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Matthew 9:35-10:42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6      Listen Podcast

In these passages, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:

Jesus calls for an evangelism campaign (Matthew 9:35-38)

Matthew 9
35 ¶ Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

In Matthew 9, Jesus has been ministering around the Sea of Galilee; he is still in that area. The actual effort is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels (see next section), but the basis for the campaign is only recorded by Matthew in these four verses. The people came in great numbers to Jesus, but afterward verse 36 says of the people, "they were weary and scattered." Both "weary" and "scattered" are perfect passive participles in their Greek form. Literally, that means that after hearing Jesus, they were caused to be weary (they were bullied) and they were caused to be scattered. Within a corrupt religious system as existed during that era, where do the people get spiritual nourishment after their encounter with Jesus. The Jewish leadership cared nothing for the people; the people were just pawns who contributed to their power base. This environment is the basis for the evangelistic effort that follows.

Jesus organizes a visitation program (Matthew 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6)
This passage is key to understanding the Gospels.

Matthew 10
Mark 6
Luke 9
1 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
2 Now 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 Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
4 Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
5 ¶ These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
9 Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts,
10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
11 ¶ “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.
12 And when you go into a household, greet it.
13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.
15 Assuredly, 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!
7 ¶ And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.
8 He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—
9 but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
10 ¶ Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place.
11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”
12 ¶ So they went out and preached that people should repent.
13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.
1 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.
2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.
4 ¶ “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”
6 ¶ So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

From the verses leading up to these passages, we know that Jesus is still based at this time around the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is from this region that Jesus sends forth his twelve Apostles to minister.

When Jesus sent his Apostles out on this occasion, look at the very specific marching orders he gave them in Matthew 10:5-7:

  1. Don't go to the Gentiles or Samaritans (only mentioned in Matthew 10:5).
  2. Go to Israelites only (only mentioned in Matthew 10:6).
  3. Preach the message, "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7; Luke 9:2).

Here's why this is important. As we have commented regarding other passages in the Gospels, Jesus came to offer to the Jews the fulfillment of the Messianic promises of the Old Testament prophets. These promises consisted of the Kingdom of Israel restored to the earth, sovereign and worldwide. This Kingdom would have as its head the Messiah himself, and it would last forever. However, it had also been prophesied by Isaiah and Daniel that the Jews would reject the Messiah this time around and that he would be crucified (Isaiah 53, see notes; Daniel 9:27, see notes). Nonetheless, it was necessary that the ministry of Jesus and his Apostles make available to the Jews this Kingdom on earth.

Only Matthew takes this occasion to name the twelve Apostles:

  1. Simon, who is called Peter
  2. Andrew his brother
  3. James the son of Zebedee
  4. John his brother
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Thomas
  8. Matthew the publican
  9. James the son of Alphaeus
  10. Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus
  11. Simon the Canaanite
  12. Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

We also find a listing of the twelve in two parallel passages, Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16 (see notes).

Look at the marching orders found in Matthew 10:8, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." Is this mandate for all Believers throughout all generations, or was this a special unction given to them by Jesus for this particular evangelistic effort? Mark and Luke seem to shed light on this. Mark simply says, "and gave them power over unclean spirits" while Luke reports, "and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases." In other words, here's the question: Are we leaving something out of our evangelistic message today if we don't fulfill Matthew 10:8 when we evangelize? The answer is contextually simple. Nobody assumes that we have been committed to the criteria of Matthew 10:5-7 (see above), the three verses that precede verse 8. Therefore, if we acknowledge that these criteria are specifically for this campaign, then it would be contextually dishonest to insist that verse 8 should be treated any differently. Context - it's very important!

One more thing: A vow of poverty is a key component in this campaign - specifically stated in all three accounts as part of the mission. You don't typically see the people who proclaim that verse 8 applies to all evangelism in all ages embracing this vow-of-poverty lifestyle. Notice Matthew 10:14-15 and Mark 6:11...and what if they are not well received? Can you say, "Sodom and Gomorrah?" (For details on Sodom and Gomorrah, click here to read the notes on Genesis 19.)

