Names and Mission of the Apostles
As we have discussed in previous chapters, Matthew's gospel is divided into a series of six narratives and five discourses. There is a description of activity (narrative) followed by a section of direct teaching (discourse).
In chapter 5 we looked at the second narrative as Matthew described a series of Jesus' miracles, and His responses to people who were questioning Him. At the end of this section there were a few verses showing Jesus praying that people would respond to His call for discipleship in order to go and reap the harvest of souls. (The call to follow Jesus is a call to follow Him into the harvesting of souls.)
This section (9:35-38) serves as a bridge to the next discourse where Jesus selects and instructs His disciples in the role of apostleship (messengers) to the lost sheep of Israel.
Granting of Power – Chapter 10
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
- Matthew 10:1
Matthew assumes that his readers know the twelve special disciples of Jesus (He had many disciples and sent out more than twelve with power, i.e. Luke 10:4-17). However this section deals specifically with the sending out of the twelve who were to become the chosen Apostles.
Jesus gives them authority. The term denotes both power and the right to use it. This is another demonstration of Jesus' deity as One with the ability to give spiritual power to another. Power is over both the spiritual realm (cast out demons), and the physical realm (heal sickness and disease).
Names of Apostles
2Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.
- Matthew 10:2-4
The term apostle means more than just a servant sent to deliver a message; it denotes a fully empowered representative or legate who acts for his lord or king. Sometimes the word is used to refer to those who helped the apostles (Barnabas), but when referred to as "the twelve Apostles" the Bible speaks of these special messengers through whom:
- The eyewitness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus were produced.
- The ones through whom the church was established.
- The ones through whom Jesus' instructions and teachings were recorded or confirmed for future generations.
There were 14 in all. Judas was replaced by Matthias, and Paul was called as an Apostle to the Gentiles. There will never be any others.
- The list is grouped in pairs (Peter always first and Judas last).
- Gives Peter's Jewish name (Simon).
- Andrew, Peter's brother listed with him.
- James and John, another set of brothers.
- Philip and Bartholomew (Nathaniel).
- Thomas (doubter) and Matthew (publican).
- Second James and Thaddeus (Lebbeus/Judas are his other names).
- Second Simon (from Canaan, Peter from Galilee and a zealot, member of this sect).
- Judas last, Iscariot means man of Kerioth his hometown in Judea. Designated the traitor.
Some names are found in other lists with certain names changed around, but Peter is always first and Judas is always last.
Instructions Concerning Their Mission
These instructions pertain to their immediate mission in Galilee, but also a wider view of their mission to all the world, how it would be received, and their own reaction to the response of those to whom they would bring the gospel.
Ministry to Israel
Jesus begins by giving them instructions concerning their immediate ministry to the Jews.
Go only to Jews, not Gentiles or Samaritans
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
- Matthew 10:5
The Gospel and the kingdom were established first among the Jews and then to spread to all parts of the world (Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16). This was based on prophecy and the promise made to the Jews by God.
Preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand
And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
- Matthew 10:7
This was to be the theme of their proclamation. The idea was that the rule of grace and the power and promises of God made to them in the Old Testament were about to be fulfilled. Jesus was continuing the message of John the Baptist because He had not yet suffered on the cross nor been resurrected.
Power to perform miracles
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
- Matthew 10:8
Healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons: they received these abilities for free and were to use them for the benefit of the people for free in order to confirm with power the message that they were preaching.
What to bring and what not to bring
9Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.
- Matthew 10:9-10
They were to bring no money, no luggage, no extra clothing, shoes or staffs. They were to go as they were. Jesus sends them out with the bare physical necessities and assures them that as His workers, He will provide for them on their journey.
Method of operation
11And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
- Matthew 10:11-15
They are to preach and do their works (verse 7), and determine by the response who are willing to accommodate them. When they are offered a place to stay they are to stay put until it is time to leave (no begging, no hopping from place to place to secure better lodging; verse 11).
When they enter they are to offer a greeting of peace and if the hosts are receptive to Christ, this blessing will remain upon the home, if not the Apostles will leave and the blessing will return to them (verses 12-13). If this occurs they are to leave and as a sign that they have been there and been rejected, they are to shake the dust of that place off of themselves as a sign of the rejection that they have suffered. They had actually been there, in their homes with the gospel, but were rejected so they who rejected Christ were shaken off in the same way that the dust is shaken off. Jesus reminds them of the judgment reserved for those who reject their message (verse 15).
Warning as to the Response of the People
Here Jesus warns them as to the response they will receive not only from the Jews but also the response that they will receive as they bring the gospel beyond Israel after He is gone.
People will not take happily to the message
16"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
- Matthew 10:16-18
Jesus describes to them the true nature of the world (sheep and wolves) and their need to be harmless but wise. They will, in some cases, be brought before lower (Jewish) or higher (governors/kings) courts because of the gospel, and in doing so will cause even the leaders to hear and examine the message of Christ.
Jesus will provide in their hour of trial
19But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
- Matthew 10:19-20
He is not promising to protect them against imprisonment, torture or even death (which they all suffered). He promises to inspire them in their proclamation and defense of the gospel through the Holy Spirit when the time comes. They may be persecuted but they would not be confused or mistaken because of it.
Results of their preaching
21"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
23"But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
- Matthew 10:21-23
The gospel will bring division within families. They will be persecuted because of Christ, the message they bring and the result it causes. Only those who persevere will be saved. It is not the call to Apostleship that saves them, but their faithfulness to the end, despite persecution, that saves them. Jesus prophesies that the destruction of the Jewish nation (70 AD/Rome) will occur to all towns. (The title, "Son of Man" often refers to judgment and specifically judgment upon the Jews).
Instructions on their Response to the People's Reaction to the Gospel
Do not be surprised
24"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
- Matthew 10:24-25
Do not be surprised if they treat you as they do Me. They accused Him of being the devil, imagine what they will say of His followers.
Do not be afraid
26"Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
32"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
- Matthew 10:26-33
Do not be afraid of failure, everything that is secret now (their schemes and your gospel) will one day be revealed and out in the open (verses 26-27). Do not be afraid of death, they may kill your bodies but they cannot destroy your souls which are precious in the sight of the Father (verses 28-31). Do not be afraid of being wrong, those who confess Christ are on God's side, those who deny Christ are the ones who are against God (verses 32-33).
Comment on the Reasons for the Negative Response to the Gospel
The gospel brings division not unity
34"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and a man's enemies will be the members of his household.
- Matthew 10:34-36
The gospel brings peace between God and man, and promotes peace among brethren, but creates a natural dividing line between those who accept it and those who reject it.
The gospel demands the highest loyalty
37"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
- Matthew 10:37-39
A loyalty that puts Christ above the dearest of physical relationships, even above preservation of self, if need be.
Jesus explains that the negative response they will encounter shouldn't surprise or frighten them because it is natural. The gospel is exclusive and demands total commitment from those it calls. It is this exclusive nature of the message that creates division among nations, families and even individuals who must wrestle with the question, "Will I abandon all, including self, to follow Jesus?" (Christianity is exclusive in the sense that there is no other way except through Jesus Christ and obedience to Him that one can be saved).
Promise to those who respond
40"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."
- Matthew 10:40-42
Jesus promises a reward to not only those who receive the message of Christ from the mouth of the Apostles, but also in turn pass along to others any good thing (even the smallest gesture such as a drink of water) in the name of Jesus. He says that even these are counted in the chain of faith and future blessing that begins with God through Christ, continues through the Apostles and then goes on to everyone who believes. (Not just those who respond directly to the Apostles, but all who ultimately respond to their message.)