Sending the Twelve

An introduction to the next section of teaching.

Written by Mike Biolsi on .


Structure of Matthew

This morning we enter into the next section of Matthew’s good news.  Of course, it is possible that every person has their own way of outlining books like Matthew. However, the method we are using is based upon certain key phrases that are repeated, or grammatical clues. 

3 Major Sections

One of those phrases is, “From then on Jesus began to...” ⚡[4:17 and 16:21]

This breaks the book into 3 sections:

  • Intro (1:1-4:16)
  • Kingdom Instruction (4:17-16:20)
  • Passion Events (16:21-28:20)

NOTE: As we get ready to look at chapter 10 you can see we are still in the Kingdom section. 

Narrative & Discourse

We also commented about the unique structure of Matthew where he has a section of narrative followed by a section of discourse, and the pattern repeats. ⚡

End of narrative, beginning of teaching:

Matthew 4:23 (CSB)
23 Now Jesus began to go all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

End of teaching, beginning of narrative:

Matthew 7:28–29 (CSB)
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 because he was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.

End of narrative, beginning of teaching:

Matthew 9:35 (CSB)
35 Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.

End of teaching, beginning of narrative:

Matthew 11:1 (CSB)
1 When Jesus had finished giving instructions to his twelve disciples, he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

Did you see the pattern that is used? There are some very specific phrases that Matthew used to help us know when he was changing gears. 

As we get into chapter 10 we are about to start the next section of discourse or teaching, and we should expect that these teachings will be related to the kingdom of God. 

3 Sections of Teaching

While it may take us more than 3 messages to cover chapter 10, there is another structure just to chapter 10. There are 3 major sections of teachings. 

If you have a Bible that has section titles in it, realize that those are added by the editor of your Bible and not part of the original text. You might also notice that those headings are broken down by topic, grouping verses together that seem to be connected. However, Matthew has given us a breakdown and I am not sure many of our Bibles put the headings this way. 

ask: can anyone tell me what the word “amen” means?

According to it means, “so be it.”

According to, it is an interjection “Used at the end of a prayer or a statement to express assent or approval.”

Both are quite correct. The Greek language (what Matthew is writing in) borrowed the word from the Hebrew scriptures. We borrow it as well. 

The Lexham Bible Dictionary New Testament Usage
The New Testament transliterates the Hebrew term אָמֵן (amen) into Greek as ἀμήν (amēn). The term appears 129 times in the New Testament. More than half of these occurrences are in the Gospels, with 99 occurrences being spoken by Jesus.

Why do I bring this up? Well, Matthew uses this word 3 times in chapter 10. Your translation might render it “truly I tell you” or “I tell you he truth”, “assuredly” or “verily”. But the Greek word used is the word “amen”.

Each time it is used, it signals the end of a section of teaching - or at least this is one possible way to consider grouping these verses.

SO - as we delve into chapter 10, we are in the middle of the part of the book that focuses on the kingdom, we are transitioning from a section of narrative to a section of discourse, and Matthew has grouped together at least three specific themes for the teachings. 

Let’s read together:

Summoning the 12 

Matthew 9:36–10:4 CSB
36 When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” 1 Summoning his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: First, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

While it might seem odd starting in Chapter 9, I believe verses 36-38 really belong together with chapter 10. They are verses that talk about the Man and the Mission of Jesus which leads up to the actions and teachings that follow. Let’s think about verse 36. 

ask: When Jesus saw the crowds, what did he feel? Compassion. 

Felt Compassionate

Why would Matthew choose to highlight this? 

“felt/had compassion” - this use of the word is only found in the gospels - and only 12 times. It is a phrase that is meant to be associated with the Messiah. 

The fact that this phrase is used of Jesus is very likely meant to connect us to some very familiar passages. The OT passage at is MOST quoted by other biblical authors is the passage that talks about Yeahweh being a God of compassion: ⚡

Exodus 34:6–7 (CSB)
6 [Yahweh] passed in front of him and proclaimed: [Yahweh]—[Yahweh] is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

For Jesus to be identified as a man of compassion is to identify him with Yahweh. Not only is he identified with Yahweh, he does the things Yahweh does. 

Notice that Yahweh forgives sin? That was something Jesus just claimed to have done in the previous set of miracle narratives when he healed the paralytic. 

It is the compassion of the Father that sent Jesus to this earth and the compassion of Jesus that hung him on the cross to forgive your sins and mine. 

I believe the use of “compassion” is meant to help us connect Jesus to Yahweh and to further reinforce that he was more than just a prophet, he was and is God.

Jesus is the God of compassion.

“Sheep without a Shepherd”

ask: Why did Jesus feel compassion? 

Matthew says it is because they were like sheep without a shepherd. 

This is an interesting statement for Matthew to use. This is only one of two times it is used in the NT. (Mark 6:34 is the other place). However, there are a few references to this concept in the Law and Prophets. Lets look at one from each.