Notice how much insight regarding this mission is gained when all three passages are studied together. When either the account of Mark or Luke is taken without the support of the other two, certain important details are missing. One cannot really grasp the mission without considering the details given in all three accounts. However, Mark's account does seem to differ from that of Matthew and Luke on one point…to carry or not carry a staff. Mark says "yes" to a walking staff. Matthew and Luke say "no" to "staffs" (KJV: staves). The Greek word there is ῥάβδος (rhabdos). It's a general word for a rod that might have had several uses back then. Nearly everyone carried a walking staff for long journeys. Matthew and Luke both use the plural. It would appear that Mark is saying that Jesus commanded the only kind of staff that should accompany them is a walking staff. No other kind of staff that might be used as a tool for one's trade was to be carried. Thus, the usage of the plural "staffs" (KJV: staves) by Matthew and Luke should be understood in this context.

Jesus continues his instructions to his Apostles (Matthew 10:16-42)

Matthew 10
16 ¶ “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.
18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak;
20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 ¶ “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.
22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities 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 a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!
26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
27 ¶ “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 ¶ “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.
33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
34 ¶ “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
35 For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;
36 and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’
37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
40 ¶ “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet 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.
42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

In this passage Jesus continues his instructions to his Apostles. Mark and Luke do not report on these extended commissioning comments by Jesus. He makes some startling statements throughout this passage, but let's make sure we keep it in its proper context. Jesus is still giving instructions to his Apostles concerning their preaching the Kingdom message. Note particularly the reference to their "synagogues" in verse 17. He carefully and thoroughly warns them that their message will not be well received. We already know how this ends - the rejection of Jesus as Messiah and his subsequent crucifixion. However, it was prophesied that this Kingdom would be offered, and here it is being offered. That being the case, how do we render the warnings issued by Jesus in this passage? Are these warnings just for the Apostles as they are charged here, or are they to be universally applied to all Believers who proclaim the name of Jesus - then and now? Certainly we see that persecution was not restricted to just this era, but there's a certain urgency here with this particular commissioning.

Jesus refers to the accusation against him in verse 25 that had occurred in Mark 3:22 (see notes). It was there that Jesus was accused of performing miracles in the name of Beelzebub, regarded in that day as the chief demon aka Satan himself.

There is an intense discipleship call here. As we know in retrospect, the time was very limited at this point in the ministry of Jesus. When people take the discipleship call in this passage and universally apply it to all Believers today, they usually find that they have to massage the words a little bit to make them palatable to what we know to be true about priorities in one's Christian life. Look at Matthew 10:34, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." The Kingdom message was divisive, ultimately leading to the crucifixion. Now observe Matthew 10:35, "For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." That verse can only be truly appreciated in light of the urgency of the hour and the Kingdom message. What Jesus was calling upon people to do during this time was to drop everything they were doing, disregard family ties and close personal relationships and prepare for the immediate fulfillment of the Kingdom reign as prophesied in the Old Testament. Think of it like this: If you knew that a hurricane was headed your way and would arrive at some point in the next few days, wouldn't there be urgent tasks to do that would overshadow family time, work, leisure activities, etc.? Certainly! That's the kind of urgency in these instructions from Jesus to his Apostles on this occasion. So, here Jesus is talking about drop-everything-else discipleship. Context is important here. Many Believers have understood these verses as a mandate to forsake family and friends to pursue the ministry. They lose sight of the special circumstances of the context. Now while there are certainly lessons to be learned from this passage, a strict adherence here by Believers today often leaves them with feelings of failure and inadequacy. Incidentally, this campaign by Jesus' Apostles ends in Matthew 14:13, Mark 6:30-32 and Luke 9:10 (see notes). In those verses they report back to Jesus the results of their evangelistic efforts under this mandate.'s a verse that is frequently abused by those who paint salvation as a conditional state rather than what it is, an unconditional covenant between God and the Believer. Notice verse 22, "And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." Before you try to make this verse apply to something that it does not, read the preceding verse (21) to see the saved-from-what detail - unquestionably, physical death ("put to death"). To whom does the guarantee of verse 22 apply? He's still addressing the twelve specifically regarding how to succeed in this evangelistic campaign. Here's what Jesus tells them: Don't back off this mission because of persecution and threat of death; keep on task and you will not be killed (i.e. "saved"). As a matter of fact, all of the twelve returned safe and sound after this road trip.

One more point of interest in this passage. Notice the love-'em and leave-'em aspect of the command to preach here. He tells them not to stick around (verse 23) after they have preached to a city. Don't continue to work the city; just move on. And when they go to a city, some will accept, and some will reject (verses 32-33). When you understand the context, these verses make sense, don't they? If missionaries today strictly adhered to this principle, many areas of the world would never be evangelized. One more time: CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!