The first commission.
We are in Matthew 10. This is part of the teachings of Jesus on the kingdom and in this chapter, Jesus is preparing to send out his disciples to represent him to the Jews.
Chapter 10 is made up of four parts. ⚡ Last week we looked at the intro. This week we get into the first of three sections of teachings, all ending with an “Amen” phrase (“truly I tell you”).
Let’s read our passage this morning.
Matthew 10:5–15 (CSB)
5 Jesus sent out these twelve after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road that leads to the Gentiles, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. 6 Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Don’t acquire gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. 10 Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a staff, for the worker is worthy of his food. 11 When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it; but if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Our passage starts with, “Jesus sent out these twelve.”
“sent out” - this is the verb form of the word “apostle”. Last week we mentioned there was an office and and action of apostle. This is the action. Jesus chose 12 men to represent him (his words, deeds and character) to the people of Israel whom he referred to as “lost sheep” and he apostles them - he sends them out.
However, before he sent them out, he gave them instructions.
Previously, in the sermon on the hill, Jesus spoke in riddles and metaphors with some pretty hard concepts to comprehend. Some of those teachings were designed to make people think, marinate on and try to figure out what Jesus meant. THIS passage is the exact opposite!
As Jesus give the 12 Apostles instructions, he is VERY clear! We can look at each verse and quickly see the command:
5 - Don’t take the road to the Gentiles or Samaritan
6 - GO to the lost sheep of Israel
7 - AS you GO - proclaim the kingdom
8 - AS you GO - heal, raise, cleanse drive out
9 - Don’t acquire bling
10 - Don’t take a traveling bag
11 - Seek out the worth & stay
12 - greet the household/hosts
13 - BLESS the household that accept the message, REMOVE the blessing if they reject the message
14 - Reject those who reject you
15 - AMEN - they will be judged.
Jesus gave very specific instructions to the disciples. While the commands seem very clear, the purpose behind some of them may not be so clear to us today. This morning, I want us to look at three things: Prohibitions, Activities and Responses.
There are 4 things they are not to do:
go to the Gentiles
go to the Samaritans
accept payment for services
take extra clothes or supplies
These four prohibitions might seem odd on the surface. They form two different groupings: Don’t Go and Don’t Take.
DON’T GO - WHY would Jesus want to skip over the Gentile and Samaritans? At first glance this might seem very exclusive or even prejudice on Jesus’ part. Doesn’t Jesus want THEM to know the Father also?
Later, he will even make the claim that his ministry is to the lost house of Israel.
Matthew 15:24 CSB
24 He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
After which he will cast a demon out of the daughter of a Canaanite woman. Jesus already cast demons out of a a Gentile. He also healed the daughter of a Roman soldier (Gentile).
By his actions, he has already included people other than the Jews. So, again, we ask, why this exclusion? Perhaps it helps us to think of this prohibition not as a matter of exclusion so much as a matter of timing. The Apostle Paul said: ⚡
Romans 1:16 CSB
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.
The gospel was first presented to the Jews and then to the rest of the world. Just as our passage commissions the 12 to only go to Israel (at that time), BUT after his resurrection, Jesus will command these same disciples to go to all nations:
Matthew 28:19–20 CSB
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
AFTER the Resurrection, ALL nations are included. Similarly, just before leaving the disciple and this earth, Jesus gave these disciples a command: ⚡
Acts 1:8 CSB
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
That is to say the Northern Kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) where the disciples were at that time, the Southern Kingdom (2 tribes), Samaria (the home of a group of people that thought they were the TRUE Jews) and the “ends of the earth” - the Gentiles.
In those last two commands, it is the Jewish representatives that are going out to the other Jews and then the world around them. This is in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, the father of the Jews.
Genesis 22:15–18 CSB
15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.”
The blessing of the nations, or the restoring of blessing / relief from the curse, will come through Abraham to all nations. That means that the people of Abraham have to first accept and believe the Messiah so they can take that message out. The 12 are the start. 72 will go out later. But the message, for now, is for the Jews, to restore them and position them as a blessing to the nations.
YOU AND I are blessed because of the work of these 12 Jewish men who faithful preached the kingdom and presented the good news about God reconciling people to himself through Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles.
