FAITHFULNESS TO THE PATTERN OF CHRIST, DEPENDENCE ON GOD AND PROPER RESPONSE TO REJECTION OR RECEPTION MUST CHARACTERIZE EVANGELICAL MISSIONS
Richard Gardner: The instruction of the disciples that begins in 10:5 and continues through 10:42 makes up the second of the five discourses of Jesus in Matthew. Linked as it is to the sending out of the twelve, it is frequently called the mission discourse. The first part of this discourse contains Jesus’ charge to the twelve and describes their mission (10:5-15). In the sayings that follow (10:16-42), Jesus offers counsel on the opposition his messengers will encounter, underscoring the cost (and reward) of discipleship.
- Restricted to Israel, 10:5-6
- Rules for the Road, 10:7-10
- Reception and Rejection, 10:11-15
R. T. France: The pericope covers three aspects of their mission:
- to whom they are to go (vv. 5–6);
- the nature of their mission in both word and deed (vv. 7–8);
- and how they are to be fed and housed (vv. 9–15, developing the principle of v. 8b, “Give without cost”).
The last section, which raises the possibility of rejection as well as a hospitable welcome, leads naturally into the consideration of hostility to Jesus’ messengers which will follow in vv. 16–39.
Stanley Saunders: Jesus’ preparation of his disciples for mission now focuses on the recipients, the content, and the manner of engagement. The mission is not to “go out into the way of the nations” (or “Gentiles”), nor to any city of the Samaritans (10:5). At the end of the Gospel the call to go to the nations (28:18–20) will supercede the mission that is here so carefully limited. The focus on “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” corresponds with Jesus’ identity as the one who “will save his people from their sins” (1:21). Popular Jewish expectation for the last days anticipated the restoration of Israel prior to the gathering of the nations. Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ mission here follows that scenario: first Israel will be restored, then the nations (Gentiles) will gather. At this stage in the Gospel, the mission of Jesus and his disciples is clearly focused on the realization of God’s faithfulness to the “house of Israel,” the “lost sheep.”
The disciples’ primary task is to proclaim and demonstrate that God’s empire has drawn near (10:7–8; cf. 3:2; 4:17). The kingdom’s proximity is sometimes given a primarily temporal cast, as if the hour of its coming is near, but it is not yet present. Jesus may, rather, be saying that the empire of the heavens is spatially within grasp of the audience, having already drawn near (past tense, suggesting something already accomplished), alongside the disciples and those to whom they will preach, jostling with and displacing the reality they have known. The four imperatives that follow in quick succession—heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons—link the disciples’ mission with that of Jesus (4:23–24; 8:1–4; 8:16; 8:28–34; 9:32–34). The power he has demonstrated so far, even power to raise the dead, is also available to the disciples.
The disciples should pursue their mission expecting nothing in return except hospitality (10:8b, 11). Like laborers, the disciples deserve to be fed (10:10), but they will be dependent on others for sustenance. . . Their mission is to be conducted in complete dependence on God to provide them with security, food, and other needs for each day. This lifestyle is an integral element of their proclamation of God’s faithfulness (cf. Matt. 6:25–34). The means and message of the kingdom are one. The disciples’ poverty, defenselessness, and utter dependence on God are “prophetic-symbolic actions,” enactments of the empire of heaven that challenge the existing order, point toward God’s power and presence, and subvert the presuppositions and values associated with imperial systems of power.
I. (:5-10) INSTRUCTIONS ON PERFORMING THE MISSION AFTER THE PATTERN OF CHRIST
“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying,”
A. (:5-6) Target Jews
- (:5) Not Gentiles or Samaritans
a. Not Gentiles
“Do not go in the way of the Gentiles,”
b. Not Samaritans
“and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;”
John Nolland: The separate mention of the Samaritans has no independent significance: these people considered to be of doubtful Israelite extraction are introduced only as a way of insisting with considerable tightness of definition on a restriction of mission to ethnic Israel.
