Jesus provides his apostles with excellent instructions on how to carry out the preaching work as they go forth in pairs. He does not stop there, however. He kindly warns them about opposers: “Look! I am sending you out as sheep among wolves . . . Be on your guard against men, for they will hand you over to local courts and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake.”
Yes, Jesus’ followers may encounter severe persecution, yet he reassuringly promises them: “When they hand you over, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak, for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.” Jesus continues: “Brother will hand brother over to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and will have them put to death. And you will be hated by all people on account of my name, but the one who has endured to the end will be saved.”
Because the preaching is of primary importance, Jesus emphasizes the need for his followers to be discreet so as to remain free to carry out this work. He says: “When they persecute you in one city, flee to another; for truly I say to you, you will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.”
What outstanding instructions, warnings, and encouragement Jesus gives to his 12 apostles! You can appreciate, though, that these words are also meant for those who will share in the preaching work after Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is shown by his saying that his disciples will be “hated by all people,” not just by those to whom the apostles are being sent to preach. Furthermore, we do not read of the apostles’ being brought before governors and kings during this short preaching campaign in Galilee nor of their being delivered up to death by family members.
Clearly, Jesus has the future in mind in saying these things to the apostles. Consider his statement that his disciples will not complete their circuit of preaching “until the Son of man arrives.” Jesus is indicating that his disciples will not complete the preaching about God’s Kingdom before the glorified King Jesus Christ arrives as God’s judge.
While carrying out the preaching work, the apostles should not be surprised to face opposition, for Jesus says: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.” Jesus’ point is clear. He faces ill-treatment and persecution for preaching God’s Kingdom, and so will they. Yet Jesus urges: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”
In this, Jesus set the example. He fearlessly endured death rather than compromise his loyalty to the one with all power, Jehovah. It is Almighty God who can destroy a person’s “soul” (his future prospects for life) or who can resurrect him to enjoy everlasting life. How reassuring this must be to the apostles!
Jesus illustrates God’s loving care for his followers in this way: “Two sparrows sell for a coin of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. . . . So have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The message Jesus’ disciples preach will divide households, some family members accepting it and others not. “Do not think I came to bring peace to the earth,” Jesus explains. Yes, it takes courage for a family member to embrace Bible truth. “Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me,” Jesus observes, “and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.”
Yet, some will receive his disciples favorably. He says: “Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.”
Well-equipped with Jesus’ instructions, warnings, and encouragement, the apostles head out “through the territory from village to village, declaring the good news and performing cures everywhere.”