The Master’s Plan – Supervision (Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10)
Are we seeing the big picture of the Master’s plan? By itself the example of Jesus praying and selecting the twelve is powerful instruction on prayer and selecting people to work with (Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). But selection is not, when taken by itself, a full teaching on evangelism and discipleship. In isolation the delegation of work to the disciples is a lesson but not a course of study (Mark 6:7-13). To truly appreciate our Lord’s approach to evangelism and discipleship we must view the pieces of the plan together. It began with selection. It was followed by association (Mark 4:10; 35-41; 5:25-31; 35-43; 6:1). During their association with Jesus the disciples were witnesses to an ongoing demonstration of evangelism and first-hand recipients of discipleship. (What about consecration and impartation? The former was repeatedly stressed in their time with the Lord. It was not a step so much as an often-reiterated requirement for effective ministry in His service. The importance of the impartation of the Holy Spirit was proven in the context of their training. Through the ministry of the Master the disciples became acquainted with the indwelling Presence and power of Jesus’ ministry.) The work they saw Him do (demonstration) was eventually delegated to them (Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6; Luke 10:1-16). Selection. Association. Demonstration. Delegation. In the big picture these parts of the plan are used together to accomplish both evangelism and discipleship.
And then what did Jesus do? The answer, beloved, is found by prayerfully reading the gospel. After the delegation of work Jesus would meet with them to discuss what happened (Luke 10:17). Ongoing supervision was required for their training. That supervision could be seen in at least three ways: (1) regular reviews, (2) relentless reinforcing of key concepts, and (3) persistent promoting of patience.
Regularly Review and Retreat to Rest
Jesus did not merely delegate the work of bringing the good news to the places he was about to go (Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6; Luke 10:1). After the mission he met with his disciples to debrief. It was important to meet with the men (and perhaps women) who had gone out in order to have them share what they had experienced (Mark 6:30; Luke 10:17).
- Debriefing with the Twelve (Mark 6:30-31; Luke 9:10) — Time was needed to communicate. It could not be hurried and there needed to be a complete unpacking of what had been experienced. They told Him all that they had done (Luke 9:10). Afterwards notice the intentionality of Jesus in getting away with the disciples. After the review the need was for a retreat (Luke 9:10; Mark 6:31). Without His supervision the need for rest may have been overlooked in favor of one more mission.
- Debriefing with the Seventy (Luke 10:17) — As the group grew so did their associated successes. No mention is made of demons being subject to the apostles when they returned from their first outing. On account of their experience they had a joy.
Good discipleship is comprehensive. With Jesus it included not only the rigors of outreach but also the requirement of rest. Jesus did not merely direct the disciples toward downtime. He took them away from the fray and supervised them in slowing down to recover.
Relentlessly Reinforce Key Concepts
In the context of the work with the seventy we can see the Savior’s commitment to supervision more clearly. In His time with them alone Jesus listened to the conversation and then used to content of their communications to determine what key concepts needed to be reinforced.
- Rejoice in Your Election (Luke 10:18-20) — Their recent experiences were the cause of great excitement. The verb saying (λέγοντες) is a participle indicating how the seventy were returning; along the way their conversation had been about how demons were subject to them. As they trekked back to their meeting place and even after they arrived they were saying something like, “I knew Jesus said we had authority. But we actually have it. I told the demon to come out of that man. And he did! Wow!”. This was, in their view, the highlight of what had recently taken place. Without guidance their experience becomes the basis for an unhealthy focus on results. (Their faithfulness would sometimes lead to them being berated, beaten, and killed.) In this moment the Lord supervises the seventy out of this wrong reason for rejoicing. He starts by sharing His own experience in dealing with a demon – namely Satan himself.
18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)
After sharing His own experience or unique view of using authority over the spirits, He puts things in perspective. Guys, your authority over evil spirits is not the big deal. The big deal is the grace that has granted you eternal life (Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23).
But Jesus goes on to teach that they must get their priorities right. Their real ground for rejoicing is not their victory over the spirits. The people from whom they had expelled demons would in due course pass away, as would even this earth, the scene of their triumph. Much more important is it that their names are written (perfect tense pointing to what is permanent) in heaven (cf. Exod. 32:32; Dan. 12:1; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 3:5, etc.). Jesus turns their attention to realities that will last. (Morris, 1988, p. 204)
What should I see in all of this? Notice that delegation has to be followed up by a review of what has taken place. It is necessary to go over what has happened and to put it in perspective.
