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Mission of the Twelve
1. Mission of the Twelve (Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1). This mission was intended partly to prepare the way for visits from Jesus Himself, and partly to train the apostles for their future ministry. He sent them out ’two and two’ (Mk), for the sake of mutual encouragement. That is the true method of undertaking missionary work, as the experience of St. Paul shows. The apostles were to preach a little, but not much, since they were beginners. They were to prepare the way for Jesus, saying, ’The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ All accounts agree that they were to work miracles on a great scale (’power over all the devils,’ Lk; ’to heal every disease, and every infirmity,’ Mt). They healed by anointing with oil (Mk): cp. James 5:14. Their power extended even to cleansing the lepers and raising the dead (Mt). This mission began about five weeks before the second Passover of the ministry (John 6:4), and lasted about a month. Having dismissed the apostles, Jesus went up to Jerusalem to keep the feast of John 5:1, probably Purim, at the beginning of March. He then rejoined the Twelve shortly before Passover: see on John 6:1.
2-4. The names of the Twelve (Mark 3:13; Luke 6:12; Acts 1:13). At an early period in His Galilean ministry, Jesus selected Twelve from among the disciples already called (Mk, Lk), after spending a night in prayer in ’the mountain’ (Lk), as befitted so solemn and important an act. The ’Sermon on the Mount’ constituted their ordination address (Lk). St. Matthew assumes these facts to be known, and introduces the Twelve abruptly, Now the names of the twelve apostles are these, without mentioning how they were called together. The chief significance of the appointment of the Twelve is that it indicates the design of Jesus to provide His society with an ordained ministry, and to give it a thoroughly efficient organisation to cope with its world-wide mission. The number twelve was suggested by the number of the Jewish patriarchs. The apostles were to be the patriarchs or spiritual ancestors of the new Israel.
The names of the apostles are always given in three groups of four names, of which the leaders (Peter, Philip, James of Alphseus) are mentioned first in all the lists. The names are always kept in their own groups, but vary in order, except that the leader is always placed first.
2. Apostles] An ’apostle’ (lit. ’one sent’) is more than a messenger; he is a messenger who represents the person who sends him, an ’ambassador’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). The name is here introduced because this mission was the first occasion on which the Twelve began to act as apostles or ambassadors of Jesus. The name, though specially applied to the Twelve, was extended to embrace St. Paul, St. Barnabas, and other apostolic men (Acts 14:4, Acts 14:14, etc.).
Apostle is used without technical meaning John 13:16;(RM) 2 Corinthians 8:23;(RM). The Jews had ’apostles’ who were sent abroad from Jerusalem to collect the Temple-money. The Greek Church calls missionaries ’apostles,’ and the Nestorian Christians apply the same term to the delegates of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Simon, who is called Peter] in Aramaic Kephas (a ’rock’ or ’stone’). He received the name at his first call (John 1:43). The career of Peter can be constructed from these references: Matthew 4:18; Matthew 8:14; Matthew 14:28; Matthew 15:15; Matthew 16:18; Matthew 16:22; Matthew 17:1; Matthew 17:24; Matthew 18:21; Matthew 19:27; Matthew 26:33, Matthew 26:37, Matthew 26:58, Matthew 26:69; Luke 8:45, Luke 8:51; Luke 22:8, Luke 22:61; Luke 24:12; John 1:43; John 6:68; John 13:6, John 13:24, John 13:36; John 18:10, John 18:16; John 20:2; John 21:2.; Acts 1:13, Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14; Acts 3:1; Acts 4:8; Acts 5:3, Acts 5:5, Acts 5:29; Acts 8:14; Acts 9:32; Acts 10:5; Acts 11:2; Acts 12:3; Acts 15:7; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:7; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; He had Mark for his ’interpreter’ (1 Peter 5:13).
The tradition of his Roman residence and martyrdom, though highly probable, is not quite certain. He is first in all lists of the apostles. For his position in the Church, see on Matthew 16:18.
