Matthew 10: 5-15, The First Mission:
General Idea: Jesus called His twelve Disciples to venture out and put into practice all that He had taught them. This was their first great mission, and the testing ground for learning, growth, and the practicing of their faith. They were going from the classroom to the field, taking a chance by being without the usual necessities one would normally take on such a journey. Jesus gave them the empowerment, along with some peculiar instructions from our point of view, such as to stay away from certain people groups, to shake the dust off their feet if the people did not listen, and not to pay for anything. All were contrary to what is normally done during a journey and sojourn. They were sent out as commissioned representatives of Christ, just as their title, Apostle, means. They had to learn first-hand what it meant to be an Apostle, and what it meant to follow Christ. However, the way they learned to follow Him did not mean just picking up and following. They had to put into practice what they had learned, and then do it. Follow? Yes. But, also do as He instructed.
This passage also gives us the blueprint for missions and evangelism. This mission was in preparation for "The Great Commission" to come, in which His apostles were called to make disciples of all the peoples of the world. God calls us as leaders of His Church to carry out His plans and accomplish His mission of reproducing communities of Christ-formed authentic disciples. We do this by equipping our people to know and teach Christ's redemptive reign as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim Christ's Kingdom to the world. The pattern was to present Christ to their own people (Matt. 10:5-15), then to others, and, finally, to the entire world, including rulers and kings (Matt. 10:18; 28:18-20).
1. The way refers to the way of the Gentiles, as a specific road to the towns where the Gentiles in Israel lived.
a. The pagans, Greeks, and other Gentiles had their own cities and separate living areas in other towns. This was due to the Law, and the fact that Jews could not associate, eat what they ate, or intermarry with them.
b. Jews normally avoided these roads.
c. Fairly recent archeological evidence shows that Galilee was a much larger city than most had suspected, and was surrounded by several smaller Gentile cities. The area south of Galilee was where the Samaritans lived. A micro model of the world was literally at the Apostle's door.
d. Lost sheep of Israel: Most people naturally think this refers to the lost ten tribes that seemed to disappear after the captivity. However, this actually means the people who have lost their way, as in sheep that are lost from their master. God is their Master, and they have strayed from Him.
i. Jesus comes, as the Good Shepherd, to rescue His lost sheep.
ii. Many Jews and Christians today believe that the ten lost tribes will be re-gathered at the end of days, or when Jesus returns for the Christians. But, whenever you see "lost tribes," it does not mean they are actually lost. During the captivity, the Jews stayed together and, for several generations, intermingled with one another's tribes. This served to blur the tribal distinctions, and as they incorporated into one another, became the Jewish population at large, which we have today. Some of those Jews intermingled with other cultures, and traveled to China as well as other places, not as a tribe, but as individuals, fleeing God and their families.
iii. Lost sheep was a common OT theme, and referred to people as dumb sheep that go astray very easily, as a lot of real sheep and people do (Isa. 53:6; Jer. 50:6; Ezek. 34:5).
2. Go first to the lost sheep of Israel: This meant the message of God's redemption was to go first to Israel. Israel's responsibility then was to proclaim it to the Gentiles, which they did not do very well (Gen. 12:1-3; Amos 3:2).
a. Jesus is not discounting the Gentiles, as He already responds to them (Matt. 8:10). Rather, He means that the "heirs to the Kingdom" are to be first. Later, in this passage, Jesus calls His disciples--and us--to reach the Gentiles.
b. As you go: The Apostles, (meaning sent ones), were modeling what Jesus had done Himself, and was instructing them to do. This mission was from practical, hands-on learning, seeing it done, being told all the "ins and outs," and then being commissioned to do it on their own.
c. This mission was in the parameters of what the Master had instructed. It was not, "See if it works, and let me know." Rather, it was putting faith to practice, regardless of response, or how one was treated. Our reverence is to be to God, regardless of what others think of us (Phil. 2:12).
i. We, as Christians, are responsible to proclaim Christ as Lord with whatever means are at our disposal, using our gifts and abilities. But, we are not responsible for how or why people respond to us. It is not our responsibility that they convert, believe, or act in a certain way. We are only responsible for acting in His character and proclaiming His name (Gal. 1:10).
ii. Many times, when Christians see that people do not respond as expected, they quit almost as soon as they start. Too many give up too soon, thinking no one is listening or even cares. Truly, most will not listen or care, but that is not our problem. We must break away from the feelings of personal rejection. This will be difficult, but we must do so in order to be effective for the Kingdom.
d. The Jews believed that the Law was given freely, so we should also freely give away our knowledge of how to live. Jesus was, perhaps, using this Jewish proverb to motivate His disciples with a common saying that they used themselves.