John Broadus: SAMARIA was the district lying between Judea and Galilee. The dislike between the Jews and the Samaritans had its beginnings as far back as the earliest times of Israel in the jealousy existing between the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, which finally led to the division into two kingdoms. When the people of the Northern Kingdom (who came to be called Samaritans from the capital city, Samaria, 1 Kings 16:24), were carried into captivity by the Assyrians, the country was partly occupied by Mesopotamian colonists, who were idolaters. These gradually coalesced with the dregs of the Israelites who had been left in the land, and with the fugitives who returned from surrounding countries, into a half-heathen nation, attempting to unite idolatry with the worship of Jehovah. When the people of the Southern Kingdom, the Jews, returned from their captivity in Babylon, and undertook to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, the Samaritans proffered to help them; and being repulsed, as not of pure Israelitish descent, they then did all in their power to hinder the building of the temple, and the fortification of the city. A brother of the Jewish high-priest, having married a Samaritan woman, and being unwilling to put her away as required, went over to the Samaritans, and was made priest in a temple built for him on Mount Gerizim (Jos. “Ant.,” 11, 8, 2), which the Samaritans from that time began to contend was the proper place for the worship of Jehovah, rather than Jerusalem. (John 4:20.) These causes naturally led to bitter hatred between Jews and Samaritans, and they were constantly attempting to injure and insult each other, while under the dominion of the Greek kings of Syria. John Hyrcanus conquered the Samaritans, destroying their temple and capital (about B. C. 125). Pompey established their independence (B. C. 63). At the time of our Lord’s public ministry, Judea and Samaria were governed by the same Roman procurator, but as distinct administrative districts; and the hatred between the two nations, cherished through centuries, and combining all the elements of race jealousy, religious rivalry, political hostility, and numerous old grudges, had become so intense that the world has probably never seen its parallel. The theory of some writers that the Samaritans were of purely heathen origin, would suppose that the entire population of the Northern people was deported by the Assyrians—a thing extremely improbable; would render the frequent claim of the Samaritans to be Jews an absurdity; and would make it difficult to account for the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Samaritan expectation of Messiah. Fur the Samaritans, like the Jews, expected the Messiah (John 4:25, 29), and something like a year before this mission of the Twelve our Lords preaching among them at Sychar was warmly received, and many believed on him. (John 4:39–42.) Some time after this mission he also went twice through Samaria, and spoke and acted kindly towards them. (Luke 9:51 ff.; 17:11 ff.) Why, then, might not the Twelve go into their cities? It is enough to reply that the Twelve had not then such feelings towards that people as would qualify them to do good there. The proposal of James and John to call down fire from heaven upon a Samaritan village (Luke 9:52 ff.) shows that there would have been bitter controversies, with the old national hate ever ready to burst out (Comp. Bruce, “Training of the Twelve.”) In Acts 1:8, Samaria is expressly included in the field of their appointed labors after the ascension. (Comp. Acts 8:5.)
- (:6) Lost Jews
“but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Grant Osborne: The sent disciples are not to follow the road north or east to the Gentile areas, nor are they to go south to the land of the Samaritans. So on this mission they are restricted to Galilee and to the Jewish people there.
D. A. Carson: The most important consideration, however, was not pragmatic but theological. Jesus stood at the nexus in salvation history where as a Jew and the Son of David he came in fulfillment of his people’s history as their King and Redeemer. Yet his personal claims would offend so many of his own people that he would be rejected by all but a faithful remnant. Why increase their opposition by devoting time to Gentile ministry? His mission, as predicted, was worldwide in its ultimate aims (see comments at 1:1; 2:1; 3:9–10; 4:15–16; 5:13–16; 8:1–13; 10:18; 21:43; 24:14; 28:16–20), and all along he had warned that being a Jew was not enough. But his own people must not be excluded because premature offense could be taken at such broad perspectives. Therefore, Jesus restricted his own ministry primarily (15:24), though not exclusively (8:1–13; 15:21–39), to Jews. He himself was sent as their Messiah. The messianic people of God developed out of the Jewish remnant and expanded to include Gentiles. The restriction of vv.5–6, therefore, depends on a particular understanding of salvation history (cf. Meier, Law and History, 27–30) that ultimately goes back to Jesus. Paul well understood that both salvation and judgment were for the Jew first, then for the Gentile (Ro 1:16), and this conviction governed his own early missionary efforts (e.g., Ac 13:5, 44–48; 14:1).
