I (Steve Kinnard) teach at the Rocky Mountain School of Ministry and Theology. Not only do I teach there, but I also learn from my students. One of my students, Don Downs, turned in an excellent contribution about the ministry of Jesus training his disciples in Galilee. I asked for his permission to share his article with all of you, and he graciously gave me permission.
Don and his wife Vonda
Here is Don’s article:
Jesus had an incredible task before him. He stepped out onto the world stage alone, embarking on a mission to change all of eternity! He did this not as an angelic, heroic, herculean character endowed with features and characteristics (i.e. physical, socioeconomic) of gargantuan proportions that would turn every head and amaze every onlooker. No, he did it as a man; a normal, unimpressive, poor carpenter born in an unremarkable area with parents of modest, in fact less than modest, means. Surely no one was up for that task except God himself. Jesus had to take twelve ordinary men, draw them out of their normal, everyday lives and inspire them to join him on a mission they knew little about and were certainly unprepared for. He had to take these men where they were with all their sin, weaknesses, misconceptions, prejudices, fears and failings and make new men out of them. They would have to complete the work that he would, in his short lifetime, have only just begun. Against incredible odds, in just three short years, he molded these men; not against their wills, but by transforming their wills, into Apostles that would both live and die for Him – because of their deep faith in him. They would grow to love him so deeply that no price would be too great to honor, serve, follow and obey him. How in the world would he do that?
During Jesus’ Galilean ministry he did several things:
He spent time alone with his disciples, often withdrawing from the crowds to teach his disciples privately. We cannot hope to be transformed from the inside out without being immersed in God’s word; by being with God for serious, deep contemplative, instructive time. There too, the disciples would enjoy special alone time with their savior, growing to love him more and more in a deeply personal way. They needed to laugh, cry and struggle with him and this they surely did. (e.g. mountainsides, boat trips) They could not, nor can we, hope to be suited for our task if we do not spend personal time with Jesus and personal time in his Word. Like the apostles we need to listen to him in deep contemplative study of the word. We need to wrestle, laugh and cry with Jesus. Our personal relationship with Jesus must become the most edifying relationship we have.
He served with them. The disciples needed to see Jesus and walk with him in the cauldron of ministry. There were overwhelming needs all around them. People came from all over – and they kept coming. They came at inconvenient times. (e.g. John the Baptist died and Jesus, having heard of it, needed and planned to get away; instead there were shepherd-less crowds with needs to meet, and so that is just what he did, he served others rather than himself.) People constantly interrupted Jesus and the disciples. It was overwhelming. In this they saw Jesus’ demeanor, his tone, and his conversation with people. They saw what overflowed from his heart. He was patient, merciful, selfless and genuine. Life and ministry was tough but Jesus showed the way. They saw Jesus’ love and faith in action. Jesus needed them to see this if they were going to know how and what to do when they, in the future, would face a barrage of needs themselves. Just as Jesus came not to be served but to serve so he was sending them out as servants to the world.
He experienced ministry with them. Again, they saw Jesus in action – not just in the classroom of discourse but in the classroom of life. It’s one thing to hear about ministry, it is quite another thing to see and experience it. He was a master at ministry. They saw him reach out and touch people physically (e.g. lepers) and emotionally (e.g. woman at the well) as well as spiritually (e.g. the paralyzed man). They needed to see this loving touch so they too could become loving touchers of others. They saw Jesus instructing the crowds; how he communicated with them and how he connected with them by serving them and meeting their needs. No one did that like Jesus. The crowds, and surely his closest companions, saw this more than anyone; and they were amazed! They heard the skill with which he preached by using parables and the relatability of Jesus in how he incorporated everyday life examples into his teaching; things everyone could relate to and understand. They would need to become skilled and love filled minsters of the Gospel as well. Together, doing ministry with Jesus, they met others needs and in doing so radically changed their own lives as well.
He faced opposition with them. They saw how Jesus dealt with his detractors and his opponents; even his persecutors. How did he respond? What did he do? Did he get discouraged? Did he become fearful? Did he retaliate? He did none of that. Jesus was Spirit led, courageous and insightful. He knew the scriptures and he used them. The scriptures shaped his ministry both personally (Satan’s attack in the wilderness) and publically (“you are in error because you do not know the scriptures”). He let the scriptures speak to and convict the hearts of those who heard him. The disciples would be facing these same issues down the road themselves, but without Jesus’ personal presence. They would need to learn his tact, his courage and his conviction. They would need to see that he did not acquiesce to anyone, that indeed, he was no respecter of persons. His ministry was one they would need to imitate in any and every way they could. Just as Jesus showed the way for them in their lifetime, the memory of his example would surely continue to lead and inspire them in the years to come.
He discipled hearts while with them – their own. Each of the teaching avenues discussed above were essential, but certainly, in addition, these men needed personal and direct discipling in their own lives. They needed their own faith tested and examined. They needed their thought processes, their emotions and their feelings exposed. They needed correction, rebukes, encouragement, and teaching. Jesus was out to change their hearts; nothing less. There would be no way they could carry on his mission if they were not humbled and empowered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the inside out. Jesus interacted with them personally on many fronts. They saw him interact with his own family, with Peter’s (his Mother) with James and John’s (their mother as well), and others I am sure. He saw their lack of faith (why did you doubt), impatience (send her away), their pride and competition (who is the greatest), failures (unable to heal), their fear of life’s dangers (the storm), their prejudice (bring down fire on these Samaritans, why is he talking to her), as well as their victories (their early evangelistic commission), etc. He helped them see themselves and see the power of God in each and every one of these situations. He transformed these men not by standing far off but by getting his hands dirty in the sin of their lives.
He revealed himself and his plan. As time went on in his ministry Jesus gradually revealed to them who he was and what he came for. It took them time to see it and believe. In fact, it wasn’t until after his resurrection appearances that they finally came to genuine understanding and faith in Jesus and in his plan. From the time of Peter’s confession, though, Jesus began to make clear to them that his path was the way of the cross and that if they were to follow him, even when others would desert him, they would have to be willing to follow that same path, taking up their own crosses. He revealed God to them by his life, his words, his actions, and by his love for them. They saw the Father in him – just what He came to do; to introduce them to “his Father and their Father.” He died so they could know him, so we could know him. He changed their lives so completely that they too would die so that the world could know the Father also. In the end it was their conviction about why Jesus came, why they and others needed him, and about how they could come to have a right relationship with the Father too; that everything in Jesus life and ministry revolved around. Jesus ministry focused on that goal; helping them understand God’s plan and fall in love with Him, the Father.
Don Downs, a practicing Physician Assistant, enjoys deeper Bible study and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Bible and Theology through the Rocky Mountain School of Ministry and Theology. Converted in Chicago, IL in 1987, Don was part of the original Mission Team planting in Seattle, WA. Don then served in the Full Time Ministry there in Seattle then in San Francisco, CA and later in Indianapolis, IN. After coming out of the FT Ministry Don obtained his Physician Assistant degree in Chicago at Midwestern University. After graduating Don moved to Denver where he is now part of the Denver Church of Christ. Don enjoys Marathon running, Hiking the Colorado 14’ers and spending time with his wonderful family. Don has been married for 31 years to his wife Vonda and they have three children, a married 26yo old son, Caleb and daughter-in-law Shelby, a 21 yo daughter Marin who is currently serving in China on a One Year Mission Challenge and an 11yo daughter, LinZhi whom he and his wife adopted from China over 10 years ago.