Matthew 10. The Commission of the Disciples For Evangelism.

Key Notes: Pray for harvest. The Apostles. Missions then and now. Problems of money. Basic guidelines.

Jesus began His formal ministry with an eight-fold blessing of new followers. (Matt.5:1–12). Then He gave them instruction in righteousness (Matt.5–7),  followed by demonstrations of healing. (Matt.8–9). After showing many miracles, Jesus sent out the disciples to copy Him, to do what He had done. This chapter is rich with concepts, and as always, many loose threads are left to be pursued. One huge area which can only be touched on, is the history of the change that has occurred in missions over these two thousand years,  a topic that fills many books.

Matt.9:35–38. Jesus’ work concentrated on the centers of population, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing disease (physical) and affliction (physical, emotion, and spiritual.). His work in attracting the masses was so successful that it was impractical for Him to carry on alone. He had compassion for the harassed and helpless. He needed human extensions of His arms.
He asked the disciples to pray the Lord of the Harvest to "thrust out" harvesters. This appeal was also expressed by Jesus at the Well of Sychar (Jn.4:35) when lines of Samaritans were coming out of the city to see Him.

Comment: It seems extraordinary that we should pray God for helpers to do His work, which we may not think of as our work. We think our prayers should ask God to help us do our daily work. His work is predestined, and unstoppable. Ours is puny and vulnerable. But since Jesus is addressing  followers who are bound to do His bidding, it is essential for them to ask God for others to help them. It is the cry of the missionary in every age. May we join them in prayer.

What a wonderful  and  unusual name for God! ”Lord of the Harvest.”
 Lord of the Harvest, send forth laborers into Your harvest.

10:1–4 The disciples were renamed “apostles” (sent ones) and given authority over evil spirits, disease and infirmity. In a breath, they went from learners to workers, from students to missionaries, itinerant evangelists. They were also empowered to do miracles. The list is formidable: heal the sick; raise the dead; cleanse lepers; cast out demons.

In the lists of the apostles, also found in Mark (3:13–15), Luke (6:14–16) and Acts (1:13), Peter is always first and Judas Iscariot is always last. Philip is always listed as the fifth, and James the son of Alphaeus is ninth. This suggests three quartets of workers, each with a leader (Peter, Philip and James), but we have no further information about that. There are two pairs of brothers. Note that we have an spontaneous extravert (Peter) and a skeptical introvert (Thomas); an anti-establishment activist (Simon the Canaanaean {not Canaanite} aka “the Zealot” in Lk.6:15) and Matthew the Establishment’s tax-collector. They will need special grace. Four or five of these men are not mentioned elsewhere. Most of them were ordinary men, sent out to do an impossible job. Three are outstanding: Peter, the leader of the early Church, and author of two canonical letters; John, who wrote the Gospel, three letters, and the Revelation; and Matthew, the writer of this Gospel.

10:5–15 Their target audience was Jews only. They were not yet prepared for Gentiles.
Their two-part mandate was to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom at hand and heal all kinds of sickness, even raise the dead.
They were to take no extra personal baggage, not even a bag for donations. They were given no practical means to do their job. I think Matthew is best interpreted as saying that they should not take even  spare sandals and staff. They were to depend on hospitality in the towns for their entire support. “…the laborer deserves his food.” They were to find a good person, stay with that house and give it God’s peace. If they were rejected, they were to withdraw their blessing and leave the dust of that town behind as if not to contaminate the next place they would visit. They were not to waste their time pleading with unresponsive people. God would judge the towns that rejected them.

Comment: The conditions for missionary work are much different now. Although the centers of population are increasingly the focus of missions, much of the early modern work was done in rural areas among the poor. Only recently has missions focused on the City. The strategies are different and formidable, especially in huge cities like Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, London, Mexico City and New York.

We do not think all aspects of Jesus’ instructions can be followed by Western people. However, it can be done by indigenous workers in Third World countries. Provision for the Western missionary has to be substantial and in advance. Money for travel, medical supplies, educational materials, audiovisual media, etc. make the poor, sandaled, itinerant Western evangelist a thing of the past. Consequently, the missionary is much richer than the local people. An ongoing problem of begging strains the relationship between missionaries and people of the host country. The missionary has money; the native does not. The native people would rather have the money than the Gospel. This has led some mission agencies to concentrate  support  on indigenous workers  with minimal resources such as a bicycle, no problem with the language and no cultural barriers to overcome.

Sales resistance to the Gospel is much higher now because Christianity is well –known. Many countries have passed laws to prevent their citizens from changing their religion, unless they are Christians! The penalty for becoming a convert may be death without so much as a trial.