Andrew] Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:19; Mark 13:3; John 1:41; John 6:8; John 12:22.
James the son of Zebedee] sometimes called ’thegreat’: Mark 1:19; Mark 3:17; Mark 10:37; Luke 5:1; Luke 9:53; Acts 12:1. The first apostle to be martyred.
John] Matthew 4:21; Matthew 17:1; Mark 1:29; Mark 9:38; · Mark 10:35; Mark 13:3; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:8; John 1:35; John 13:23; John 18:15; John 19:26, John 19:35; John 20:2; John 21:7; Acts 1:13; Acts 3:1; Acts 4:13; Acts 8:14; Galatians 2:9; Revelation 1:1. See Intro, to St. John.
3. Philip] John 1:44; John 6:5; John 12:21; John 14:8.
Bartholomew] i.e. Nathanael of Cana of Galilee: see John 1:45; John 21:2.
Thomas] see John 11:16; John 14:5; John 20:24; John 21:2. There is a tradition that his real name was ’Judas.’
Matthew the publican] see Intro, and on Matthew 9:9. St. Mark calls him ’Levi.’
James the son of Alphæus] lit. ’James of Alphaeus.’ Called James ’the less,’ or rather ’the little,’ Mark 15:40. His mother was named Mary. He is not to be identified with James the Lord’s ’brother,’ who became head of the Church of Jerusalem, nor is his father Alphæus with Clopas (John 19:25), nor His mother Mary with the Virgin’s sister (John 19:25): see further on Matthew 12:46-50; John 19:25.
Lebbæus, whose surname was Thaddæus] He is the same as the ’Judas of James’ (Luke 6:16), and the ’Judas not Iscariot’ (John 14:22). Thaddæus is perhaps a form of ’Theudas,’ and is, therefore, Greek. Lebbæus is Aramaic, but its meaning is unknown. Some regard it is a form of ’Levi.’ Although Westcott and Hort reject Lebbæs from the text of this passage, it is supported by excellent authorities, and it is hard to account for its insertion, if it is not genuine.
4. Simon the Canaanite] RV ’the Cananæan,’ RM ’the zealot.’ ’The Zealots were a sect founded by Judas of Gamala (or of Galilee, Acts 5:37), who headed the opposition to the census of Quirinius 6 or 7 a.d. They bitterly resented the domination of Rome, and would fain have hastened with the sword the fulfilment of the Messianic hope. During the great rebellion and the siege of Jerusalem their fanaticism made them terrible opponents, not only to the Romans, but to other factions among their own countrymen’ (HDB.).
Judas Iscariot] Both Judas and his father Simon were called Iscariot, lit. ’man of Kerioth,’ because they were natives of Kerioth, a village of S. Judah, near Hebron (John 15:25). He was the only Judæan apostle: see Matthew 26:14, Matthew 26:25, Matthew 26:47; Matthew 27:3; Luke 22:3; John 6:71; John 12:4; John 13:2, John 13:26, John 13:29; John 18:2; Acts 1:16, Acts 1:25.
5-42. Charge to the Twelve (Mark 6:7 Luke 9:1: cp. also Luke 10:2, charge to the Seventy). The first eleven vv. of this great charge (Matthew 10:5-15) represent Christ’s words actually spoken to the Twelve on the occasion of this mission. The rest of the charge (Matthew 10:16-42), with the exception of the last three vv., represents instructions given by Christ at other times to His apostles with reference to their missionary work after His ascension. St. Matthew adds them to the charge in accordance with his custom of grouping our Lord’s sayings of a similar character together. Specially to be noticed are, (1) the limitation of the mission to Israel, and (2) the extraordinary authority over the whole human race which Christ claims for Himself throughout the charge.
The charge to the Seventy (Luke 10:2) is almost the same as the charge to the Twelve. Our Lord probably repeated to the Seventy much of what He bad said to the Twelve, because their missions were so similar.
