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Grant Osborne: Matthew’s editorial brilliance continues in this section. The opening verse (9:35) parallels 4:23 and frames chs. 5–9 with a summary of Jesus’ missionary activity and healing power. It also parallels 11:1 and establishes a two-step process that draws the section together around Jesus’ authority and compassion in his mission.

E. Michael Green: (9:35 – 10:42) — It is difficult to miss the skill in Matthew’s writing and arrangement. Just as the first section of his Gospel had found its climax in the Sermon on the Mount, informing us what the kingdom of heaven is about, so now the second section finishes with the mission charge, informing us that disciples must spread the good news of the kingdom. This section needs to be read at two levels.

  1. It primarily describes the historical mission of the Twelve in the time of Jesus. He did not merely preach, teach and heal by himself, or even by taking his disciples out with him. He also sent them out to further his mission.
  2. But there can be little doubt that this material was also cherished by Matthew and other Christian leaders because of what it had to say about the continuing mission of the church in Matthew’s own day.

Richard Gardner: Throughout the major section that begins at 4:17, Jesus is preparing for others to share in his mission. The direction is set in the call stories, in which Jesus invites persons to follow him as disciples (4:18-22; 8:18-22; 9:9). As followers, these persons receive instruction from Jesus (5:1-2), behold Jesus’ power and authority (8:23-27), and learn the meaning of Jesus’ mission as they sit at Jesus’ table (9:10-17).

The vocation of the disciples to which all of this is leading is spelled out in 9:35 – 10:42. Here Jesus commissions his twelve disciples in a formal way and gives them a discourse on mission as he sends them out. What is impressive in this presentation is the extent to which Jesus’ mission and that of the disciples are one and the same. As Jesus’ emissaries, the twelve will go forth with his authority, adopt his itinerant style, preach the message he preaches, perform the deeds that he performs, and share the fate that awaits him too.

Daniel Doriani: In our study of the life of Christ, we have thus far met Jesus (Matt. 1–4), heard his teaching on discipleship (Matt. 5–7), and seen the mighty deeds that demonstrate his power as he heals the sick, expels demons, and raises the dead (Matt. 8–9). So far, all attention has fallen upon Jesus. But like a great player who then becomes a coach, Jesus trains others in his skill. Like an entrepreneur whose business is growing, it is time to add workers to his team. In Matthew 10, the work of Jesus expands. He begins to train and commission his team. He prepares them to take his message, his power, and his cause to the world. He tells them—and us—to fulfill the mission God gives in the way Jesus shows.

Charles Swindoll: It’s also easy to forget that the Twelve were often nearby, partly because their presence isn’t always obvious in Matthew’s narrative. They were by Jesus’ side throughout His earthly ministry, always watching, frequently learning, occasionally responding. Their training remained at the forefront of His agenda, even though He didn’t frequently call attention to it. At times, however, He paused to address them and pass along specific information they were expected not only to remember but also to put into practice after He left them.

The time had come for the disciples to step up and move out into the real world, to face settings similar to those Jesus had been facing and to engage in a ministry similar to that of their Master. Like baby birds being coaxed out of their nest, it was time for the Twelve to spread their wings and face their own struggles in ministry. Next we’ll see Jesus delegate authority and empower His handpicked ministry team (10:1-4). He’ll prepare them with vital information before sending them out and set forth specific instructions regarding what they could expect and how to accomplish their mission (10:5-15). Though the authority and specific mission of the Twelve was unique and is distinct from ours in the twenty-first century, we can still gain some important principles and insights regarding our own calling and mission today.


Grant Osborne: Matthew 9:35–38 functions as a theological primer to the Mission Discourse. Jesus begins by telling his disciples that the mission is a part of his ministry (9:35) and a result of his compassion (v. 36). . .

The disciples’ mission continues Jesus “teaching” and “preaching” the gospel (9:35); moreover, by repeating the themes of 4:23, it shows that this mission is the very one Jesus has been doing all along. Through his teaching (chs. 5–7) and miraculous deeds (chs. 8–9), the harvest has been readied, and it is time to get to work. So the disciples are called on to intercede with God for more workers and then commissioned to become those very workers.