B. (:7-8) Testify to the Coming Kingdom
- (:7) Ministry of Authoritative Preaching
“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Richard Gardner: They go as representatives of the Messiah. Verses 7–8 carefully repeat both the message and the activity of Jesus as we have been told of them in chapters 5–9; the disciples are to say and do what he has already said and done. At the end of the discourse (vv. 40–42) it will be made clear that how people respond to them reveals also their response to Jesus the Messiah. That is why the welcome or lack of it which they will encounter in the villages of Galilee is so strongly emphasized in vv. 11–15; the villagers will be welcoming or rejecting their Messiah. The “peace” which will rest on the “worthy” is not just a social formality, but a real mark of God’s blessing or judgment. This is a moment of spiritual decision, however little some of the people of Galilee may yet recognize it as such.
Charles Swindoll: We shouldn’t be surprised that the essence of their message was the same as Jesus’ —“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was probably shorthand for a fuller message similar to what Jesus had been teaching in greater detail, perhaps including the call to repent in anticipation of the coming messianic age and to respond with water baptism (see John 3:22; 4:1). The disciples were to present a true extension of Jesus’ own preaching ministry, repeating His message and not coming up with their own.
John Nolland: The nearness of the kingdom of heaven will become visible in the accompanying acts which manifest the powers of the kingdom of heaven.
Grant Osborne: As stated in those passages, this meant that the longed-for final kingdom of God (for “kingdom of heaven,” see on 3:2) is both imminent and has indeed arrived in Jesus. In Jesus, God’s future kingdom is already active and present in this world. Gnilka says it well: their preaching concerned “the universal, worldwide liberating and saving reign that comes from God to us, a rule that is in its essence and in its completion a reality of the future, indeed the future itself, but a reign that can already be experienced in the present as it is proclaimed and pronounced.”
- (:8a) Ministry of Confirmatory Healing
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons;”
Charles Swindoll: By virtue of His own divine authority, Jesus gave them power to do the kinds of miracles that He had been doing up until that point. They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons —freely, without the thought of charging for their miraculous acts of mercy. These signs and wonders would be proof that their message was true —the kingdom of the Messiah was imminent!
- (:8b) Ministry Performed without Financial Compensation
“freely you received, freely give.”
Richard Gardner: Paul makes a point of not having charged for his missionary labors (dōrean, 2 Cor 11:7), in contrast with the common practice of itinerant philosophers and teachers who expected not just board and lodging but fees as well; Paul himself refused even free board (dōrean, 2 Thess 3:8; cf 1 Cor 9:3–18). So Jesus’ disciples, having received the message of the kingdom of God “free of charge” through Jesus himself, are to offer their services in both teaching and healing without expecting any material reward. The following verses show, however, that unlike Paul they are to accept board and lodging, since they are to take no money with them to pay for it, and “the worker earns his keep.”
D. A. Carson: Jesus expected the Twelve to be supported by those to whom they were to minister (cf. vv.9–13; 1Co 9:14), but they needed to understand that what they had received—the good news of the kingdom, Jesus’ authority, and this commission—they had received “freely” (not “in large bounty”—though that was true—but gratis). Therefore it would have been mercenary to charge others (NEB: “You have received without cost; give without charge”; cf. Did. 11–13; Pirke Avot 1:13). The danger of profiteering is still among us (cf. Mic 3:11).