5-15. The charge delivered on the occasion of the mission.
5. Way of the Gentiles] i.e. a road which leads to a Gentile district or city. The restriction to the Jews was part of the divine purpose that the gospel should be offered to the Jew first, and afterwards to the Gentile. It was also a condescension to the inexperience of the apostles, who would find their work easier among Jews than among hostile Samaritans or contemptuous Greeks. Only when their training was complete could they hope to face a hostile world with success. On account of the ease of their mission, and their certainty of a warm welcome, they were to take no money or food, or any staff to defend themselves with (Matthew 10:9-10). Yet if they were accustomed to use a staff they might take one (Mk). Afterwards, when Christ spoke of their future mission to an unbelieving and a hostile world, He said exactly the opposite (Luke 22:36).
7. They were also to preach ’that men should repent ’(Mk).
8. Raise the dead] to be taken literally. The clause is accepted by all recent editors. It is omitted by a few MSS, perhaps because there is no mention of raising the dead on this occasion. For the fulfilment see Acts 9:40; Acts 20:10. Freely ye have received the gift of working miracles, freely exercise it.
9. Purses] i.e. ’girdles,’ in which money was carried.
10. Scrip] RV ’wallet,’ i.e. provisionbasket. Two coats] i.e. two shirts or undergarments. Shoes] were forbidden as too luxurious. The apostles were to wear only sandals. ’Shoes,’ said Lightfoot, ’were of more delicate use. A shoe was of softer leather, a sandal of harder.’ The workman is worthy of his meat] or, ’of his hire ’(Lk). Our Lord lays great stress on the principle that the clergy are to be supported by the Church, and not to be obliged to work at a secular calling: see 1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Timothy 5:18.
11. Worthy] of the honour of receiving you.
12. Salute it] i.e. by saying ’Peace be to this house.’
13. If the house be worthy] or, as St. Luke expresses it, ’if the owner be a son of peace,’ i.e. a peaceful man, worthy of the blessing.
14. Shake off the dust] The rabbis taught that the dust of heathen lands defiled. They said, ’The dust of Syria defiles, as well as the dust of other heathen countries.’ The act of the apostles, therefore, signified that the city that rejected them was no better than heathen: see on Acts 13:51.
15. Why was the sin of Sodom less? Because the men of Sodom sinned largely in ignorance, but rejecters of the gospel sin against light.
16-39. Later charges of Jesus, referring to work after the Ascension. Matthew 10:16-22 were probably spoken in Holy Week: see Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12.
16. As sheep (Lk ’lambs’) in the midst of wolves] This can only refer to the later persecutions of the apostles. According to a very early writer, Peter proceeded to ask, ’What, then, if the wolves rend the sheep?’ Jesus replied that after death the lambs need not fear the wolves, for the wolves have no power to slay the soul. Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves] cp. a saying of the rabbis, ’The holy and blessed God said to the Israelites, Towards Me the Israelites are uncorrupt like the doves, but towards the Gentiles they are as cunning as serpents.’ Jesus meant that the apostles were to use every human device to protect themselves from persecution, as St. Paul did when he pleaded his Roman citizenship.
17. But beware of men] better, ’beware of the men,’ viz. those wolves of whom I have been speaking. Councils] i.e. courts of justice generally. Scourge you in their synagogues] A synagogue was also a court of justice in which three Jewish elders sat to judge both secular and religious cases. ’Scourging,’ said the rabbis, ’was by the bench of three’: cp. Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11; 2 Corinthians 11:24. Wetstein quotes an interesting account of a modern Jewish scourging. It was done publicly in the synagogue in the presence of a large congregation of men and women. The man was bared to the waist. The porter tied his hands to a pillar. Then the ’precentor’ approached, and scourged him with thirty-nine strokes, a Psalm being sung during the ordeal.