10:16–23 Having set the limited objectives for their first pass at ministry, Jesus then expanded their horizons and their risks. Eventually they would be working every where in the world, among the Gentiles.
As sheep among wolves, they must be wary, shrewd and innocent. But the wolves were out there and would attack in mostly legal ways. They will be required to defend themselves before synagogues, councils, governors and kings. Their speeches will be given to them by the Holy Spirit speaking through them on the spot. No prepared speeches should be carried with them. (This does not excuse pastors from preparing their sermons.)
They will have to endure betrayal by their families, hatred and persecution. They are to keep moving. Jesus will follow up.

The last sentence has been difficult to interpret because of the phrase “before the Son of man comes.” That sounds to many like Christ’s Second Coming, as in Daniel 7:13. If so, it is suggested that Jesus did not know that His Second Coming was long delayed and that the disciples would all be dead by then. Then He must have been mistaken. I deny that. I think He was telling them to hustle. He would be soon be behind them after their first missionary excursion in Israel.

10:24–32 They are advised to look back at their leader for courage. The disciple will not be better than their teacher, but hopefully like Him. Since the Jews called Jesus an agent of the Devil (Matt.9:34), they would say the same of the members of His household. They should not be surprised by irrational opposition.
They must not fear. They should be positive rather than defensive. Since you know where you are going and others do not, you can get a lot done before you are stopped.
They must not fear people who can only kill, but God, who alone has the power to put people into Hell.
They are known and cared for by God. He sees the sparrow fall. They are a lot more valuable than many sparrows. ( I think this is an expression of Jesus’ gentle humor.)
If they acknowledge Jesus before people, Jesus will acknowledge them before God.

10:34–39 Family conflict is inevitable. Christ must have first place. Bearing the Cross is a symbol of death—death to the fleshly self, death to the old life, the family and the culture. The Cross also gives us our new life in Christ.

10:40–42 Rewards are assured. I do not know what a prophet’s reward, or a righteous man's reward is, but I understand giving a cup of cold water to a child. That is a reward in itself. That is all I need to know now.

Comments:

It was about 30AD. Jesus began His work alone. Satan mocked Him through the mouths of the Pharisees. (Matt.9:34). Ignoring the blasphemy, Jesus expanded the workers from one (Himself) to a dozen. Doubtless there were hundreds of followers, but only a hand-full of workers. Twelve men against the World. Many religious movements have faded after the death of their founder. By 33AD there would be thousands won by the Twelve from all over the Empire. Still, throughout the hundreds of years of the Roman Empire that followed, Christians were a small minority. But Jesus prophesied “…this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony in all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt.24:14) Has the prophecy be fulfilled?

It is now the twenty-first century and the statistics are enormous. The church is experiencing explosive growth.
In Africa in 1900, there were 9 million Christians. In 2000 there were 360 million.
In China the church grew from 1.4 million to 89 million in 30 years.

Moreover, the Church is growing faster in Asia, Africa and Latin American than in America or Europe. There are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in the developed world. Seventy-five percent of Protestants are in the Third World. There are 420,000 missionaries and the United States is first in the number of missionaries received.

There are 170,000 converts to Christ world-wide each day.
There are 23,000 African converts / day and 21 million new Christians per year in China.
There are also an estimated 170,000 martyrs every year, world-wide.

Has the prophecy been fulfilled? The Gospel reaches into every country. But there are many unreached people groups, many tribes without Scripture in their own language, and many millions who have not heard the name of Christ or understood the message.
            Pray the Lord of the Harvest  to send forth laborers into His harvest.

The biggest problem Christians have is fear of speaking the Good News to people. We fear rejection. The disciples were as sheep among wolves. Jesus gave them clear instructions.
            Be wary (10:17). Fear not (10:31). Be harmless and shrewd. 10:16

1. Jesus is your teacher. You are His servants. Remember that they hated Him first. 10:24-
2. Be positive. Say it in the light. Shout it from the housetops. (10:27). God will speak through you. 10:19
3. Don’t fear human opposition, even killing. Fear God only. The Devil’s afflictions are temporal. (10:28). God’s judgment is eternal. Those who fear God, fear no one else.
4. God knows and cares for you. 10:30–31
5. Don’t hesitate to acknowledge Him before people. Then He will acknowledge you before God the Father. 10:32–33
6. Conflict is generic, even for families. 10:21; 34–37
7. There are rewards, for even the smallest of services 10:40

[I confess my own weakness in carrying out these instructions.]
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Statistics come from the Urbana Missionary Convention website. The whole program can be viewed on line (Urbana.org) and will reward you.

The Master Plan of Evangelism. R.E. Cole; Fleming Revell,’64, is a small classic study of Jesus’ method of teaching disciples to do evangelism.

The Training of the Twelve. A.B. Bruce; Kregel; 1871, reprinted. This is a larger work which incorporates all the Gospel record of Jesus teaching of the disciples.