Grant Osborne: The disciples were not to profit from their ministry but use it the same way Jesus did—to help others. Salvation is a free gift of grace; ministry should reflect the same selfless concerns. This is a principle that deserves more discussion among Christian leaders today. Perhaps it is so convicting that the only alternative is to act as if Jesus never said it.
C. (:9-10) Travel Lightly
- (:9-10a) Reject Security – Total Reliance on God
“Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts,
10 or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff;”
Bruce Hurt: Did Jesus command that the disciples take a staff or not?
PROBLEM: In Matthew, Jesus seems to say that the disciples should not take a staff, but in Mark it appears that He allows them to have one.
SOLUTION: A closer examination reveals that the account in Mark (6:8) declares that the disciples are to take nothing except a staff, which a traveler would normally have. Whereas the account in Matthew states that they are not to acquire another staff. There is no discrepancy between these texts. Mark’s account is saying that they may take the staff that they have, while Matthew is saying that they should not take an extra staff or tunic. The text reads “Provide neither … two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs” (plural: vv. 9–10). It does not say that they should not take a staff (singular). So there is no contradiction.
- (:10b) Expect Provision from the Lord
“for the worker is worthy of his support.”
Van Parunak: for the workman is worthy of his meat.–Paul quotes Luke’s version (10:7) of this saying as “scripture” in 1 Tim 5:18, giving evidence for the early existence of the gospels.
The word “for” is important. The Lord tells them not to make extensive provision for their trip, because the one for whom they work will provide for them. The question is: for who are they working?
It is commonly supposed (e.g., Gill’s comment on this verse) that this verse addresses the responsibility of those who receive ministry to pay for it. But this sense would be in tension with v. 8, “Freely ye have received, freely give”. More likely he is reminding them who their true master is. Those who are worthy workmen for the Lord need not fear for his provision. They need not be preoccupied about their purse, or their store of food. They know that he will provide. Conversely, those who insist on elaborate logistical preparations for their ministry are showing that they do not really trust in the Lord. The restrictions he imposes force them to rely on the Lord, and filter out those who would seek to minister, not out of devotion and obedience to him, but to advance themselves.
D. A. Carson: What is clear is that the Twelve must travel unencumbered, relying on hospitality and God’s providence. The details ensure that the instructions were for that mission alone (cf. Lk 22:35–38) and confirm Matthew’s consciousness of the historicity of this part of the discourse.
Grant Osborne: The point seems to be that they are to depend on God through the hospitality of others. Rather than earning a wage, they accept hospitality and so express full dependence on God. Their trust must be in God, and their purpose must not be worldly profit but heavenly reward (6:19–21).
Donald Hagner: Subsistence, but not profit, was the rightful expectation of those who preached the gospel (cf. 1 Cor 9:18), a point that needs reemphasis for some mass-media evangelists of the late twentieth century for whom preaching the gospel has become a business (cf. 1 Tim 6:6–10; Titus 1:11; 1 Pet 5:2).
II. (:11-15) INSTRUCTIONS ON SEEKING HOSPITALITY AND RESPONDING TO RECEPTION OR REJECTION
Richard Gardner: Building on the final phrase in verse 10, verses 11-15 focus on the issue of hospitality. Hospitality to visitors was an important part of Semitic culture, all the more so when visitors came as messengers from God (cf. Gen. 18:1-15; Heb. 13:2). The worthy home that Jesus’ messenger is urged to seek out, then, is a receptive home, one ready to hear the word of the kingdom and offer hospitality.
Finding such a home, the messenger is to greet it, to proclaim God’s blessing of peace upon it (cf. Luke 10:5). The greeting reflects the Hebrew shalom, which here signifies the peace of the kingdom, the wholeness of life that comes with God’s reign. So closely is God identified with this word of peace that blessing occurs as blessing is pronounced (cf. Isa. 55:11), though only where it is welcomed.