18. Before governors and kings] ’Governors’ were the Roman governors of the provinces, viz. proprætors, proconsuls, and procurators: cp. Paul before Felix and Pestus (Acts 24:1; Acts 25:6). ’Kings’ were, (1) the emperor, who was generally so called in the East; (2) subject kings, tetrarchs, and ethnarchs, such as the Herods and Aretas; (3) independent kings, as of the Parthians, Arabians, and Indians.
For a testimony against them] RV ’to them,’ i.e. to the Jews. The meaning is, that when the Jews should deliver up the apostles to governors and kings, the speeches of the apostles in their own defence would be a powerful testimony of the truth of Christianity both to Jews and Gentiles. This really happened. The persecutions greatly contributed to spread the gospel, partly by the publicity which they gave to it, and partly through the inspired testimony which the martyrs gave to Christ. When the aged Polycarp (160 a.d.) was brought before the Proconsul in the amphitheatre of Smyrna and urged to revile Christ, ’he looked with a grave face at all the multitude of lawless heathen in the arena.. and said, Eighty and six years have I served Him, and in nothing hath He wronged me; and how then can I blaspheme my King that saved me?’
19, 20. Cp. Luke 12:11-12 in addition.
19. Take no thought] RV ’be not anxious.’
It shall be given you] cp. the courage of Peter and John (Acts 4:13) before the Sanhedrin.
21. The brother shall deliver up, etc.] Actual examples of Christians being delivered up by their nearest relatives are found in the Martyrologies, but the saying is to be taken more generally to refer to the rupture of all ties of kindred and affection on account of the gospel.
22. Hated of all men] cp. Tacitus the Roman historian: ’(Nero) inflicted the most cruel punishments upon a sect of people who were holden in abhorrence for their crimes, and called by the vulgar “Christians.” The founder of that name was Christ, who suffered death in the reign of Tiberius, under his procurator Pontius Pilate... This pernicious superstition, thus checked for a while, broke out again; and spread not only over Judæa where the evil originated, but through Rome also, whither everything bad upon earth finds its way and is practised... A vast multitude were apprehended who were convicted, not so much of the crime of burning Rome, as of hatred to mankind... They were criminals, deserving the severest punishments’: cp. also Acts 7:54. To the end] viz. of the trials and persecutions.
23. Flee ye into another] The apostles are forbidden to court martyrdom, and the wisest leaders of the later Church, e.g. Polycarp and Cyprian, gave the same advice. It was often found that those who rushed eagerly forward to claim martyrdom contrary to our Lord’s command, were denied the grace to attain the martyr’s crown. ’Flee ye into another’ (RV ’the next’), ’for owing to the time wasted in going from city to city to avoid persecution, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come, and the Jewish nation and dispensation destroyed.’ The meaning, as interpreted in the light of events, is that until the destruction of Jerusalem the Twelve were to confine themselves mainly to evangelising the Jews, a task which would even then be incomplete, owing to the hindrances which would arise.
Our Lord here referred to His coming to destroy Jerusalem. The apostles understood Him to refer to His final coming. This accounts for the general expectation of the early Christians that the end of the world would come in the lifetime of the first believers (1 Thessalonians 4:15): see on Matthew 24 Mark 13:32.
24. The disciple, etc.] A favourite saying of Jesus used in several different connexions. Here it means that the apostles are not to expect better treatment than their Master. In Luke 6:40 it means that the disciples of blind spiritual guides are as blind as their teachers. In John 13:16 it means that since Jesus washes other men’s feet, the disciples must do so too. In John 15:20 it means, as in St. Matthew, that the apostles are to expect the same persecutions which have befallen their Master.
25. Beelzebub] cp. Matthew 12:24; John 8:48, John 8:52. The true form here is Beelzeboul, which is altered from Baalzebub (2 Kings 1:2). ’Baalzebub’ means ’Lord of flies,’ and appears in OT. as a god of Ekron who gave oracles. ’Beelzeboul’ in NT. is the devil. The NT. form perhaps means ’master of the house’ (of the demons). J. Lightf oot regards it as meaning ’lord of dung’: see on John 12:22.