R. T. France: This transitional paragraph serves both as a summary of the ministry in word and deed which has been depicted in chs. 5–9 and as an introduction to the theme of mission which follows. Its first verse closely echoes the language of 4:23 which introduced the Galilean ministry, thus forming a framework around the anthology of words and deeds which Matthew has put together. Its closing verses provide the basis for the sending out of the Twelve as “workers in the harvest.” The paragraph as a whole could thus with equal appropriateness be bracketed either with what precedes it or with what follows, but I have chosen the latter because it provides the necessary justification for the sending out of the Twelve, and thus together with that pericope (10:1–4) provides the setting and the audience for the discourse that follows, in much the same way that 4:23 – 5:2 introduces the first discourse. Note too the repetition in the following discourse of the imagery of sheep (9:36; 10:6, 16) and of workers (9:37–38; 10:10).

John MacArthur: Now the text marks a transition point in Matthew’s planning. Systematically, Matthew has moved through the writing of this gospel to present all of the salient elements of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. He began with the ancestry of the King, the genealogy in chapter 1; then the arrival of the King, the virgin birth; then the anticipation of the King, the fulfillment of all of those Old Testament prophecies; then came the announcer of the King, John the Baptist; and then the approval of the King in His baptism, as the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased;” then the attack on the King as Satan met Him in temptation; then the affirmations of the King as He taught in chapter 5, 6, and 7 and affirmed the authority of the Word of God. And then most recently we’ve been looking at the attestations of the King. The miracles in chapters 8 and 9 that attest to His deity.

And now, as we look at chapter 10, we meet the associates of the King, as He calls into service the twelve and sends them out with the message of the kingdom. But between the attestation and the miracles and the section on the disciples is this very small transition taking us out of His miracle ministry and into His discipling ministry, away from the multitudes and toward the individual discipling of His apostles. And that transition is very important. Jesus sees the vastness of the task and realizes that He has to have some help. And so in chapter 10, we begin an entire section on the discipleship process; and we’ll be getting to that in our next study. But for now, we look at this most significant section in the transition.

We see three things as we look at the Lord here.

  1. First of all, His ministry in verse 35.
  2. Then His motives, verse 36 and the first part of verse 37.
  3. And then His method, the last of verse 37 and through the first verse in chapter 10.

A.  (:35) The Pattern for Mission Outreach – The Threefold Ministry of Jesus

And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages,

  1. Teaching Ministry

teaching in their synagogues,

  1. Proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom

and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,

  1. Healing Ministry

and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

B.  (:36-38) The Prayer for Mission Workers – Vision Casting

  1. (:36)  The Need for Shepherding

And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them,

because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.

Grant Osborne: As Jesus ministered to the “crowds,” he “had compassion” (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη), a strong verb that literally refers to “visceral emotions” and here connotes “filled with compassion” for a person’s plight. The reason for Jesus’ great pity is that the people were essentially rudderless because their “shepherds,” the leaders of Israel, had failed them. Two verbs describe their position: ἐσκυλμένοι, meaning to be “harassed, weary, beaten, troubled,” and ἐρριμμένοι, meaning to be “thrown down, helpless, confused.”

R. T. France: Jesus sees the ordinary people of Israel as similarly in need of direction and leadership. Chapter 23 will make explicit the criticism of their current leadership which this implies. Cf. the similar implication in Jesus’ offer of relief to those who are “toiling and heavily loaded” in 11:28–30.

His response is described by the strongly emotional Greek verb splanchnizomai, which speaks of a warm, compassionate response to need. No single English term does justice to it: compassion, pity, sympathy, fellow-feeling all convey part of it, but “his heart went out” perhaps represents more fully the emotional force of the underlying metaphor of a “gut response.” A further feature of this verb appears through a comparison with its other uses in Matthew (14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34): in each case there is not only sympathy with a person’s need, but also a practical response which meets that need; emotion results in caring and effective action, in this case the action of sending out his disciples among the people. It is a verb which describes the Jesus of the gospel stories in a nutshell.

Craig Blomberg: Despite Jesus’ extensive ministry, many in Israel, no doubt even in Galilee, remain unreached with his message. Jesus’ human emotions reflect a deep, gut-level “compassion” (a reasonable, idiomatic English equivalent for a term [from Greek splanchnos] that could refer to bowels and kidneys) for this sea of humanity. His compassion increases because Israel lacks adequate leadership, despite the many who would claim to guide it. The Twelve begin to fill that vacuum, foreshadowing the institution of the church. The language of “sheep without a shepherd” echoes Num 27:17 and Ezek 34:5, in which the shepherd is most likely messianic (cf. Ezek 34:23). Similar sentiments will well up in Jesus again at the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:34). As in the days of the prophets, the rightful leadership of Israel had abdicated its responsibility, as demonstrated by its inability or unwillingness to recognize God’s true spokesmen. “Harassed and helpless” literally means torn and thrown down (cf. Berkeley, “mangled and thrown to the ground”). Predators, and possibly even unscrupulous shepherds (Zech 10:2-3; 11:16) have ravaged the sheep.  Verse 36 provides a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees.