Good discipleship in the debrief provides guidance for putting mission results in perspective. Leaders who lead like Jesus follow delegation with a debrief that helps those being discipled to become discerning about what is and is not important.
- Glorify God for His Grace (Luke 10:21-22) — At some point Jesus breaks out in praise. The verb used to describe Jesus’ rejoicing (ἠγαλλιάσατο) is not the same as the word translated joy (χαρᾶς) in
25.133 ἀγαλλιάω: to experience a state of great joy and gladness, often involving verbal expression and appropriate body movement—‘to be extremely joyful, to be overjoyed, to rejoice greatly.’ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου ‘my soul rejoices greatly because of God my Savior’ Lk 1:47; ἠγαλλιάσατο ἡ γλῶσσά μου ‘my tongue rejoices’ Ac 2:26. In Ac 2:26 it may be impossible to say ‘my tongue rejoices.’ One may, however, translate in some languages as ‘I shout because I am so happy.’ (Louw, 1996, p. 302)
The rejoicing He talked about is going to be walked out in front of them. In that same hour they are present when Jesus’ joy begins to erupt in thanksgiving. And I am sure, in light of the recent teaching, that they could not help but notice what He did and did not give thanks for. Repeatedly mention was made about what an unobligated God did for the undeserving according to the counsel of His own will. Not a single word was said about the work of commanding spirits in Jesus’ name.
Good discipleship in the debrief supervises the learner toward looking at grace. Leaders who lead like Jesus gently turn our attention away from our accomplishments to what has been accomplished for us. Away from what we did to what He did.
Persistently Promote Patience and Kingdom-Minded Partnerships
The leaders of Jesus time were not characterized by grace. Pharisees and Sadducees were known for their exclusivity, sectarianism, strict adherence to standards (Matthew 23:23-24), and tendency to get rid of people that did not measure up (Matthew 9:10-13). It is no surprise, then, that the disciples initially thought of the new movement as being something like what had been on display prior to Jesus. Jesus has to supervise them into a new mindset for dealing with differences,
- Supervision into a New Perspective on Partnership (Luke 9:49-50; Mark 9:39-41) — The disciples were ready to shut down a ministry that had not explicitly been sanctioned by the Master. But they were not seeing the fact that this other ministry was in fact being successful in dealing with demons. If it was true that others were casting out demons, where did the authority to deal with demons come from? Who gave it to them?
- Supervision into Patience (Luke 9:51-54) — Samaritans were not a favorite people group for the Jews. They are half-breeds with a religion that is a mixture of the Canaanite mysticism and Judaism. When they are not willing to receive the gracious offer of the good news through the apostle, that is too much. The disciples are ready to burn them up. Jesus, however, sees as time when they will be reached by an evangelist named Philip. In a timeline bigger than the immediate the grace of God will prevail. The disciples needed to be supervised into seeing the true nature of their ministry.
Good discipleship is seen in an ongoing determination to promote patience with those who fall short and partnership with those whose ministries do not look like ours. Before the extreme of ecumenicism and tolerance without standards is the humble acknowledgment that (1) harvest is plentiful, (2) the laborers are few, and (3) in the difference is the Father’s design for reaching a diversity of people.
Jesus is telling us that to be truly effective in evangelism and discipleship we will have to supervise. And what he is calling us to do He is still doing. He said, “and lo, I am with you always.” He is continuing to supervise through His Holy Spirit. And in that way He has taken away my excuses. My ability to provide good supervision is not based solely on my abilities; Jesus is at work both in and through me to do this work.
Robert E. Coleman, author of Master Plan of Evangelism, gives us words that will be of help as we try to engage as mentors to other men and women:
On the Need for Patient and Active Engagement
[P]atient yet determined supervision is needed today among those who are seeking to train others for evangelism. We dare not assume that the work will be done merely because we have shown a willing worker how to do it, and then sent him or her out with a glowing expectation of results. Innumerable things could happen to frustrate and sidetrack the work, and unless these matters are dealt with realistically by competent and understanding people, the worker may easily become discouraged and defeated. Likewise, many experiences of grace that bring delight to the soul need to be clarified and deepened as their meaning is interpreted in the light of the total world mission of Christ. It is thus crucial that those engaging in the work of evangelism have personal supervision and guidance until such time as they are mature enough to carry on alone. (Coleman, 2006, p. 86)
Coleman, Robert E. (2006). The Master Plan of Evangelism. Revell.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 302). United Bible Societies.
Morris, L. (1988). Luke: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 3, p. 204). InterVarsity Press.