Jesus sent out the disciples for their first mission journey (10:5) with instructions about its shape and difficulties. In 10:8 he described the effect that their mission would have on others. They would cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. In verses 16-23 Jesus made clear that those who would not receive the disciples would persecute them. For these difficult circumstances, Jesus gave the disciples five reassurances: 1. God would be with them as they made their witness; 2. The Son of Man would come before they preached to every town, so they could flee a town if persecution came; 3. Those who are members of the Father’s family will be brought to salvation, even when other families betray each other to death; 4. Since the Son of God, their teacher and master, would be persecuted, they were not to hope to avoid persecution; And, 5. They were to fear only the one who can bless and damn. Enemies of the Gospel can persecute believers only within limits set by our heavenly Father. Because He is in charge of our lives, we need not be afraid of those who oppose us because we confess Christ.
Jesus compassion for the “shepherdless” calls us to bring to the lost, forgotten and marginalized; those on the “periphery”). Today’s Gospel reaffirms our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to welcome rather than condemn, to lift up rather than judge those who have not heard the voice of the shepherd, to seek reconciliation with those from whom we are estranged or separated for whatever reason. Every one of us, in our struggle to make sense out of life, seeks absolutes by which to guide our decisions, formulas to determine what is fair and good, yardsticks to judge success and failure. Masters and gurus, saviors and deliverers, parties and movements of every stripe preach to their followers how to secure fortunes but not how to live, how to feel better but not how to cure what afflicts, how to conquer one’s enemies but not how to live lives of justice and peace. Christ the “shepherd” walks with us on our life’s journey through hurt and change and maturity and wholeness to the dwelling place of God. The defining mark of discipleship is the recognition that we are both called and freed in baptism to bring healing to the broken, comfort to the afflicted, hope to the despairing. In his first “organizational meeting” of the Twelve, Jesus commissions them to take on the work of healing, restoring, reconciling. As God humbled himself to become one of us and be part of our lives, we are called to the same humility in order to bring the compassion and forgiveness of God to the poor, the needy, the helplessly and hopelessly “dead,” the alienated, the rejected and the abused.
After the completion of his work of death and resurrection, Jesus goes before the eleven to Galilee. It is from Galilee that he sends the disciples out to the nations with the Great Commission. So this Gospel appropriately follows the message of Pentecost with its story of the gift of the Spirit to empower the twelve Apostles to carry the gospel to the world. The very name apostle means one who is "sent out." Here the apostles are commissioned by Jesus himself to do his work. Baptism is the means that Jesus institutes for bringing those who had not seen him to share his life. From the very beginning, as a response to the resurrection appearances, the young church began to baptize immediately following Pentecost. In Acts 2:38, for example, baptisms are celebrated "in the name of Jesus Christ." The baptismal phrase "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" is less a liturgical formula repeated to make a Baptism valid than it is a description of what Baptism accomplished. A person is baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and was thus incorporated into the fullness of this new life. A new relationship has been established. So the church honors Baptism as the beginning of Christian life; one's own entrance into the church. Baptism is the way that those of us who have not seen Jesus are enabled to share his life. What is celebrated today is not the doctrine of the Trinity, but the nature and mystery of God. If we understand the day properly, we shall be "lost in wonder, love, and praise." Wonder is the presence of God the Creator; love is the presence of God the Redeemer, who loved us and showed us what love is; and, praise inspired by the Spirit, without whom no one can say "Jesus is Lord." The Spirit brings believers to faith in Jesus as the one in whom God acted for us. By proclaiming the gospel, the church offers everyone a means of being a child of God and sharing in a life which is directed and given power by the Spirit, who leads us to acknowledge God as Father and as Savior. Read the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism: "I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit called me…" The church's ministry is the direct, unbroken continuation of the ministry of Jesus Christ, in whom the whole work of God comes to a focus.