Matthew 10:The Twelve Commissioned


This chapter continues the movement we have seen in the gospel of Matthew. The Lord Jesus, having given the Sermon on the mount, came down from the mountain, demonstrated His power in the twelve miracles which have been enumerated. Now He commissions the twelve apostles to go to the nation Israel and preach the gospel of the kingdom. These men are to go, not as forerunners but as after-runners.

Our Lord gave them power to perform miracles-this was their credential. (Have you ever noticed that John the Baptist never performed a miracle?) Note that their title has changed from disciple, which means learner, to apostle, which means delegate. As we enter this chapter, keep in mind the number of denominations which come to this chapter for their authority for some peculiar ministry or conduct. You see, the instructions for the Christian are not found in this chapter. We need to consider the instruction here in light of the circumstances and conditions under which they were given, and we should be able to interpret them accurately.

And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease [Matthew 10:1].

The power He gave to them was their credential as they went to the nation Israel. The prophets of the Old Testament had said that this would be the credentials of the Messiah. Having given them this power, they are no longer disciples but apostles.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him [Matthew 10:2-4].

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel [Matthew 10:5-6].

NOW if you are going to take your instructions from this chapter for your personal ministry, you will have to limit yourself to the nation Israel, because this is to be given to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel." Obviously, these verses do not contain our commission. Contrast it with our commission in Acts 1:8: "and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth." Notice that we are to include Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth, while Jesus instructed the twelve in this chapter to stay out of Samaria and not to go into the way of the Gentiles but only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." And the message of the twelve was to be this:

And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Matthew 10:7].

How could it be "at hand"? It was at hand in the person of the King-He was in their midst.

At the turn of the century and at the conclusion of the Victorian era, there was a feeling of optimism throughout the so-called Christian world. All of the major Christian denominations at that time took on the large task of "building the kingdom of heaven" here on this earth. Each group thought that they had a contract from God to accomplish this purpose. Many of the founders of the United States had this as a part of their foundational belief. Of course, the Church was never called to build the kingdom. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself will establish the kingdom when He returns to the earth. The Church is the called-out from the world to manifest Christ and to preach His gospel throughout the world. Kingdom business is none of our business.

The kingdom of heaven is within us when we have receive Christ in our hearts and have been baptized in Him.

Now notice that our Lord sends out the twelve with the same credentials that He Himself has.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give. [Matthew 10:8].

Now I insist that if you are going to do one of the above things, you ought to be able to do all four of them. Note that raising the dead is included! Obviously, this verse was applicable to the time and circumstances under which it was given.

It is interesting to note that folks in our day who use verse 8 as their commission ignore the next verse-at least, I have never heard them use it-yet it all goes together in one package.

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses [Matthew 10:9].

It is interesting to see that many of these so call healers have to be in a place where an offering can be taken.

Obviously, we need to place this verse in its correct context. These were temporary instructions during our Lord's three-year ministry. There came a day at the end of His ministry when He gave different instructions to His apostles:

“When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword." (Luke 22:35-36).

And the apostle Paul wrote, "So also the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel, should live by the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:14), and he deals at length with the matter of those “who preach the gospel” in 1 Corinthians 9. In our day, certainly God expects us to support the Church.

Now there is nothing wrong in living your life according to Matthew 10:8, but my only suggestion is that if you are going to appropriate to yourself that particular scripture, be sure to take the next verse that goes along with it. I don't mean to be harsh, but it is important to interpret a verse in its context.

Now notice the further instructions our Lord gave to the twelve before He sent them out at this time.

And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till you go thence. [Matthew 10:11].

Again, let's note that the Lord Jesus is giving His men temporary instructions under local circumstances for a three-year period. Let's interpret it in its correct context. But in saying that I believe we should get back to the days where the clergy would visit the homes of their parishioners.

And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you [Matthew 10:12-13].

The word house refers, of course, not to the building but to the people who live in it, the household. And so when the Apostle would come into an house they would salute those within the house an would allow there peace to come upon them.

The priest is an icon of Christ. Through his visits to homes, he demonstrates Christ’s presence in the home. People today, more than at any time in the past, need to see the face of their father the priest. Visits have a sacramental character. Without the priest knowing where it is from, divine grace does its work through him. The Lord Jesus said to the tax-collector Zacchaeus,

“make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thy house.” Then He said, “This day is salvation come to this house…For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:5, 9, 10).

Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is the model for the parish priest who visits and checks up on his flock. From the time He began to announce the kingdom, He would go about the cities and villages, evangelizing, teaching, and healing every illness and weakness among the people: He went into homes of people like Lazarus and his sisters, Zacchaeus and to their workplaces, like the fishing shores, the public highways, tax-collection centers, the temple, the Samaritan woman’s well among other places.

