Read This Page in My Language
I did a Google search and discovered that there are 3,237 different names recorded in the Bible. Whether or not that number is accurate, I don’t know, nor do I even care that much because it doesn’t matter. The point is that there are a lot of different people (real people) who have their names forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
Imagine, for a moment, being one of the names recorded in Scripture. Would it be in a good light or in a negative light? For sure, to have our name recorded as the apostle Paul, Peter, James, John, or Moses—we’d all be happy with that. But what about if you were Judas? Or Ahab? Or Jezebel! For these people, how they lived their lives continues to follow them for all eternity.
The same is true for the faithful disciples whom Jesus chose to go out and preach the kingdom of God. Imagine had they not been faithful to Jesus’ command. Imagine had they been overly concerned with the people’s reaction to their message. They might have been tempted to change their message. They might have been tempted to see the ministry as a professional career rather than as a sacred calling. And in doing so, they would have never heard the most blessed words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25:23).
Like Amaziah. You say, “Who is Amaziah?” Well, he is one of the 3,237 different names recorded in the Bible. But unlike Peter, James, John, and others, Amaziah is now forever known as an unfaithful servant of God. Amaziah was a priest. He was a priest at Bethel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. “Bethel” means “house of God.” You would think that a priest serving in the house of God would be faithful to God. You would think he would speak only what God had spoken to him. But Amaziah cared more about the people’s reaction to his message than whether he was faithful to the message. He was a “professional” priest rather than a humble servant.
Amos, the prophet, was completely different. He was not a “professional preacher” at all. He already had a career. He was a herdsman of sheep and took care of sycamore figs. But one day God called him and said, “I have chosen you to go prophesy to my people Israel” (Amos 7:15). Both Amaziah and Amos were chosen by God to be messengers of his Word. But Amos was more concerned about what God thought of him than what the people thought of him. He was more concerned with God’s glory than his own. And so, much of what Amos preached was not politically correct or “nice-nice”. Amos wasn’t a popular preacher.
Would you rather have a popular preacher or a faithful preacher? Actually, it doesn’t really matter what you and I want. All that matters is what God says and wants. People think they can control God, the way Jonah thought that by running away from God he would change God’s mind. But that is not how it works with God and his messengers. God always gets his way, as well he should. The question is whether or not we, his people, are aligned with it.
Now, that was a long introduction. But so much of the application has already been put forward. God wants faithful preachers. He’s not concerned about popular preachers. He’s not even concerned about talented preachers, for he is the one who gives the preacher his various talents in the first place. What he looks for in a preacher is faithfulness.
Consider Jesus commissioning the Twelve in Mark chapter 6. He summoned them, “and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the road except a staff—no bread, no traveling bag, no money in their belts, but to wear sandals and not put on an extra shirt. He said to them, ‘Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that place. If any place does not welcome you or listen to you, when you leave there, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them’’ (vv. 7-11).
This is the first time that Jesus sends out the Twelve on a preaching tour. Up until now they had heard him preach, but they didn’t do any preaching themselves. Now Jesus gives them some much needed practice. The point of this text in Scripture is not so much to record the details of their preaching tour, but rather to highlight the humble nature of the public ministry.
Now, all of us as believers are ministers of Christ. A minister is a servant. That is what the word means. You might not know that anymore due to the changing nature of words. Most people don’t consider the elected ministers of a country “servants” of the people, but that is what they are supposed to be.
It is what a Christian is supposed to be as well. We are servants of Christ. That means humble. That means it is not about our personal agenda. Service to God has little to do with what we want or our preferred comfort level.
Some Christians are public ministers of Christ. That is, they represent him on a public level. Your pastor is one of them. But all of us have been chosen to share Christ with others; it’s just that most Christians do that in a private manner, that is, within the circle of relationships that is unique to them.
This text has to do with the public ministry. But the correct attitude of the public ministry is really the attitude of any believer because it is the attitude of Christ. It is his ministry, not ours.