3. The instructions were that they were to travel light, and be totally committed to the mission, as Elijah and John the Baptist had been.
a. Preach, heal, cleanse, and raise: The Disciples were empowered by Christ to perform miracles, as we read in chapters eight through nine.
b. Freely give: The Disciples were empowered to freely give the message of the Gospel without any compensation. To peddle the Gospel, as to charge money for people to hear it, is a grave insult to God. God will sustain those in His service.
c. Having one cloak meant to not show off wealth or to put off the peasants to whom they were preaching. Also, they were to trust in God to provide, and not to take comfort in personal possessions. If we become tied down with possessions and worldly concerns, we will miss His call for our participation in His mission. Wealth is not wrong in and of itself; when it distracts you from His call, it becomes a hindrance, and sometimes, even evil.
d. Money belt refers to a fold in the garment used as a pocket or pouch to hold stuff. It can also refer to a measuring container to measure what you have (Luke 6:38).
e. Bag for your journey did not refer to luggage, rather, a means to beg for money. The Essenes did similar mission campaigns, and went city to city to visit fellow Essenes. So, they did not need to take any provisions, as they provided for one another. God is our provider. We have to realize that when we walk in Him and follow His mission, we need not fear or worry.
4. Inquire who is worthy: Hospitality was a cultural mandate throughout the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean peoples. However, it was not always practiced (2 Kings 4:8-11).
a. Shake off the dust was a symbol of contempt and piety. A righteous Jew would not allow himself to be contaminated by pagan dust and dirt. Jesus uses this phrase to demonstrate that one should treat unresponsive and unsupportive people as pagans, and as unworthy (Matt. 7:6; Acts 13:42-46).
b. This is an indication that the Gospel is real, and if you do not receive it you will be shaken off in contempt and judgment (Acts 13:51).
c. Sodom was the symbol of the most horrifying judgment ever seen in response to the sins of man having gone way out of control. Sodom rejected God's messengers, and this was far less than rejecting Christ and His followers (Gen. 19).
This passage has some valuable insights for us today. God will not call us where He will not equip us. Therefore, we can go without fear. If He provides, we are doing right. If not, we need to inquire as to why. This passage also prepares us to not to be in shock when strangers and even family friends no longer accept us, because of Christ. We must be prepared as Jesus prepared His Disciples. We are to go first to the people we know. Then, as we get better, we go to others; and finally to those with whom we may be uncomfortable (Matt. 16:15). If they show no interest, we are to leave them alone while we keep them in prayer for a better time, and for the Spirit to open their hearts. We are not to be nuisances or obtuse to others--even those who are "unworthy."
1. If you were to go on a short-term missions trip, what fears would you have?
2. What have you done in your life that required you to venture out and put into practice all that you have been taught in school, church, or work?
3. How do you think the Disciples felt as they ventured out for the first time to practice their faith?
4. What comes into your mind when you see the phrase, follow Me (Christ)?
5. Did Jesus put limits in this mission? If so, what were they, and why?
6. In the practice of your faith, did you ever feel you had to avoid someone or something?
7. Jesus comes as the good Shepherd to rescue His lost sheep. How are you, or could you, be comforted with this truth?
8. What is your opinion on the whereabouts of the ten lost tribes? (Some teach they are the British; others say they are the Northern Europeans. There are many theories, but none are based on any archeological or Biblical facts.)
9. What are you are focused on? Is it money, job, family, hobbies, food? How is your focus related to God's focus?
10. Why did Jesus tell His Disciples to go to the Jews first?
11. When you are putting your faith into practice, how do you feel when people reject you or treat you badly?
12. Paul was viciously and personally attacked, and for what? For spreading the true Gospel. Read how he responds in Gal. 1:10. How can you be further empowered to serve and witness, knowing that you are not responsible for how and why people respond to you? It is not your responsibility that they convert, believe, or act in any certain way. Your only responsibility is that you act in His character and proclaim His name.
13. The Disciples were empowered to freely give the message of the Gospel without any compensation. What do you think of all the ministries that only sell, or "peddle" the Gospel, as in charging money for to people to hear it? Do you think this is a grave insult to God? Or, is there a balance between what we are called to give away and what we can charge?
14. What holds you back from embracing God's call to you?
15. How much does fear affect your motivation to be involved in a ministry?
16. If we become tied down with possessions and worldly concerns, we will miss His call to participate in the mission He has for us. What are your thoughts on this?
17. How can a Christian balance wealth with their call? When do wealth, possessions, jobs, or money (if you think you are not wealthy, think again-- especially if you live in the US, where the poorest of the poor live five percent above the rest of the world) become hindrances, and even evil to what Christ calls us to do?
18. When you do outreach, most people will not listen or care; but that is not your problem. What can you do to break away from feeling rejection, knowing that it will be difficult not take it personally, in order to be effective for the Kingdom?
19. How can this passage prepare you not to be in shock when strangers and family friends no longer accept you, because of Christ?
20. If people show no interest towards the Gospel, you are to keep prying. How can you do this without being a nuisance or obtuse to others?
© 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org