SEED & BREAD
FROM CANA TO CALVARY
"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee" (John 2:11).
These words point to the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus
Christ. "And when they came to the place which is called Calvary, there
they crucified Him" (Luke 23:33). These words denote the end of what the
writer of Hebrews calls "the days of His flesh" (Heb. 5:7). Our study
concerns these days, the three years of His earthly ministry.
In his brief introduction to the book of Acts the writer Luke describes
his previous writing, the Gospel of Luke, as being an account of what
Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day of His ascension (Acts
1:1, 2). Thus all that the Lord did and all that He said before He
ascended to heaven set the stage for all that was done in the Acts
period. The thirty-three years that form this period are a continuation
of the three years of His earthly ministry; therefore, what He said and
did upon the earth demands careful consideration. If the great truths of
this short three-year period are hid in our hearts, it will provide a
well-prepared piece of ground upon which the seeds of truth of the Acts
period can fall and take root. Everyone knows that He "went about doing
good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38),
but beyond this they know very little.
At one point in His ministry the Lord Jesus made certain declarations of
truth that caused many of His disciples to turn back and walk no more
with Him (John 6:66). Their profession of submission (repentance) came
to a sudden end. This defection did not cause the Lord to send someone
after them with the promise of a brighter, lighter, happier message the
next time He spoke to them. He simply turned to the twelve disciples and
asked, "Will ye also go away?"
In answering Peter became the spokesman for the twelve and said, "Lord,
to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe
and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John
Peter was entirely right in his statement. At the time of this incident
there was only One upon the earth who could speak a message which a man
by believing could get the guarantee of eternal life. If they turned
away from Him there was none other to whom they could go. No one else
could make the offer of eternal life. None but the Lord Jesus could
utter this salvation-bringing, life-giving message.
Before this time the Lord had commissioned the twelve as heralds. These
men were not preachers; they were heralds. They were given authority
over "unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of
sickness and all manner of disease" (Matt. 10:1). In commissioning them
they were barred from taking any road that would lead them to Gentiles,
and from entering into any Samaritan city (10:5). They were directed to
go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (10:6), and their
message was limited to a call to submission (repentance) in view of the
fact that God's government was impending (10:7). Thus, under their
proclamation any Israelite could take the place of submission, and these
men could identify such with the submissive ones. This was only a step
toward eternal life, only a start on the road to salvation.
The twelve would not have dared to add to the message the Lord gave to
them, even though they probably would very much like to have done so.
Certainly they would have preferred to proclaim that they had found One
who gave every evidence that He was the long-awaited Messiah, to have
recounted the works they had seen Him do, and to have held Him up as an
object of faith in the hope of eternal life. But this was not their
mission or message at that time. Note carefully His specific
instructions to them:
* These twelve Jesus sent forth (apostello, see Issue No. 5) and
commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into
any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of the
heavens is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead,
cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Matt. 10:5-8.
This was their commission. They were heralds. They were told exactly
what to say and do. Their instructions amounted to divine directives.
Sir Robert Anderson tells of an incident that happened in the French
Chamber concerning trouble which was caused in a certain district
through the general in command having communicated a War Office order in
his own words. When the Minister of War was challenged in Parliament for
punishing him, his answer was, "He committed an offence, and I removed
him; he paraphrased an order which it was his duty only to read."
The Lord's directive as to what the heralds should say was explicit.
They did not paraphrase the words given them in order to inflate their
message and make it more spectacular. They had accepted the call to
submission (repentance) with resolute sincerity. Later interpreters
would enlarge their commiss ion and have these heralds going forth with
the salvation-bringing, life-giving message to all kinds of men in all
places. This is a false conception. It was not at that time their
privilege to speak the message that would bring forgiveness, redemption,
and life to lost men.
As their consciousness grew in regard to Jesus being the Messiah (the
Christ) and they confessed to Him that this was their conviction, they
were charged that they should tell no man about it (Matt. 16:20). Even
after Peter, James, and John saw Him transfigured they were charged to,
"Tell the vision to no man until the Son of man be risen again from the
dead" (Matt. 17:9). Not until after His death and resurrection, and the
pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, could they speak the
words that would bring about theogenic faith in the great truth that
Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Until then the Lord Jesus alone
could speak this message. This is in complete harmony with Paul's later
* How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation; which at the
first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them
that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and
wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit,
according to His own will. Heb. 2:3, 4.
Thus, three things need to be firmly fixed in our minds and held as
divine truth: (1) Jesus Christ was the first to speak a message that men
by believing could lay hold of God's promise of life through Him; (2)
Before His ascension He was the only one who could speak it; (3) He
spoke it only to a limited number of the lost sheep of the house of
During His earthly ministry when a Syrophonecian woman (a Gentile) made
an appeal to Him for help in regard to her daughter, He, at first, made
no reply at all (Matt. 15:21-23). But she was not easily discouraged, so
she troubled the disciples about her need to such an extent that they
came to Him with the request, "Dismiss her, for she is crying after us."
His answer to the disciples (not the woman) was, "I am not commissioned
(apostello) but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt.
It seems that they reported His words to the woman for she came to Him
again with the almost pitiful plea, "Lord, help me." His answer to this
was, "It is not meet (proper) to take the children's bread, and cast it
to the dogs" (Matt. 15:26).
There are many expositors who seem to wish that these statements would
go away and get lost. They do not at all fit in with the popular
conception that the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ was to all men
without distinction. But they are in the Word and they stand written.
They are His own positive statements as to the extent of His commission
and the limits set upon it. All who believe in Him should not hesitate
to accept His own declarations in regard to this. In His own complete
submission to the will of God, He would not be guilty of extending His
own personal commission. During His earthly ministry only two Gentiles
were touched by Him. The Syrophonecian woman got healing for her
daughter, and a Roman centurion got healing for his slave.
On the evening after His resurrection He appeared to His disciples,
demonstrating to them the reality of His own restoration to life, saying
to them, "Peace be unto you: as My Father has commissioned (apostello)
Me, even so send (pempo) I you" (John 20:21).
By these words He limited their future service to the lost sheep of the
house of Israel, even as His own commission was also limited. Any change
in this would require additional revelations from Him. After He said
this, He breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whose
soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins
ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23).
By this act and by these words He constituted these eleven men His
specially commissioned ones (apostolos). They would perform upon the
earth the acts that He would decree in heaven, and He would work with
them in all they were called to do. Thus it was that for a thirty-three
year period these men were the most gifted, able, powerful, dynamic,
spiritual, energetic and incredible men that ever operated upon this
earth in behalf of God. Later Matthias was added to their number (Acts
1:26) and Paul was personally commissioned and empowered. It was the
presence of such men upon the earth that did so much to make the Acts
period a unique dispensation in God's dealings with men.
I have piled up adjectives in describing these men, and all of these are
true of them , even though very little of their works are recorded. They
covered the known world, reaching all Israel, in one generation. They
were despised and ignored by the world of their day, and they are
misrepresented, stultified, and belittled by the theological world of
today. These men were not eleven old fuddy-duddies running around in
bathrobes, the way they are represented in all religious pageantry of
today. They were God's commissioned ones; they were apostles; they had
the signs of apostles; they were earthly representatives of the One Who
was seated in the heavens.
Issue no. 010