THE TWELVE SENT
Matt 10:1 And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
Matt 10:5-8 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (See Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6)
The last four verses of Matthew 9 tell us that the nation of Israel was lost, because their spiritual leaders, the scribes, priests, and Pharisees, had ceased teaching the pure word of God given on Mount Sinai. They had become reliant upon their own self-righteous doctrinal interpretations of the Mosaic Law. Because of the burdensome religious rites these leaders had devised and placed upon them (rites, which they were not able to bear), the common Jewish people became as sheep that were scattered and lost because they had no shepherd to spiritually lead them. Instructing His twelve apostles, specifically named in Matthew 10:2-4, Jesus sent them to fill the need of these spiritually lost Jews. He said unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest (Matt. 9:37-38).
The first verse of the lesson text tells us that Jesus sent His twelve disciples to fill the need of the spiritually scattered and lost Jews. Here they were called His "disciples," but when they were named in the following verses, they were referred to as His "apostles." Although these designations are used interchangeably, when referring to the twelve, the words are only different in degree. A disciple usually means a learning student that has become a follower. By this definition, an apostle is a disciple, but he is also a more trusted servant that has authority delegated to him by his master. This fully describes these twelve disciples, who were now called His apostles. Why? Because they were now given, by Jesus, the power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease, in order to confirm their preaching of repentance and the soon-coming kingdom of God.
Before His resurrection and ascension back into heaven, Jesus commissioned His apostles to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20). However here, in the lesson text, the commission of the apostles was limited to preaching the gospel only to the Jews. At this time Jesus commanded His twelve apostles to go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. Although it may be insinuated, neither Mark nor Luke records this restriction as to whom they were to preach the message of the coming kingdom of heaven. The time had not come for the gospel to be preached to the entire world. In His final commission to His apostles Jesus told them that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). It wasn't until after the rejection of the word of God by the majority of the Jewish people that it was to be preached to the Gentiles (See Acts 13:46).
Therefore at this time, during the earthly ministry of Christ, He told His apostles to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus established their mission, and it was to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of the promised Messiah was near and would be established and fulfilled according to Old Testament prophetic scriptures. And with miracles of healing the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, and casting out devils, the apostles message was to be confirmed as coming from God. The ability to hear, understand, and teach the will of God, and the miraculous power to firmly establish their message, was given freely to them by Christ Jesus. In turn, they had the righteous obligation to freely give these blessings to all that were receptive to the message they were to preach. What a great lesson for Christians today. All that we have are gifts that were bestowed on us from God's benevolent store. They do not belong to us alone. Both physical and spiritual blessings have been given freely to us, therefore we must freely share them with others that are in need.
Being sent out to spread God's message of the coming kingdom, Jesus told them to travel light. He added that they should take no money or extra clothing, but depend on the generosity of those to whom they preached. The glad tidings His apostles were to bring to the lost sheep of Israel, would open their hearts and they would provide food, clothing, and shelter to fill all their physical needs (See Matt. 10:9-11). Looking at corresponding verses found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find Jesus' admonition to spend little time in homes or cities where they were openly opposed and unwelcomed. They were to depart from the place and shake off the dust of your feet. This was a symbolic act, which recognized the impurity of all people, both Jew and Gentile that rejected the will of God. Jesus said that even the dust trodden on by godless people was to be removed from the sandals of His apostles as they departed and went searching for audiences that were more receptive to their message of salvation (See Matt 10:12-14).
As for those that rejected their teaching, Jesus said that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city (Vs. 15). Referring to Genesis 19:1-28 we find that these two cities were condemned by God and destroyed for the sinful lives of their inhabitants. They were considered better than most of the people of various cities, and often the entire population of cities that rejected the teaching of Jesus' apostles because they did not accept and respond eagerly to the message warning them of the soon-coming establishment of the kingdom of God. Luke closes his recording of this event by telling us about the apostles' actions that followed. He wrote that they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere (Luke 9:6).