When the priest visits a home, it causes the family to feel that the entire Church is checking up on them. For his own part, he is visiting “the church that is in the home” As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:19. “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house, with whom I also lodge.”

One Bishop entrusted his newly ordained priest with this piece of advice:

“In the past, we waited for people to come to us, but today you must go to them personally, to their homes. This is how you carry out sound and effective pastoral work.”

Now let us continue in our study:

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet [Matthew 10:14].

This is not our commission today. This is not the attitude of modern Catholic missionaries. Certainly, when I have gone to other places to speak, I have never gone outside the towns and shaken the dust off my feet. I won't say that I haven't felt like it in some places, but I have never done it. I feel that this instruction was given to these men for that particular time.

Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city [Matthew 10:15].

In the next chapter of Matthew we will find out what happened to some of these cities that fell under judgment.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves [Matthew 10:16].

Having spoken about the local situation, the Lord now gives these men certain great principles by which they are to go as His witnesses. These principles are good for time and eternity, and they certainly are good for our day. The child of God should be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. It is dangerous to be one and not the other. I have met some who are wise as serpents-they are clever-but they are not harmless as doves. To use a common expression, they will take you. I know others who are quite gullible; they are harmless as doves, but they are not wise as serpents. A serpent is dangerous, and a dove is in danger, so that we need to combine both qualities.

But beware of men. For they will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. [Matthew 10:17].

I have never been scourged in a synagogue, but I have been verbally scourged in some of our parishes.

And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles: [Matthew 10:18].

In that day this certainly happened to those who were His. Also, it has happened subsequently to many in the Church.

But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you. [Matthew 10:19-20].

I believe these verses apply to those men who had no opportunity to prepare answers when they were arrested for doing the job Jesus sent them to do. These men sent out by the Lord made no preparation, and if we place these verses in the local situation, we will have no problem with them at all.

Unfortunately, there are many priest who apply these verses to themselves and make no preparation for their sermons! I heard of a seminarian, believed that he should give a homily without any preparation. Two of his friends decided one night that they would go and hear him speak. Well, it was painfully obvious that he had not prepared his message. On the way back to the seminary, one of the seminarians friend, asked him, "Did you prepare that message tonight?"

"Of course, I didn't!"

''Well, how did you get it?"

"The Spirit of God gave it to me."

His friend said to him, "I don't think you ought to blame that message on the Holy Spirit!"

Once a Priest was at a town in Texas, years ago, when the trains were running through there, and he had to change trains there on a Sunday morning. As he waited for his connection, he was walking up and down with his notes in his hand because he was to give the Homily that morning. He was wearing his cassock, and another man, a protestant minister, wearing a collar, approached him. The minister asked him, "Are you a priest?"

"Yes."

''What are you doing there?"

"I'm going over my notes for my sermon this morning."

"Do you mean to tell me that you prepare your sermons?"

"Yes, don't you?"

"No, I just get up and let the Holy Spirit speak through me."

''Well, suppose when you get up, the Holy Spirit doesn't give you the message immediately. Then what do you do?"

"Oh," he said, "I just mess around until He does!"

Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of pastors just messing around in our day and using as their excuse this instruction which our Lord gave to His apostles. That is really a misinterpretation of Scripture. If we put these verses back in their context and see them in their local situation, their meaning is crystal clear.

Jesus continues:

The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall put them to death. [Matthew 10:21].

The coming of Christ into the world divided man; it did not bring unity. When one person in a family accepts Christ and becomes Catholic, and another family member does not, you have a division. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God."

And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved [Matthew 10:22].

This refers to the fact that the Lord will be able to keep His own for the three-year period of His ministry.

But also let us hear what Saint Chrysostum says concerning this verse;

“Jesus was preparing the disciples not only for what was to befall them in Palestine but also throughout the world. For they were soon to be sent to the Gentiles with this same proclamation. (Matthew 24:13). In doing so they would find that the whole world opposes them. In this spiritual warfare all that dwell upon earth, all peoples, tyrants and kings, will be arrayed against them.”

And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another. Amen I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come. [Matthew 10:23].

Saint Hilary says this concerning this passage:

“Jesus tells his Apostles to flee out of one city into another. This means that his message would first go beyond the borders of Judea and pass into Gentile cities. Then the messengers would be harassed and the various apostles would suffer among the gentiles. At last the message would be established among all the Gentiles. He also wished to indicate that the Gentiles would believe in the apostles preaching but Israel alone would not believe until His own return.”

Now the Lord Jesus gives His men general instructions. Again, these are great principles which you and I can certainly apply to ourselves, although the direct interpretation is to the twelve apostles.