Notice, how Jesus instructs his disciples not to take anything extra for their journey. Part of the reason was because this was going to be a short journey, but the main reason was because he was teaching them to trust him to provide. You see, it takes humility to trust God both as a pastor and as a congregation. The disciples were to trust that Jesus would provide for their daily needs through the generosity of the people they preached to. And the people were to trust that in being generous towards God’s servants, God would bless them in return.
You see, there is an abundance mentality that motivates all of Christian ministry. The reason the pastor can give so much of himself to the people is because he knows that God will give back to him in return. Probably not financially. Most certainly not in popularity. But realizing that even the least of what he does lasts into eternity.
The congregation itself is motivated by the same abundance mentality. Anything you give to God, God can and will give you more in return. It may not be health related. It may not be financially related. But God is a God of abundance, not of scarcity. “Scarcity” is a word that should be abolished among Christians. Not that we aren’t poor. Not that we always have two pairs of something rather than one. But we have Christ. And with Christ we have all things.
Think of that. Is there anything too great for God? And so, while the congregation may not be rich in an earthly sense, we are content because we know that God “is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power [his power] that works in us …” You see, this is the reason we can go and preach God’s word faithfully. We know that God is going to take care of us. Or to put it another way, we can be faithful to God because we are certain that God will always be faithful to us!
Go back to Amaziah and the prophet Amos. Amaziah didn’t have this kind of faith in God. He didn’t believe that God could do for him “above and beyond” all that he asked, so he purposely changed the God’s message to suit what the people and the king wanted to hear, rather than what God had actually said. He trusted more in the king’s approval rather than in God’s approval of him.
And that is a great temptation for pastors today. Pastors are bound to what God’s Word says whether it happens to be popular or not. In the case of Amos, he was tasked with telling Israel that God was going to judge them for their sins by sending the Assyrians against them. Well, no one wanted to hear that. I’m sure Amos didn’t even want to say that. But he had to. God told him to. And the ambassador doesn’t have the right to speak on his own. He can only relay what his superior has allowed him to say.
Now let’s go back to the Twelve disciples and Jesus. Jesus said, “If any place does not welcome you [implying that some places wouldn’t welcome the disciples nor their message], when you leave there, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (v. 11). In other words, the disciples’ feet were there. The message of Jesus and salvation was right there at that house and in that town, but the people would not listen.
Now that is a real tragedy. For on the last day, those who refuse to listen will be reminded that God’s Word to save them was right there. God was faithful. He brought it right to them, right to their house, right to their own town, but they themselves did not want it. So, it is a deeply tragic moment whenever someone rejects God’s message, but for the messenger—he’s fine. People tell him to go away or that he is wrong for saying such things, but God says, “No matter. You were faithful. Move on!” Because as we highlighted last week, some will listen, and some will believe! We see it in Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve—some will receive the disciples and their message, take them into their home, and provide for them. Yes, God himself will provide for them! So, they can preach his Word faithfully without worry of repercussion.
Finally, what is the central message the disciples went out and preached? Verse 12: “So they went out and preached that people should repent.”
What a positive and encouraging message! It’s not that God sends out his preachers to condemn people to hell. It’s that he is pleading with the people of this earth to turn from their sins so that they can receive Jesus’ forgiveness. It’s not that Jesus likes some and doesn’t like others. It’s not that Jesus only died for some but not for others. No, Jesus died for all! And the Bible means all! So, rather than see the preaching of God’s Word as bad, it is always good news. If we don’t understand it as good news, that’s because we don’t understand it. For even the preaching of sin has as its purpose the pronouncement of forgiveness.
How blessed we are that God continues to faithfully send his forgiving Word to us even today. He does it primarily through his chosen public ministers—the pastor. It is the way he has always done it, and it is the way he will always do it. May we receive Jesus’ words with a humble attitude and a joyful heart, for at the heart of God’s Word is always the repentance and forgiveness of sins! Amen.