So, the teaching is basically saying avoid the Samaritans and Gentiles for NOW, but the good news will come to all nations!
DON’T TAKE - The second grouping of prohibitions has to do with earthly rewards. Don’t take any money for your work, and don’t take a bunch of extra provisions such as clothing.
This is a pretty direct application of the sermon on the hill: ⚡
Matthew 6:19–21 CSB
19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This restriction could provide for a few things:
motive check - why are they doing it? Not for the money, but for the kingdom! Jesus was compassionate, not capitalistic. That being said, a workman is worthy of his food, or wages (Luke 10:7) - which goes back to Deut. 25:4 (don’t muzzle the ox).
dependence upon God - it would be up to Yahweh to provide for them through the generosity of others. This has overtones of the Passover and the wilderness wanderings in Exodus. This is also a direct application of the sermon on the hill.
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
a testimony- of the people and towns they would visit. Would they exercise hospitality? Would they accept the messengers? Would they accept the message and the Messiah?
NOTE: this passage is not teaching that every one who does ministry for Jesus should do so free of charge or for donations only. It is not a commandment for Jesus followers to all live this kind of lifestyle. This was a temporary mission with specific parameters to teach the disciples and promote a specific message.
Mixed in with those restrictions, we have three action verbs:
As you go
When you enter
There is the leaving, the journey and the destination of the disciples.
There is never a question of IF they will go - they will. I am sure they had excuses, questions and even doubts! Think about this… Jesus just told them to raise the dead! Imagine if that was you?
But they WILL go. Jesus sent them out, how could they NOT go?
AS YOU GO
… they need to be busy representing Jesus! The command was to go and as you go, tell others about the kingdom and demonstrate the healing, life, cleansing, and freedom that come from Jesus. That is what each of those miraculous gifts represent: healing, life, cleansing and freedom. They are to go and SAY what Jesus said and DO what Jesus did. They had been with Jesus for a while, but I can imagine them might have felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared.
How do you act like a man who raises people from the dead and teach like a man who amazed the crowds because he spoke as one with authority?
I would imaging some of them would have liked more time to prepare!
I think “destination disease” is common in the US. “When I get to this place in my life I will do this for Jesus.” “When I get out of the army… When I retire… When I graduate… When I know more… then I will do things for Jesus.
Being disciples of Jesus is not something you eventually become. From the day you accept Jesus you ARE one sent to share with others. Disciples represent Jesus in the every day stuff of life - all the time and in relationship with others.
WHEN YOU ENTER
They were to go to the PEOPLE in the towns. They were not to go preach in the synagogues (though I am sure some of them could have). They were to enter into homes and connect with that family and those around them.
They needed to find a household that was “worthy”. That is an interesting phrase. IT could possibly mean “trustworthy”, as in a home you think you will be safe in. However, it appears from the context that it implies even more than that. Their “worthiness” is also defined by whether or not they accept the message of Jesus.
In our parallel passage in Luke’s gospel, we read:
Luke 10:5–8 CSB
5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ 6 If a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t move from house to house. 8 When you enter any town, and they welcome you, eat the things set before you.
There is a lot of reference to meals. Whatever they give you, eat. Remain in the house eating and drinking what they offer. Accepting a meal from someone is on par with accepting THEM.
Find a worthy household and accept lodging and food from them - stay in their homes and eat meals with them. I must say, if you really want to get to know someone, LIVE with them a while!
When Conner and Valeria moved here from Colombia they stayed with us for about 6 months. I did not know Valeria very well before that time. While no man can truly understand a woman, I do believe that I got to know her much more while they were in our home! And I am so grateful for that time of life together!
Just as Jesus relied on the hospitality of others (has no place to lay his head) and ate meals with others (like Levi and other tax collectors and sinners), the disciples were to do life with a family in each town.
In this brief teaching, Jesus has defined a paradigm for missions. I am amazed at how little this idea of missions is taught in our churches:
GO. You are all missionaries - you have a mission from Jesus to tell other about him. You don’t become one someday, if you are a Jesus follower, you ARE one.
AS YOU GO. All of life is a chance to share the love of Jesus through words and actions. It does not take a committee, a program or a workbook, it is a matter of seeing Jesus in every part of life.
