This first part of Matthew 10 introduces us to the twelve apostles. Sometimes we interchange the titles “apostles” and “disciples.” Certainly these twelve apostles were disciples of Jesus - they received His instruction and they learned from Him - but they were also apostles. The Greek word for apostle gives us the picture of someone being sent with a message, a representative or ambassador on behalf of the sending agent.
We see several things about the men who were sent out as Christ’s ambassadors in Matthew 10:1-25. First, just by reading the names and titles, I notice that there’s some diversity among the group! The group included several fisherman, a man who was especially zealous for keeping the law (Simon the Zealot), and a tax-collector. While these men may not have naturally associated with one another, their relationship with Jesus connected them together. In the same way, the body of Christ is diverse - and that diversity is beautiful. Each Sunday, we gather together to worship and are invited to sing and pray alongside brothers and sisters who may have once seemed very different from us. But the blood of Jesus unites us - it’s a much stronger bond than our education, career path, race, or socioeconomic status.
Second, although these men first would have an exclusive mission to Israel (Matthew 10:6), eventually their work would take them to share the good news with the Gentiles and proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 10:18, Matthew 28:19-20). But proclamation of the gospel often brings persecution, and Jesus warned His disciples of this. Look at the imagery of verse 16 - Christ pictures the disciples being sent out as sheep among wolves - prey among predators! Sheep aren’t known for being wise or stealthy; I think that God uses the metaphor of sheep to describe us because we are always in need of a shepherd to lead us. In the same way, the apostles were promised that the Great Shepherd would lead them, even as they walked through the valley of the shadow of death and faced opposition from the government, kings, and even close friends and family (Matthew 10:18, 22-23). Jesus declared that, even in the most terrifying moments, He would be with His apostles and that His Spirit would speak through them (Matthew 10:19-20).
We can be encouraged today that we who have been called by Christ are also His apostles! We join ranks with the fisherman and tax collectors, with the Jews and Gentiles, with the Pauls and Peters of the world. We are sent out to share the good news of the gospel, even to the ends of the earth. And we are promised that, even in the darkest hours, He will never leave or forsake us, leading us as a shepherd leads his sheep.
Matthew 10:1-25 (ESV):
1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: 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 betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it.13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.