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Gospel of Matthew 10: 1, 5-7 (NIV)
1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
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, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’”
Jesus’ mission, assigned him by the Father while he was constrained to ministering from within a human body, was to “the lost sheep of Israel”. He reinforced this message in the presence of his disciples later when they were in Gentile territory, the region of Tyre and Sidon. Pestered by a Canaanite woman whose daughter was suffering from demon-possession, Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15: 24). It was only when that woman claimed some of the crumbs that fell from the Master’s table that Jesus perceived the depth of her faith and granted her request.
Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, however, the scope of his mission changed and so too did that of his followers. His “Great Commission” to his disciples (Matthew 28: 18-20) would have them go “to all nations”. The book of the Acts of the Apostles reaffirms this commission with Jesus telling his disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).
Our mission today is to all nations too; that must include those of our own nations who do not yet have a trusting personal relationship with Jesus. At the same time let us not overlook, in our prayers and in our evangelising, those who continue to be “the lost sheep of Israel”.