Jesus Sends Out The Twelve


‘Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. ‘Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’ Matthew 10:1-16

Jesus’ ministry is well and truly underway and by this time He had already chosen the twelve, Luke 6:13-16. Here Jesus gives the twelve the authority to work miracles in the lives of anyone they met.

And notice that they received this power before the events of Acts 2 when they were baptised with the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:1-5. What Jesus is doing here is giving them this power in order that their preaching could be confirmed as true, John 20:30-31 / Mark 16:20.

Jesus often sent His disciples out alone, Mark 6:7 / Luke 9:2. Notice during this time they weren’t to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, Matthew 15:24 / John 4:9, but here they are instructed to go only to Jewish towns and villages. It wasn’t until after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in Acts 2, that they are instructed to go into all the world, Matthew 28:19 / Mark 16:15.

We need to remember that Jesus sent the disciples out on many preaching trips during His ministry in order to prepare the way for the cross and establishment of His kingdom’s reign.

Notice the message they were given to proclaim, ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near’, Matthew 3:2 / Matthew 4:17 / Mark 9:1 / Luke 10:9.

‘Come near’ means it’s about to be established and as we know, Jesus isn’t speaking about an earthly kingdom but a spiritual kingdom. Through His preaching and the preaching of the twelve, Jesus was preparing Israel for His kingdom reign from heaven that would be the fulfilment of prophecy, Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14.

Jesus tells the twelve, ‘freely you have received; freely give’. This should be one of the basic principles of Christian living. In the context, here, Jesus was referring to they’re freely receiving the power to heal the sick. In other words, they weren’t to heal for money, they were to use the free gift of healing in a generous manner.

Remember after they received power from the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, they would remember this principle, and so, they would freely impart the ‘miraculous gifts’ to all by the ‘laying on of their hands’, Acts 8:18.

The miraculous gifts don’t exist today because no apostles exist to ‘lay their hands’ on us, but we do recognise that God has freely given His grace, therefore we should freely proclaim it to others.

Notice also that they were to take no extra possessions that would burden their trip, they were to take only the clothes they wore and no staff. Luke 9:3. Wait a minute, Mark 6:8 says, ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.’

Is this a contradiction? Were they to take a staff or not?

Matthew and Luke seem to agree that Jesus prohibited the disciples from taking a staff on their journeys, while Mark appears to give them permission to take one. Furthermore, although Luke doesn’t record Jesus’ command regarding sandals, some have concluded that Matthew and Mark also contradict each other on this point.

The differences between Matthew and Mark are explained easily when we understand that the writers used different Greek verbs to express different meanings. In Matthew, the word ‘provide’, NKJV, the root Greek word comes from ‘ktaomai’, which means to ‘procure for oneself, acquire, get’.

Based upon these definitions, the NASV used the English verb ‘acquire’ in Matthew 10:9. ‘Do not acquire’, instead of ‘provide’ or ‘take.’

In Matthew, Jesus is saying, ‘Do not acquire anything in addition to what you already have that may tempt you or stand in your way. Just go as you are.’ As Mark indicated, the apostles were to ‘take’, ‘airo’ what they had, and go.

The apostles weren’t to waste precious time gathering supplies, extra apparel, staffs, shoes, etc. or making preparations for their trip, but instead were instructed to trust in God’s providence for additional needs. Jesus didn’t mean for the apostles to discard the staffs and sandals they already had, rather, they weren’t to go and acquire more.

It’s obvious from a comparison of the verses in Matthew and Luke, that they are recording the same truth, that the apostles weren’t to spend valuable time gathering extra staffs, only they are using different words to do so.

‘Provide ‘ktaomi’ neither gold nor silver, nor staffs. Matthew 10:9-10

‘Take ‘airo’ nothing for the journey, neither staffs.’ Luke 9:3

Luke didn’t use ‘ktaomi’ in his account because he nearly always used ‘ktaomi’ in a different sense than Matthew did. In Matthew’s account, the word ‘ktaomai’ is used to mean ‘provide’ or ‘acquire,’ whereas, in the Books of Luke and Acts, Luke used this word to mean ‘purchase, buy, or earn.’

The point is simply this, Jesus wanted them to go as quickly as possible to proclaim the message that the Messiah had arrived but at the same time, they needed to learn to trust God to take care of their everyday needs, Matthew 6:11 / Matthew 6:25-34.

Please note the word, ‘worry’, ‘merimnao’, in the above verses come from the Greek root word, ‘merimna’ which means ‘distraction’, in other words, don’t let your everyday needs distract you from putting God first.

Jesus tells the twelve, ‘the worker is worth his keep.’ In other words, those who minister spiritual things are worthy of physical things. Hence why it’s Biblical to pay a ‘full-time’ evangelist. This has always been a principle among God’s people, Luke 10:7 / 1 Corinthians 9 / Galatians 6:6 / 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

Why would Jesus tell them to stay in one house?

They weren’t to live from house to house in the towns and cities because this may have been interpreted as them searching for material blessings. Also, when we think about it today, if we go somewhere on a trip, we don’t book several places to stay, we book one place and use that place as a base.

And notice they were to greet the owner of that household, not the house itself. ‘When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.’ Luke 10:5-8

The idea behind the greeting and saying peace was based on the thought that the household that received the messengers were in agreement with and wanted to fellowship the message of the messengers.

But what does shaking the dust from your feet mean?

This was a Jewish custom that demonstrated to the inhospitable their lack of hospitality and acceptance of the messenger and his message, Nehemiah 5:13 / Luke 10:10-11 / Acts 13:49-51.

Here in Matthew, Jesus is saying that those who would receive the messengers of Jesus were receiving Jesus. Matthew 12:41 / John 15:18-27. If they didn’t receive Jesus and what He taught, they would be rejected in the judgment of God.

Why were the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah less inexcusable than the sins of cities and villages that rejected the apostles?

Simply because they sinned in ignorance, whereas the cities of Jesus’ day sinned against the light, the Messiah, they should have known better. You can read all about Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and Jude 7.

What does ‘shrewd as snakes’ mean?

It simply means the disciples are to exercise great wisdom in their work for the Master, the serpent was symbolic of carefulness, craftiness and wisdom.

The serpent was considered a symbol of wisdom among the ancients, especially the python. The girl at Philippi who followed Paul and Silas was said to have had a ‘spirit which could predict the future’, Acts 16:16, but the Greek word denotes that she had a python! Genesis declares that ‘the serpent was more shrewd’. Genesis 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 12:16 / Ephesians 5:15 / Colossians 4:5.

What does ‘innocent as doves’ mean?

The dove was symbolic of peace, innocence and purity. The dove as a symbol of harmlessness and innocence derived significance from Noah’s use of it as a messenger in the ark. Genesis 8.

‘After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him.’ Matthew 3:16

The brutal and vicious dangers to which the apostles would be exposed weren’t concealed by the Lord. Their mission was dangerous and filled with countless perils. The words ‘sheep in the midst of wolves’ are very appropriate and expressive.

Ask any farmer, what would a wolf do to his flock? One wolf in a flock of sheep is a source of incredible slaughter and destruction. And so, in venturing into the dangers of their journey, the disciples must maintain their innocence in an environment of evil. In order to do such, they must exercise great wisdom on their journey, Philippians 2:14-16.