  1. (:37-38)  The Deployment of Workers

a.  (:37)  Crop is Vast and Ready to be Harvested, but the Workers Are Few

Then He said to His disciples,

‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’

Craig Blomberg: Shifting the metaphor from flock to field, Jesus now envisions a vast crop of ripe grain in need of harvesters.  The unreached people of his world need more preachers and ministers of the gospel. Jesus can personally encounter only a small number, so he will commission his followers to begin to reach the rest. Even then many more will be needed (cf. his sending of the seventy-two in Luke 10:1-12). Verses 37-38 have rightfully led Christians in all ages to pray for, call, and send men and women into all kinds of ministries. The need remains as urgent as ever, with billions who have not heard the gospel or seen it implemented holistically. “Send out” (from ekball —recall under 9:25) could also be translated thrust out, and it could even refer to workers already in the field who “need to have a fire lit under them to thrust them out of their comforts into the world of need.”

b.  (:38)  Calling Must Come from the Lord

Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest

to send out workers into His harvest.

John Nolland: In the present imagery God has become the owner-manager of the farmland who employs farm workers to harvest the crop. There is an urgent need for sufficient workers to be able to harvest the crop before it spoils.  No specific identity should be given to the ‘few’ existing workers: the focus is on the need for additional resources. The coming commissioning and direction of the Twelve will indicate something of what is involved in ‘harvesting’ (but we have also been seeing Jesus do it). The challenge to prayer, however, implies the need to call others beyond the Twelve into this task as well.

Richard Gardner: At least two things are noteworthy in this picture.

  1. First, an event usually linked with the final judgment is beginning to happen in the present hour.
  2. Second, God is entrusting to human laborers the task of harvesting traditionally reserved for himself or assigned to angels (cf. 3:12; 13:30, 41-43)!

The mission for which Jesus invites the disciples to prayer, therefore, is indeed an awesome one.


Grant Osborne: The mission movement anticipated in 4:19 and 9:38 now comes to fruition as Jesus commissions his followers as “apostles” (agents “sent” from God) and gives them authority over demons and illness. They now become “the Twelve” (the first time this term is used in Matthew), the righteous remnant who represent the twelve tribes in the new Israel, the church.

John MacArthur: Three elements of the commissioning of the twelve,

  1. first their initiationand we’ll talk a lot about that,
  2. then their impactand we’ll talk briefly about that,
  3. and then their identityand we’ll talk about that next time.

But we see their initiation in verse 1their impact in verse 1, and then their identity is given in verses 2 through 4 as He names all twelve of them.

A.  (:1) Delegation of Authority to the Twelve Apostles for the Mission

And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

John Nolland: Up to this point all that has come of Jesus’ declared intention ‘I will make of you those who fish for people’ (4:19) has been the disciples’ witnessing of Jesus’ own practice of ‘fishing’. Jesus’ own authority is introduced as a motif in 7:29; now Jesus gives the Twelve the possibility of a share in his own authority.

Warren Wiersbe: A “disciple” is a learner, one who follows a teacher and learns his wisdom. Jesus had many disciples, some of whom were merely “hangers-on,” and some who were truly converted (John 6:66). From this large group of followers, Jesus selected a smaller group of twelve men, and these He called “apostles.” This word comes from the Greek word apostello, which means “to send forth with a commission.” It was used by the Greeks for the personal representatives of the king, ambassadors who functioned with the king’s authority. To make light of the king’s envoys was to be in danger of insubordination.

A man had to meet certain qualifications to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. He must have seen the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1) and fellowshipped with Him (Acts 1:21–22). He had to be chosen by the Lord (Eph. 4:11). The apostles laid the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) and then passed from the scene. While all believers are sent forth to represent the King (John 17:18; 20:21), no believer today can honestly claim to be an apostle, for none of us has seen the risen Christ (1 Peter 1:8).