The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord [Matthew 10:24].

We need to keep in mind that we are representing the Lord Jesus Christ, and He must come first. If we do not put Him first, we will have trouble with Him!

It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the goodman of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? [Matthew 10:25].

Don't worry about what people say about you if you are being faithful to Him and His Church. They did not say nice things about the Lord. If Jesus Himself received ill-treatment, His disciples could hardly expect to fare better.

Therefore fear them not. For nothing is covered that shall not be revealed: nor hid, that shall not be known. [Matthew 10:26].

Your life is going to be turned wrong side out someday and so is mine. Gods ultimate judgment will someday vindicate believers and deal with persecutors; so you had better have the inside of your life looking as attractive as the outside.

That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light: and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops. [Matthew 10:27].

I always think of the internet as being the best way of preaching from the housetops. Anyone with the internet, a cell phone, tablet or desk top can listen or watch almost anything. This is the way we preach from the housetops today, and I think it is an effective way.

And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. [Matthew 10:28].

In other words, fear God.

When asked why he was such a brave man. One man replied, "I've learned that when you fear God, you do not have any man to fear."

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. [Matthew 10:29].

What a great verse! The Lord takes care of the little sparrows. Have you ever watched a sparrow? You can see hundreds of sparrows on the ground or flying, and know that there is not one of those birds that the Lord does not know about. What a wonderful thought.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. [Matthew 10:30].

Now in my case God knows the number of hairs I lost! But in the case of most, God knows how many hair they have.

God loves you! The Lord Jesus loves you more than your mother loved you. Did your mother

ever count the hairs on your head? But God knows the number!

Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows.[Matthew 10:31].

Think of that...if God knows where the sparrow is, He knows where you are. You will never get to the place where He doesn't know where you are.

Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 10:32-33].

It stands to reason that if we have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior from sin, and then followed Him in the sacramental waters of baptism, we will acknowledge it publicly or whenever it is deemed necessary to give a testimony. Therefore, the statement of verse 33 follows as day follows night. This verse alerts me to want to confess Him and never to deny Him. However, I don't want to make a fool of myself because there are times when I am not to cast my pearls before swine; that is, there are times when we do not honor Him by the use of His name in certain circles. Assuredly, we never want to deny Him-neither will we deny Him.

Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.[Matthew 10:34].

This is a verse with which the pacifist has had difficulty. However, until all unrighteousness is put down and suppressed, the Person of Christ will cause the enmity of Satan, and a battle will ensue.

I wish a little of this verse would get into the United Nations today and into the thinking of some liberal clergy. Christ did not come to bring peace at His first coming. Sin is still in the world; and, as long as it stays upon the earth, God says that there will be no peace for the wicked.

One anonymous early father has this concerning this verse:

“There is a good peace and there is an evil peace. There is a good peace among good, faithful and just people...for faith is born through the word of God, but it is preserved through peace and nourished by love, as the apostle Paul says, “It is faith which works through love.” On the other hand, there is an evil peace among unbelievers and iniquitous people. God brings a sword of disunity among them which is the word of truth. Concerning this, the apostle says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Early Father Apollinaris says God battles against a Cheap Peace: “The unbeliever's disagreement with the believers will produce a distinction."

St. Chrysostom said, “If Jesus came not to bring peace, why did all the prophets publish peace as good news? Because this more then anything is peace; when the disease is removed. When the cancer is cut away. Only with such radical surgery is it possible for heaven to reunited to earth. Only in this way does the physician preserve the healthy tissue of the body. The incurable part must be amputated.”

Now let us continue to verse 35 and 36:

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household.[Matthew 10:35-36].

Paul amplified the truth of this verse when he said, "For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Actually, families have been divided by the preaching of the gospel. Also, brothers have been separated. Just as the Early Fathers of the Church has said, there is a unity of believers, and that very unity makes a division with the unsaved world.

He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. [Matthew 10:37].

Unless you have really committed your life to Christ and paid a price, you cannot talk much about commitment.

And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. [Matthew 10:38].

Many of us are not worthy of Him, and it means that He is not going to use us unless we are really committed to Him.

He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. [Matthew 10:39].

He is putting in contrast the life which we have here in the flesh with the eternal life which comes through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible that when a person comes to Christ, he may be put to death because of his faith. We see this in all parts of the world even in our day. A man who loses his physical life for Christ shall find new life which is found in Christ.

He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man. And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. [Matthew 10:40-42].

In John 15 the Lord Jesus clarifies this section when He says that the world has hated Him and is going to hate His own. We ought not to be any more popular with the world than Jesus Christ is popular. Our Lord makes it very clear that rewards are given on the basis of faithfulness.