The first mission of the apostles in Matthew 10 (apostle means one who is sent) is to the lost sheep of Israel, to the Jews, the lost Jewish people. Later on Jesus will broaden the scope to include all people.
“5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Shepherds of that time had it rough. There weren’t fences for pastures. Sheep would stray. Sheep who stray are easier targets for wolves to kill and destroy.
We have an enemy. He is actively seeking out those who stray. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
In the wild it’s the weak and the straying that get picked off. This entire world is wild.
Message to the sheep in the flock: Huddle up sheep. Huddle and and cuddle and stay close to the shepherd. Protect each other and follow the shepherd.
Message to the shepherds: Gather the strays. If we see a stray, so does our enemy. He wants to destroy them. Who will get there first?
Jesus is THE good shepherd. He is calling for us to come to him and be safe.
“11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”’
Jesus is the good shepherd who has laid down his life for us his sheep. I want to learn to follow his voice and stay close.
Jesus please don’t let me stray.
But that’s not the entire message of this section is it? We, Jesus’ followers, are to go out and serve the world. We are To teach, to heal the sick, to free from the devil, cleanse lepers, to raise the dead. We are the shepherds of the sheep. We are to protect. Will we run from the wolves and lions or will we protect the flock Jesus has put under our care?
We have been given the mission, the authority and the tools. Will we do the job we’ve been given?