. Muller wrote, “The Christian should never worry about tomorrow or give sparingly because of a possible future need. Only the present moment is ours to serve the Lord, and tomorrow may never come. Money is really worth no more than as it can be used to accomplish the Lord’s work. Life is worth as much as it is spent for the Lord's service.”
Are you willing to accept the provision God supplies as you obey him? Not that you can’t work hard and earn a good living, but is your time and energy devoted to earning money causing you to fail in the roles God has assigned to you? Your role as a church member, as a spouse, as a parent. God assigned these roles to you. We must pray and seek the Lord’s wisdom and guidance on these things. The same God assures us who assured the apostles: he makes a way for his people. He provides for our needs as we walk by faith. This was the kind of leadership that Israel needed - leaders who would walk by faith. Leaders who would show the way of a heart surrendered to God roles, his provision, and finally, to his path – however hard it might prove to be.
Notice these final verses. Jesus informs the apostles that they won’t always be welcomed on their mission. Not everyone will listen or agree with them.
Verse  And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it
and stay there until you depart. “Worthy” here means worthy of the blessings
that come from associating with the apostles. Their “peace,” verse 13, is their greeting. Like “Peace be with you.” “And also with you.” It’s a mutual respect and acceptance. The apostles will be rejected sometimes, but when rejected, they must accept it as God’s will and move on, because really, it is the Lord Jesus that was being rejected.
The apostles were only ambassadors. They came on his authority or behalf.
And the towns in Israel who would reject them were rejecting the Messiah and deserving of the wrath of God. That’s why in verse 15, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Sodom and Gomorrah had become a byword or the embodiment of immorality fully deserving of God’s wrath. People to whom the apostles would go would have the privilege of seeing and hearing things that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did not see and hear. Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t see divine miracles and hear the preaching of the gospel of Jesus. What happens to those ancient cities, as recorded in Genesis 19, foreshadowed what is to come for those who reject Jesus Christ. And yet, this is the path prepared for the apostles.
In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul tells the church,  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. How bad would it be for the apostles? Verse 16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” They must go to save and protect the sheep, but also, they are sheep. The opposition would be fierce. And so Jesus advises them to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” This is very important when it comes to enduring the path God prepares for you. The idea here is that the serpent thinks a few steps ahead. It does not merely react. “Wise” here could also be translated “prudent,” mindful of the possible outcomes. We must play chess, not checkers. But unlike the deceptive, devious serpent, the apostles must also be “innocent.”
In other words, operating from pure motives. The dove is innocent. It lacks guile or craftiness. Jesus tells them not to be naïve. Be smart, but also, be honest and godly. This is essential because when walking by faith, especially in difficulty, the natural response is to take matters into your own hands and try to manipulate the situation to get what you want. A surrendered heart does not do that. A surrendered heart recognizes even the difficulties as part of the providence of God. A surrendered heart trusts that God is at work.
Often you’ll see Jeremiah 29:11 quoted in picture frames or on social media. Many folks cite it as their favorite Bible verse. It says,  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. The verse does speak to God’s plan to bless his people. But God said it to people who had their country and their freedom taken away. They were sent into exile. There was great suffering and loss. It was a hard path. And those hard things were God’s plans also.
Not all of God’s path for us is easy. As you endure the hard things on the path God has prepared for you, are you making the daily effort to surrender to his timing and his work in your heart?
In each of these characteristics of a surrendered heart, we fail continually, don’t we?We naturally resist the roles God has assigned to us. We naturally grow discontent with his provision. We naturally shrink back from the past he calls us to endure. But we look at the One who called the apostles, and who calls you and I. We look to the Lord Jesus, who fully embraced his role as Lord and Savior. He remained content with the provision supplied to him during his earthly life. And Jesus endured the path prepared by God, enduring it even to death.
And for those reasons, he is a satisfactory Savior and a worthy Lord. True followers of Jesus do not rest in our own sufficiency to display surrendered hearts. We rest in the sufficiency of Jesus and his finished work on the cross. Then we renew our efforts to surrender to God each day. Have you surrendered wholly to Jesus? Can you admit to God that you sin against him? And can you also admit to those around you that you have sinned against them? Can you humble yourself and ask forgiveness, comforted by the sacrifice of Jesus for you? And can you step forward in faith, trusting Jesus alone? Because only in Jesus do we see perfect kingdom surrender.
Let’s pray together.