Example from The Law

This was used regarding the concern that Moses had for Israel at the end of his days, so he asked God to provide a man who could lead the people of Israel.

Numbers 27:15–18 CSB
15 So Moses appealed to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all, appoint a man over the community 17 who will go out before them and come back in before them, and who will bring them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s community won’t be like sheep without a shepherd.” 18 The Lord replied to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.

Joshua was that man to lead Israel. When we studied Joshua we mentioned how he was a type of Messiah. In this case he was appointed by God to lead the people so they would not be a bunch of lost, vulnerable sheep. Joshua was appointed by God and Moses (and the priest) by laying hands on him in front of the people. 

The reference to Jesus seeing the people without a shepherd and appointing the 12 to go out to the people of Israel also makes Jesus a type of Moses, a perfect Moses. Pleading to the Father on behalf of the people, that they would not be shepherd-less. 

Jesus was the perfect Moses that fully obeyed God and leads his people into the promised land. By reflecting on this, Jesus was showing his role as mediator for the people - communicating directly with Yahweh and having his authority from the same. PRAY to the father was his command - and then he appointed the twelve to go out to the people and lead them. 

The disciples take the position of Joshua. Just as Joshua was given  authority from Moses and direction from Yahweh through the priest, the disciples are given authority and direction by Jesus who is both God and priest. 

Matthew 10:1 CSB
1 Summoning his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.

One reason Matthew might have used this phrase was to connect Jesus to Moses and demonstrate how Jesus is the perfect Moses. 

Example from the Prophets

There are a few other references to the shepherd-less sheep of Israel in the prophets. However, the one we should focus on today is in Ezekiel. 

Ezekiel 34:1–16 CSB
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy, and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn’t the shepherds feed their flock? 3 You eat the fat, wear the wool, and butcher the fattened animals, but you do not tend the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead, you have ruled them with violence and cruelty. 5 They were scattered for lack of a shepherd; they became food for all the wild animals when they were scattered. 6 My flock went astray on all the mountains and every high hill. My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and there was no one searching or seeking for them. 7 “ ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. 8 As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord God—because my flock, lacking a shepherd, has become prey and food for every wild animal, and because my shepherds do not search for my flock, and because the shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! 10 “ ‘This is what the Lord God says: Look, I am against the shepherds. I will demand my flock from them and prevent them from shepherding the flock. The shepherds will no longer feed themselves, for I will rescue my flock from their mouths so that they will not be food for them. 11 “ ‘For this is what the Lord God says: See, I myself will search for my flock and look for them. 12 As a shepherd looks for his sheep on the day he is among his scattered flock, so I will look for my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and total darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples, gather them from the countries, and bring them to their own soil. I will shepherd them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the land. 14 I will tend them in good pasture, and their grazing place will be on Israel’s lofty mountains. There they will lie down in a good grazing place; they will feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will tend my flock and let them lie down. This is the declaration of the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice.

This passage is loaded! As you read this passage over a few times you will see how this message parallels the message that Jesus has for the Scribes and Pharisees. For instance, if we zero in on verse 4:​

Ezekiel 34:4 CSB
4 You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead, you have ruled them with violence and cruelty.

What did Jesus JUST get done doing? All of those things! He strengthened the weak, healed the sick, sought the lost, etc. This is what he Pharisees should have been doing, and instead they condemned Jesus for doing it. 

In saying that the sheep have no shepherd, Jesus was certainly condemning the Pharisee who just claimed he was doing the work of demons. Jesus was saying that THEY were the ones God was referring to in Ezekiel; the ones God was “against”. This is a message of pending judgement on them.

This is also yet another declaration of deity by Jesus. 

Ezekiel 34:11–12 CSB
11 “ ‘For this is what the Lord God says: See, I myself will search for my flock and look for them. 12 As a shepherd looks for his sheep on the day he is among his scattered flock, so I will look for my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and total darkness.

Who is the shepherd that will seek after the lost sheep? Yahweh God. “the LORD God” is the way you might have it translated, but that is the name of Yahweh and his title as God. 

Ezekiel 34:16 CSB
16 I will seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice.

Yahweh will bring them back, heal them, strengthen them and lead them with justice. This is the message of the Kingdom, that Jesus has come to heal, restore and lead those that will follow, with truth and justice. 

In making reference to sheep without a shepherd, Jesus was declaring God’s displeasure with religious leaders and at the same time declaring that he IS God and is seeking the lost in fulfilment of Ezekiel’s message. 

NOTE: the ultimate fulfillment of that message will not be until the final, “Day of the Lord”, but it began with Jesus and continues until that day!

Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). 

The Harvest

IT was AFTER Jesus “saw” the crowd and “felt” compassion, that the rest of these events take place. So in this section we see the motive of the teachings and the actions that are about to take place. There is a transition, “Then he said...”.

The FIRST response could have been:

to condemn the religious leaders for not taking care of the flock

to call his disciples to NOT be like the religious leaders

But the first command was for the disciples to PRAY. 