WHEN YOU ENTER. You share Jesus by being in relationship with others who have not met him yet. Break out of the bubble of only getting together with “church people” and have meals with others, spend time with your neighbors, etc.
It seems like common sense, yet it is not very common at all. It IS a healthy way to live and to thrive as a church family.
The last section of this passage shares two possible responses that the people in these towns could have. The good news of Jesus is something that requires a response. When you hear that you are sinful and need to repent of your sin you have only 2 choices:
Accept it and repent
Reject and ignore it
The one who accepts it will receive peace. Peace with God. The one who rejects it, rejects God and faces judgement.
This passage talks about “the day of Judgement”. There could be many possibilities for that, but it most likely is referring to a day that was later revealed to John when exiled on the Island of Patmos in Revelation 20 when all of mankind, living and dead, will be judged. No one can escape that day. ⚡
Hebrews 9:27–28 NLT
27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
Those that rejected the apostles were to be “rejected” BY the apostles with two things:
removing peace. Peace is personified like a present you give and then take back. It shows how we were called to bless others and how we can even pronounce blessings on others like the OT patriarchs did, and the priests did.
shaking off dust. This is what the apostles would do when a people group ignored them.
Acts 13:49–51 CSB
49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the prominent God-fearing women and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district. 51 But Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium.
It was a sign of them being like the dust that will be scattered and blown away. This is similar to the idea of the wicked being chaff that is blown away (Psalm 1:4).
Apparently, this comes from a practice that Jews had to shaking the dust off their feet/clothes when leaving a Gentile area - as if to leave the “uncleanness” behind them. The TWIST is that this will be done to the JEWS who reject Jesus. There is the foundation here for a new definition of the “clean” and the “unclean” based upon faith - a theme New Testament authors like Paul certainly picked up on.
Matthew 10:15 CSB
15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
This is the AMEN of our section. “AMEN = truly I tell you” in this translation. I believe this is the 7th of 32 “amens” in Matthews gospel. And it is not positive. Most of them are not positive. This is a really harsh statement.
Sodom and Gomorrah were totally wiped out by God because of their sin. That land was totally laid waste and made useless for anything else. Why does Jesus make the statement that THEY will be better off than the ones who reject the disciples?
Jesus will expound on this a little more in Chapter 11:
Matthew 11:23–24 CSB
23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today. 24 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
I confess I do not fully understand what is meant by “more tolerable” in these two passages. The point that I think we can grab with certainty is that the people of Israel will be totally without excuse because they were not only a people chosen by God, and given special revelation of God, and the Words of God, but they also had God show up as a human and prove his claim over death and sin by teaching and performing miracles like no human could do apart from Yahweh - and IF after all of that they reject the Messiah, they are worse off than those who were ignorant. It is almost like, “shame on them”.
Not only are some of the people going to reject Jesus and the disciples, some are going to be hostile against them. That is what Jesus will prepare them for next.
While the instructions that take place in this passage are very specific to the 12 that were being sent out, I think there are some applications for modern disciples as well.
The challenge can sometimes be discerning what might be contextual verses what is more universal. For instance, as disciples of Jesus should we expect that we should be raising the dead and casting out demons or was that just for the apostles? Far greater minds than I have debated that topic for centuries. As you ponder that I would suggest you be careful to check Scriptures, your motives and your theology before drawing any conclusions ;)
However, aside from that controversial topic, I think the first part of instructions given to the twelve provides a good framework for us. You and I have the most remarkable privilege of joining Jesus on mission! Though you may doubt you can do it or should do it, it does not negate the fact that Jesus wants you to do it!
His instructions are helpful for you and me today:
[GO] Don’t get distracted! Focus on the mission Jesus has given you and take Jesus to the people around you.
[WHILE YOU ARE GOING] Be ambassadors at all times! Reflect the message and love of Jesus to people through all of your journey.
[WHEN YOU ENTER] Build relationships with those that do not know Jesus yet.
Expect that some will accept the message and that others will not. God is the one who will judge - keep looking for the people who are open to the message because that is where God is working.
As disciples of Jesus it is not a choice, it is a privilege to be on mission with Jesus. It is not something we should feel forced to do, it is something we get to do!