These apostles were given special power and authority from Christ to perform miracles. These miracles were a part of their “official credentials” (Acts 2:43; 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:1–4). They healed the sick (and note that this included all kinds of diseases), cleansed the lepers, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. These four ministries paralleled the miracles that Jesus performed in Matthew 8 and 9. In a definite way, the apostles represented the King and extended His work.

Christ’s commission to these twelve men is not our commission today. He sent them only to the people of Israel. “To the Jew first” is the historic pattern, for “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). These twelve ambassadors announced the coming of the kingdom just as John the Baptist had done (Matt. 3:2) and Jesus Himself (Matt. 4:17). Sad to say, the nation rejected both Christ and His ambassadors, and the kingdom was taken from them (Matt. 21:43).

E. Michael Green: It is noteworthy that Jesus passes on to them the authority he has wielded so powerfully in word and deed since chapter 5. Their ministry is carefully presented as parallel to his own. The words of 4:23, describing Jesus’ mission as one of teaching, preaching and healing, are almost repeated of his disciples in 10:7–8. They are to go and preach, to heal every disease. The evangelist is making it plain that the disciples of Jesus share his calling, his authority and his mission. They are to do and to preach what Jesus did and preached.

B.  (:2-4) Designation of the Twelve Apostles

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these:

D. A. Carson: In the NT, the term can mean merely “messenger” (Jn 13:16) or refer to Jesus (“the apostle and high priest whom we confess,” Heb 3:1) or elsewhere (esp. in Paul) denote “missionaries” or “representatives”—i.e., a group larger than the Twelve and Paul (Ro 16:7; 2Co 8:23). Nevertheless, the most natural reading of 1 Corinthians 9:1–5; 15:7; Galatians 1:17, 19 et al. is that even Paul could use the term in a narrow sense to refer to the Twelve plus himself (by special dispensation, 1Co 15:8–10).

R. T. France: The listing of their names is clearly a matter of some importance since both Mark and Luke also do so in their gospels (Mark 3:16–16; Luke 6:14–16), and Luke again in Acts 1:13. With the exception of Thaddeus the names are the same in all these lists, though the order of the names and the descriptions of the individuals vary a little. Matthew’s list has two distinctive features: it is arranged in pairs (perhaps reflecting the tradition that they were sent out in pairs, Mark 6:7 cf. Luke 10:1), the first two being pairs of brothers, the others apparently arbitrarily grouped for literary effect; and Simon (Peter), who comes first in all the lists and whose leading role among the twelve is clear in all the gospels, is explicitly designated in Matthew as “first,” even though no further numbering follows. This is consistent with Matthew’s emphasis on the special importance of Peter, 16:16–19.

William Barclay: There are two facts about the Twelve which are bound to strike us at once.

(1)  They were very ordinary men. They had no wealth; they had no academic background; they

(2)  They were the most extraordinary mixture.

  1. (:2a)  Peter and Andrew

The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother;

D. A. Carson: Impulsive and ardent, Peter’s great strengths were his great weaknesses. . . James was probably the older (he almost always appears first). But as he became the first apostolic martyr (Ac 12:2), he never achieved his brother’s prominence. The brothers were sons of Zebedee the fisherman, whose business was successful enough to employ others (Mk 1:20) while his wife was able to support Jesus’ ministry (Mt 27:55–56). His wealth may help account for the family’s link with the house of the high priest (Jn 18:15–16), as well as for the fact that he alone of the Twelve stood by the cross. The brothers’ mother was probably Salome (cf. Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1), and her motives were not unmixed. Perhaps the sons inherited something of her aggressive nature; whatever its source, the nickname “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17; cf. also Mk 9:38–41, Lk 9:54–56) reveals something of their temperament. John may have been a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35–41). Of James we know nothing until Matthew 4:21–22. John was undoubtedly a special friend of Peter (Lk 22:8; Jn 18:15; 20:2–8; Ac 3:1–4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9). Reasonably reliable tradition places him after the fall of Jerusalem in Ephesus, where he ministered long and usefully into old age, taking a hand in the nurture of leaders like Polycarp, Papias, and Ignatius.

Craig Blomberg: “Andrew” comes from the Greek for manliness. Like Peter, his brother, Andrew was originally a fisherman from Bethsaida (John 1:44). He was the first-known disciple of John the Baptist to begin to follow Christ (John 1:40).