Matthew 9:37–38 CSB
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

In most other places in the scriptures, especially the law and prophets, the harvest refers to a time of judgement. Jesus adds a new dimension to the harvest metaphor. 

In this case, the harvest is people who are the scattered sheep that need to be brought into the fold. It is the people who are ready to be reconciled to the Father and renew their covenant with Yahweh. 

Most directly, based upon the context, the harvest is people who are ready to experience healing, physically and spiritually. 

reflect: Jesus tells them to pray for more workers, and then calls them to be workers. 

Twelve Apostles

Matthew calls them 12 disciples in 10:1 and then calls them the 12 apostles in 10:2.  This is the ONLY time Matthew calls them apostles, and it is very appropriate. We have transliterated the word ἀπόστολος and brought it directly in English (like we did “amen”).

Many of these transliterations were done by the Wycliffe and Tyndale and have been adopted by our modern translations as well. 

The Greek word “apostle” means “sent out” or “sent one”. Jesus was an apostle:

Hebrews 3:1 CSB
1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.

The twelve disciples, including the one who betrayed him, were apostles as we see from Matthew 10:2. 

The number twelve is obviously significant as it represents the twelve tribes of Israel. It was understood this way when the eleven apostles chose someone to replace Jesus. The requirement was someone who had been taught directly by Jesus and been with him from baptism to death:

Acts 1:21–26 CSB
21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Later, Paul became an apostle - but not to the twelve tribes of Israel.  He becomes the thirteenth apostle - to go to the Gentiles. AND, though he did not follow the earthly ministry of Jesus as the other twelve had, he was taught by Jesus post resurrection:

​Galatians 1:1 CSB
1 Paul, an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead—

Galatians 1:11–12 CSB
11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.

There seems to be a lot of mystery in the church about what an apostle is. Do we still have apostles? Well, no in the sense that those who walked with Jesus on this earth are no longer with us. However, yes in that we have God teaching us directly and we are called to go out and tell other about Jesus. 

I think, at this season in my life and studies, I am of the opinion that the office of Apostle as defined by Acts does not exist, but the function of the apostle is one that we certainly see and need in the church today!

Who are the 12?

Matthew counts them off in pairs - perhaps because that is how they were sent out or perhaps to make it easier to remember. 

Jesus called these twelve to himself. This was not their calling to be disciples. Five of them have been recorded by Matthew previously, including Matthew’s own call. 

Mark 3:13–19 CSB
13 Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, he gave the name Peter; 17 and to James the son of Zebedee, and to his brother John, he gave the name “Boanerges” (that is, “Sons of Thunder”); 18 Andrew; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

In all of the lists of apostles, Peter is always first and Judas is always last. That is significant. These gospels were written after the church had been established, and the role of Peter as the chief apostle was clearly defined by then. Judas, the betrayer, is always the last.

This really reminds me of Movie credits! When you get to the credits, what names appear first? The main characters - sometimes in order of importance and other times in order of appearance. At the end you get the list of people who got lunch for the famous ones 🙂

Some of them have more than one name, and that is a cultural thing. Here is Matthews list:

Peter (Simon) & Andrew (brothers)

  • James  (son of Zebedee) & John (brothers)
  • Philip & Bartholomew
  • Thomas & Matthew (Levi, the tax collector)
  • James (son of Alphaeus) & Thaddaeus 
  • Simon (the zealot) & Judas (the betrayer) 

You could simplify the list: Simon, Simon, Jim, Jim, Drew, John, Tom, Matt, Thad, Phil, Bart and Judas the betrayer😁

They are an odd group from all sorts of backgrounds, education levels, positions in society, etc. They are a beautiful picture of what the church should be: a divers group of people who are not divided by rank, race, income, politics or favorite college sports teams, but who are unified on Jesus and taking on his mission of healing, nurturing and seeking the lost. 


Yahweh is a God of compassion, and he is passionate about his creation - people like you and me. He seeks us out and he paid for our freedom through Jesus. 

Jesus chose this unlikely, smorgasbord of disciples to be the ones he commissioned to do that work. They did not fully understand all that they were experiencing and all that Jesus was, but they knew enough to be used by God. 

I think one of the striking lessons to me is that Jesus told his disciples:

The harvest is plentiful. There are many that are ready to meet Jesus and enter his kingdom. The problem identified was not the lack of harvest but the lack of workers. 

The response to the lack of workers should be prayer. Pray that God will raise up more people who will go share the good news of Jesus with others. 

The answer to that prayer probably includes you and me.  Jesus said to pray and then Jesus called and commissioned his followers to go out and preach the good news.  

When God commissions he also empowers. Jesus gave his disciples authority to do the work he called them to do.

May we see the people around us with the compassion of Jesus, pray to our Father in heaven for them, and then go out to them to share the love of God and hope of Jesus. 


Sending the Twelve

Join Our Mailing List

North Country Fellowship Church
NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.