The Kingdom in Conflict

In this lesson, we begin to see the "push back" from the Jewish religious leaders in response to Jesus' popularity and effectiveness in establishing His kingdom through His teaching and miracles.
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We are studying the person of Jesus in the book of Matthew where the gospel writer emphasizes Jesus' royalty over other aspects of His character and ministry. So far he has shown Jesus:

  • As He was worshiped as king by the wise men.
  • Seen as a threat by the evil king Herod.
  • Shown as Lord over both Satan and the angels by defeating one and being ministered to by the others.
  • Heard the King describe the nature and experience of His kingdom as He explains it in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Observed the King as He went about establishing His will (or kingdom) in the hearts of the people through His teaching and mighty miracles.
  • Watched as Jesus, the King, through His teaching and miracles, call those around Him into His kingdom to become disciples.

We will now examine the natural progression of the King's work on behalf of the kingdom—and that is to prepare and send out His disciples to go and preach the good news about the kingdom and invite others to enter in.

The title of this chapter is "Kingdom in Conflict," and the reason for this is that so far there has been no opposition to the Lord and His preaching; the initial beginnings of bringing people into the kingdom has been joyful and peaceful. But with the sending out of disciples to preach the message that forces people to choose to come in or remain out of the kingdom—opposition to the disciples, the Kingdom and its King were sure to follow.

In the section covered in this chapter we will see Jesus preparing His messengers of the kingdom for the conflicts they will face.

Granting of Power

Matthew assumes that the readers know the twelve special disciples of Jesus (He had many disciples and sent out more than twelve with power, Luke 10:4-20); 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 also demonstrates Jesus' deity as one with the ability to give spiritual power to another.

Their power is over the spiritual realm (they cast out demons) and physical world (they 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 apostles 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 "12 Apostles" the Bible speaks of these special messages through whom:

  1. The eyewitness account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was first proclaimed with power.
  2. The ones through whom the church was established.
  3. The ones through whom Jesus' instruction 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 like these.

  • The list is grouped in pairs (Peter always first, Judas last).
  • It gives Peter's Jewish name (Simon).
  • Andrew, Peter's brother, is listed with him.
  • James and John, another set of brothers, are named.
  • Philip and Bartholomew (Nathaniel).
  • Thomas (the doubter) and Matthew (the Publican)
  • Second James and Thaddeus (Lebbeus/Judas his other names).
  • Second Simon (from Canaan) a zealot (member of group wanting to overthrow Roman rule).
  • Judas is named last. Iscariot refers to Kerioth his home town in Judea. He was designated the traitor.

Some names are found in other lists with some changed around, however, Peter is always named first, and Judas last.

Instructions Concerning Their Mission

Their instructions not only contain information pertaining to their immediate mission in Galilee but also a wider view of their ministry to the world. Jesus prepares them in describing how they and their message would be received and what their own reaction should be to those who would accept or reject the gospel.

Ministry to Israel

5These 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. 7And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 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 10:5-10

Jesus begins by giving them instructions concerning their immediate ministry to the Jews.

1. Go only to the Jews, not the Gentiles or Samaritans
(vs. 5-6)

The gospel and kingdom were to be established first among Jews and then to spread to all parts of the world (Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16). This is what Old Testament prophecy said about the ministry of the Messiah (Joel 2:28-32).

2. Preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (vs. 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. Their true king was to be revealed. They were continuing the message of John the Baptist because Jesus had not yet died and resurrected.

3. Power to perform miracles (vs. 8)

They were empowered to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons. They received this ability for free and were to use it for the benefit of the people for free. This power would confirm the word and show Jesus' authority. (He gave them the power.)

4. What to bring and what not to bring (vs. 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. The King had the power and resources to provide for their work on His behalf.

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 and determine by the response of the people who are willing to accommodate them (vs. 9). When they are allowed 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).

