V. Sending Out the Twelve (Matthew 10:1-42)


V. Sending Out the Twelve (10:1-42)

10:1-4 Jesus gathered his twelve disciples together and commissioned them to extend his work, giving them authority and power to perform what he himself had been doing (10:1). They had been promoted from disciples to apostles (10:2). Matthew then lists the Twelve by name, including the one who betrayed him (10:2-4).

10:5-10 As he sent them out, he instructed them to take their message only to the Jews, the people of Israel (10:5-6). Later, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the message of Jesus would spread to the Gentiles (see, for example, Acts 1:8; 10:34-48; 11:1-18). Their message was to be his message: The kingdom of heaven has come near (10:7). And they were to validate the power of the kingdom by their miraculous deeds (10:8). They were not to charge money for their ministry, but they could accept support (10:8-10).

10:11-15 They were to extend peace to towns and households that welcomed them and the kingdom message they proclaimed (10:11-13). But for unworthy households and towns, they were to shake the dust off [their] feet—a sign of disdain for rejecting God’s kingdom (10:13-14). The day of judgment will be more bearable for the wicked Old Testament towns of Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for those who reject the message of Jesus (10:15).

10:16-20 Jesus made clear to the Twelve that persecution from kingdom opponents would accompany message proclamation (10:17), so they were to be shrewd but innocent—that is, to minister with wisdom and grace (10:16). Jesus predicted that they would stand before governors and kings because they were his followers. They were to use such instances to testify, through the power of the Spirit, about the King and the kingdom (10:18-20).

10:21-25 Even family members will turn against believers. Christians will be hated because of the name of Jesus (10:21-22). This persecution will become especially intense during the tribulation period, about which Jesus will have more to say (see Matt 24). The goal of a disciple is to become like his teacher (10:24-25). So if they call Jesus Beelzebul, the ruler of demons (Satan), his followers shouldn’t expect to receive better treatment from the world (10:25).

10:26-31 Don’t be afraid of them. What motivation does Jesus offer to enable them to become fearless? First, there is nothing hidden that won’t be made known (10:26). No persecution of God’s people, then, will remain secret forever. God will turn the tables. Second, there’s no need to fear those who have temporary power in history; believers rightly fear the one who has limitless power in eternity (10:28). Third, God the Father has great love for his children. He’s sovereign over the events of your life. Nothing comes to you that hasn’t first passed through his fingers. His children are valuable to him (10:29-31).

10:32-33 Everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven (10:32). The Greek word translated “acknowledge” can also be rendered as “confess.” To confess something is to publicly affirm it—to declare it openly and plainly. Jesus isn’t talking about salvation here. His words are set in the context of a discussion about being a disciple (10:24-25). You can be saved but fail to publicly acknowledge your relationship with Jesus. But if you’re a secret agent Christian, you’re not a disciple.

If you confess Jesus—go public with your Christian faith—Jesus will confess you before the Father and intercede for you. He’ll run interference for you. But if you deny him before men, he will deny you before [the] Father (10:33). Again, this is not referring to salvation in eternity but deliverance in history. If you’re a covert follower of Jesus, there will be negative repercussions; you can expect prayer requests to be denied in history and loss of kingdom rewards in eternity.

10:34-37 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth (10:34). Peace on earth is coming, but not yet. Association with Jesus can introduce problems in your relationships—even within your own family (10:35-36). Some people, in fact, will be placed in situations in which they will have to choose love of Christ over love of father and mother as their parents demand that they renounce Christ (10:37).

10:38 A disciple of Jesus must take up his cross and follow him. The cross of Christ became relevant to you the day you accepted Jesus as your Savior, but you don’t leave it behind after the moment of salvation. Instead, you’re to carry it with you.

Your “cross” has to do with your public identification with Jesus. To bear your cross is to endure hardship specifically because you’re a visible and verbal follower of him. If you’re unwilling to do that, you’re unworthy of Christ—that is, your relationship is distant.

10:39 In order to experience the life you’re looking for, you must be willing to lose the life you have. This is one of Jesus’s paradoxical statements. Give your life over to Christ, and he’ll give it back to you. Try to live your life on your own terms, and you’ll lose what you think you have.

10:40-42 A disciple of Jesus Christ is his representative. As Paul would later say, “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). In fact, Jesus said the association is so close that when people welcome his disciples, they welcome him (10:40). This brings to mind another teaching of Paul: Christians “are the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27). When people show kindness to Jesus’s disciples because of their public affiliation with him, Jesus takes notice and will reward such generosity (10:42).