26-33. These vv. are found in quite another connexion in Luke 12:2-9.
26. Fear them not therefore] for the whole effect of their persecutions will be to publish abroad the gospel, which but for their action would have remained obscure: cp. Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; Luke 12:2, Luke 12:3.
27. What I tell you in darkness] A prophecy that the labours of the apostles will be more successful than those of Jesus Himself. He taught with indifferent success in the obscurity of an insignificant and remote province. They will teach successfully in the publicity of the great cities of the empire, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Alexandria, Rome. What ye hear in the ear] In the Jewish schools the rabbi sat in his chair, and whispered in Hebrew into the ear of his interpreter, who then proclaimed aloud in the vulgar tongue what the rabbi had said. So the apostles were to proclaim to the wide world what Christ had whispered to them in the retirement of Galilee. Upon the housetops] Proclamations are still made in the East from the flat roofs of houses. E.g. the sabbath is proclaimed by the ’attendant’ of the synagogue, who ascends to a lofty housetop, and blows there three times with the synagogue-trumpet.
28. Him which is able] i.e. God, not, as some strangely take it, the devil. In hell] i.e. Gehenna, the place of final punishment: see Matthew 5:22.
29. Sparrows] At the present day, in the markets of Jerusalem and Jaffa, long strings of little birds, sparrows and larks, are offered for sale, trussed on wooden skewers. Farthing] (Lat. assarius) i.e. about a farthing and a third.
32, 33. The sense is that in the day of judgment men’s fate will depend upon their attitude to Christ, and upon Christ’s attitude to them, another proof of Christ’s divinity.
34-36. These vv. occur in a somewhat different form and in a different connexion, Luke 12:51-53.
34. Think not, etc.] Christ could not expect that His claim to absolute dominion over the soul of man and all human institutions, would be accepted without a bitter struggle. But knowing such a struggle to be necessary for the establishment of peace with God and of permanent peace on earth, He deliberately willed it. ’The sword’ stands for persecution, and for all kinds of social and domestic dissensions.
37. He that loveth father, etc.] This explains the stronger expression in Luke 14:26 about ’hating’ father and mother. Observe here, again, the tremendous stress upon personal loyalty to Christ.
38. Taketh not his cross] i.e. he that is not willing to follow Me to martyrdom is not worthy of Me. The ’cross’ stands here, not for trouble in general (though this is included), but for actual crucifixion, the most painful and degrading form of martyrdom. The condemned criminal was forced to ’take’ or carry his cross to the place of execution. Christ here indicates that He knew beforehand not only the fact of His death, but its manner.
39. Cp. Luke 17:33, where the context is different. He that findeth his life] i.e. saves his life in time of persecution by denying Me, shall lose it in the next world. He that loseth his life, i.e. by martyrdom, for my sake shall find it in the next world, i.e. shall enjoy immortal life. The passage may also be applied to self-denial in general, by which man loses his life of self-centred worldliness, to find it again enlarged and purified.
40-42. These vv. form the conclusion of the charge to the Twelve, and are not to be referred to a later date. In St. Luke the substance of them forms the conclusion of the charge to the Seventy.
40. Cp. Luke 10:16. He that receiveth you] Those who receive Christ’s representatives, the apostles, and after them His ministers (i.e. those who believe their message spoken in His name), receive Him, and with Him His Father.
41. He that receiveth a prophet, etc.] The meaning is that those who receive the apostles, because they recognise them to be prophets and righteous men and disciples, will receive the same reward as they, eternal life.
In the name of a prophet] i.e. simply because he is a prophet (a Hebraism).
42. These little ones] a tender name for the apostles themselves. Even those who only help on their mission by offering them a cup of cold water as they journey, will be rewarded: cp. Mark 9:41. Some think that ’little ones’ was a standing title for pupils of the rabbis, but clear proof is wanting.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26