When they enter a house they are to offer a greeting of peace, and if the hosts are receptive of Christ, this blessing will remain upon the home; if not, the Apostles will leave and the blessing will return to them (vs. 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 (vs. 14). Jesus reminds them of the judgment reserved for those who reject or shake off their message (vs. 15).

Warning as to the Response of the People

Here Jesus warns them about the response they will receive not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles as they bring the gospel beyond Israel after He's gone. This is a warning of the conflict to come.

1. 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

He explains the true nature of the world (sheep and wolves) and the need to be harmless. They will be, in some cases, brought before lower (Jews) or higher (governors, kings) leaders because of the gospel. In doing so they will cause even the leaders to hear and examine the message of Christ.

2. 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

Jesus is not promising to protect them against imprisonment, torture or even death (which all except John 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 will not be confused when their time to speak up comes.

3. 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 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 faithfulness (despite persecution) to the end that saves them, just as perseverance saves us. He prophesies that the destruction of the Jewish nation (70 AD/Rome) will occur before they will be able to bring the news to all towns. (The term "Son of Man" refers to judgment and in this case a judgment upon the Jews.)

Instructions on Their Response to the People's Reaction to the Gospel

1. Don't 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

Don't be surprised if they treat you as they do Me. If they accused Him of being the Devil, imagine what they will say of His followers?

2. Don't 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
  • Of failure: everything that is secret now (their schemes and your gospel) will one day be revealed and out in the open (vs. 26-27).
  • Of death: they may kill your bodies but they cannot destroy your souls which are precious in the sight of the Father (vs. 28-31).
  • Of being wrong: those who confess Christ are on God's side; those who deny Christ, they are the ones who are against God (vs. 32-33).

Comment on the Reasons for the Negative Response to the Gospel

1. 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.

2. 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 closest of physical relationships, even above preservation of life itself 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 in nature 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?"

(Exclusive in the sense that there is no other way except through Jesus Christ that one can be saved, Acts 4:12.)

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

There is a promise of reward to not only those who receive the message of Christ from the mouth of the Apostles but also those who in turn pass it along to others. Any good thing (even the smallest gesture such as a drink of water) in the name of Jesus is counted in the chain of faith and future blessings that begin with God through Christ and extend to the Apostles and everyone who believes.

This promise is not just for those who responded directly to the Apostles but for all who ultimately will respond to their message.


We see the King preparing His servants for the task at hand: to announce on His behalf the establishment of His kingdom among men (it's already established in the spiritual realm "…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… Matthew 6:10). He calls them, equips them with power, instructs them as to what their mission is and how to accomplish it, and ends with a warning about obstacles and an encouragement concerning their reward.

Jesus the King does the same thing today with us:

In this way the King continues to send out His servants to announce the good news of the kingdom, and the conflicts He spoke of there continue to be the ones we struggle with today. We need to remember what He told the Apostles about dealing with those conflicts.

Don't be surprised if they treated Him badly, they will do it to His servants, even today.

Don't be afraid – He encouraged them to not be afraid concerning failure, death or being wrong. He promises us the same encouragement and assurance today.

Discussion Questions

  1. How are the characteristics of the Apostles like us today as members of God's Kingdom?
  2. What are some similarities between the early ministry of Jesus and the initial period of the church in Acts 2:42-47?
  3. Read Matthew 10:2-4 and answer the following questions:
    • Why did Jesus appoint twelve men as His apostles?
    • What is significant about the title, "apostle"?
    • What is signified by the order of the listing of the apostles?
    • What role did the apostles fulfill in beginning of the Kingdom?
  4. Read Matthew 10:5-42 and answer the following questions:
    • Who were the apostles to go to and why? (vs. 5-6)
    • What power did the apostles have and why? (vs. 8)
    • What were the apostles to take with them and why? (vs. 9-10)
    • What were they to do when they arrived at a city or village? (vs. 11-15)
    • How did some react to the message of the apostles and how does that relate to us today? (vs. 26-39)
    • Why does the gospel bring division and what is our response?
    • What is demanded by the gospel and what is the reward of those who receive our Lord?
  5. How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?
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