If rejected, the blessing returns to Jesus’ messenger, who must then communicate a message of judgment. The graphic act by which this is done is shaking the dust from one’s feet as one leaves (cf. Acts 13:51), a gesture saying in effect that God is abandoning this house or town. Such a town, Jesus says, is in a worse position than Sodom or Gomorrah, cities that epitomized evil and judgment (cf. Isa. 1:9-10; Jer. 23:14; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). Behind this unfavorable comparison lies the inhospitable behavior of Sodom toward the messengers who visited Lot in Genesis 19:1-11. As John Meier puts it: “Sodom and Gomorrah showed disrespect to the angels, the Old Testament messengers of Yahweh; worse still is the disrespect shown to the apostles, the New Testament messengers of Christ” (1980:108).
A. (:11) Seek Optimal Hospitality (Room and Board)
“And into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it;
and abide there until you go away.”
Craig Blomberg: The disciples must remain with such worthy people to avoid accusations of favoritism or the jealousies of competition among potential hosts.
B. (:12-13) Strategically Extend or Retract Your Greeting
- (:12) Unconditional Initial Extension of Greeting
“And as you enter the house, give it your greeting.”
- (:13) Conditional Continuation of the Greeting
a. Situation Where the House Is Found Worthy
“And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it;”
John MacArthur: The implication is that truly receptive listeners were to be ministered to in the fullest way. Their open hearts to the Lord’s work earned them God’s richest blessing. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet,” Jesus explained a short while later, “shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” Matt. 10:41.
b. Situation Where the House Is Found Unworthy
“but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you.”
C. (:14-15) Symbolically Prophesy Judgment against Opponents
- (:14) Depart and Shake the Dust Off Your Feet
“And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words,
as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.”
D. A. Carson: What was true for the home applied equally to the town. A pious Jew, on leaving Gentile territory, might remove from his feet and clothes all the dust of the pagan land now being left behind (Str-B, 1:571), thus dissociating himself from the pollution of those lands and the judgment in store for them. For the disciples to do this to Jewish homes and towns would be a symbolic way of saying that the emissaries of Messiah now view those places as pagan, polluted, and liable to judgment (cf. Ac 13:51; 18:6). The actions, while outrageously shocking, accord with 8:11–12; 11:20–24.
Grant Osborne: Note that the response is twofold: rejection and refusal to listen. There is the welcome into the home and there is the openness to the message; it is these that define the “worthy” individual. The response of the rejected missionary is also twofold: leave that place and shake the dust off the feet. Both are prophetic parables of rejection in turn. When Jesus “withdrew” from a place, it often was a sign that God had rejected them (15:21; 19:1).
- (:15) Degrees of Punishment
“Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
Donald Hagner: In a judgment oracle strengthened by ἀμήν, “verily, truly,” Jesus asserts that the culpability of those who reject the gospel of the kingdom will be greater on the day of judgment than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were notorious, and the cities suffered destruction for their sins (Gen 19:24–28). Accordingly they became symbolic of catastrophic judgment (see Rom 9:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7). ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως, “in the day of judgment,” refers to the day of eschatological judgment (cf. the same phrase in 11:22, 24; 12:36). The final penalty will be greater for those who have refused the gospel. The same analogy, but mentioning Sodom only, is made later in reference to the unbelief of Capernaum (11:23–24). The gravity of refusing the message and mission of Jesus could hardly be made more emphatic.
Bruce Hurt: Jesus is clearly teaching that there will be degrees of punishment in Gehenna (Lake of fire, Hell, but not “hades“) even as He teaches there are greater rewards in heaven (Rev 22:12). In other words Hell will be more horrible and “hotter” (in some way) for some them others! Sodom and Gomorrah were indescribably wicked (Jude 1:7) and yet less overtly evil cities of Israel would be more culpable because they rejected greater light of the Gospel presented by the Savior Himself! The principle is rejection of greater spiritual light results in greater eternal punishment! The writer of Hebrews rightly says “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:31+)