  1. (:2b)  James and John

and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

Craig Blomberg: “James” comes from the Hebrew Jacob, meaning he who grasps the heel (see Gen 25:26). Another Galilean fisherman and son of Zebedee (4:21-22), he was executed by Herod Agrippa I not later than A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2). He is therefore to be distinguished from the James who wrote the epistle of that name and who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem after Peter’s departure.

John” in Hebrew means the Lord is gracious. He was James’s brother. Like Peter and James, he formed part of the inner circle of the three disciples closest to Jesus (see comments under 4:21-22). The Fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation are all attributed to him, the last of these while he was exiled for his faith on the island of Patmos, probably under the emperor Domitian in the mid-90s. Strong, early church tradition associates his ministry with Ephesus, combating the Gnostic teacher Cerinthus. Reasonably strong, though sometimes conflicting tradition maintains that he was the only one of the Twelve not to die a martyr’s death for his faith. He would thus have lived to quite an old age—at least into his eighties or nineties.

  1. (:3a)  Philip and Bartholomew

Philip and Bartholomew;”

D. A. Carson: Philip. Like Peter and Andrew, Philip’s home was Bethsaida (Jn 1:44). He too left the Baptist to follow Jesus. For incidents about him, see John 6:5–7; 12:21–22; 14:8–14. In the lists he invariably appears first in the second group of four. Polycrates, a second-century bishop, says Philip ministered in the Roman province of Asia and was buried at Hierapolis.

Bartholomew. The name means “son of Tolmai” or “son of Tholami” (cf. Jos 15:14 LXX) or “son of Tholomaeus” (cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.5 [1.1]). Many have identified him with Nathanael on the grounds that

(1)  the latter is apparently associated with the Twelve (Jn 21:2; cf. 1:43–51),

(2)  Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus (Jn 1:43–46), and

(3)  Philip and Bartholomew are always associated in the lists of apostles.

The evidence is not strong, but if it is solid, we also know he came from Cana (Jn 21:2). He is remembered for Jesus’ tribute to him (Jn 1:47).

Craig Blomberg: “Philip” comes from the Greek for horse lover. With Simon and Andrew, he was one of Jesus’ earliest disciples. He too was from Bethsaida (John 1:43-48) and is to be distinguished from Philip the “deacon” of Acts 6:5 and 8:26-40.

Bartholomew” comes from the Hebrew for son of Talmai. Probably he is the same person as Nathanael, Philip’s companion in John 1:45-49. His home would then have been Cana (John 21:2). Matthew likewise groups Philip and Bartholomew together.

  1. (:3b) Thomas and Matthew

Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer;

D. A. Carson: Thomas. Also named “Didymus” (Jn 11:16; 21:2), which in Aramaic means “Twin,” Thomas appears in gospel narratives only in John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24–29. Known for his doubt, he should also be known for his courage (Jn 11:16) and his profound confession (Jn 20:28). Some traditions claim he went to India as a missionary and was martyred there; others place his later ministry in Persia.

  1. (:3c)  James and Thaddaeus

James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

Craig Blomberg: James, son of Alphaeus, is also called ho mikros in Mark 15:40 (the small one or “the younger”), presumably to distinguish him in age or size from James, son of Zebedee. Little else is known for sure about him.

Thaddaeus is also called Lebbaeus in some textual variants and Judas son of James in Luke 6:16. The first two are probably nicknames of devotion or endearment, coming from the Hebrew taday (breast) and leb (heart).

  1. (:4)  Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot

Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

R. T. France: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus will be fully narrated later (26:14–16, 21–25, 47–50; 27:3–10); here it is mentioned only because it is the one thing about him every Christian would remember. He comes, appropriately, at the end of all the gospel lists (just as Peter comes first in all of them)—and is of course absent from the list in Acts 1:13. His second name, “Iscariot”, is usually included, partly to distinguish him from the other Judas of John 14:22, but also because his notoriety made his full name familiar. Many derivations of “Iscariot” have been proposed, including the suggestion that it is a corruption of sicarios, a member of the most notorious of the revolutionary groups (which would make for an interesting collocation with Simon the “zealot”), but perhaps more likely is the traditional notion that it derives from ʾîš-qerîyôt, “man of Kerioth;” if so, this raises the interesting possibility that Judas was the one non-Galilean among the Twelve, since the only two towns called Kerioth that we know of are in Moab and in southern Judea. But that too is speculation, and since Hebrew qiryâ (“town”) occurs in several other place names it cannot be relied on.