By James Fire
Previously in our study of Matthew, in Chapter 9 we saw how the LORD Jesus Christ was busy about His Father's business, bringing healing and wholeness to so very many hurting and wounded souls. Yet He did far more than merely this, though His miracles were indeed astounding and signs that authenticated His office as the Messiah of Israel; He brought the everlasting Gospel to the people of Israel, that which extends far beyond the healing of the body, but brings eternal life and the washing away of sins to immortal souls who will express faith in Jesus Christ and His work at the Cross of Calvary:
35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
This very same compassion as expressed by the Christ is further demonstrated by His admonition to His disciples: to pray that the LORD of the harvest would send forth laborers (and proclaim the Gospel which is able to save the souls of the lost). Note that He calls Him “the LORD of the harvest” and that the directive to pray to Him, that He would send laborers into HIS harvest. The LORD Jesus is emphasizing that this is HIS harvest and HIS ministry that we simply enter into by our labors. At no such time should we ever consider the preaching of the Gospel or the teaching of the Word as 'my ministry' because in actuality, if we can rightfully claim any ministry as our own, it will be fruitless; or worse – it will bear bad fruit!
No, we saints are empowered by the grace of God to do the work of God and enter into His ministry, being effective only as the Spirit of God is yielded to by such as we: empty and clean vessels, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and ready for the Master's use (2 TIM. 2:20-22). So let us continue on into Chapter 10 then!
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.
The Psalmist rightly observed that “power belongs unto God” (PS. 62:11); the LORD Jesus Christ declared after His resurrection that “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth” (MT. 28:18). Here we see Him distributing power to His twelve disciples, granting them authority against demons (“unclean spirits”) and to heal all sicknesses and diseases. People would recognize these powers as those sent by God; coupled together with the Gospel of Righteousness by proclaiming the Messiah of Israel, would confirm the prophetic Word, that this Jesus “...is [the] very Christ.” (ACTS 9:22).
2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
These twelve among all the disciples that the LORD had up to this point were granted the special privilege of representing Him in the purpose of ministry. And they all demonstrated the power of God which was allocated to them by the Word Incarnate, even Judas Iscariot! How do we know this? If Judas Iscariot was unable to work miracles and healings, then when the subject came up later as to the one who would betray Jesus Christ, the apostles would have been quite able to determine the culprit (“Its the guy that can't do miracles!”).
This speaks to the mind-boggling grace of God! That even to the one who would betray Him, Jesus bestowed this ministry of the Gospel and accounted him as an apostle (one who is sent on special purpose) with the eleven others. They were then considered more than just disciples (students) but leaders in the LORD's ministry! Such long suffering and patience and grace as has never been demonstrated before by any other!
Also note that in almost every instance, whenever the LORD beckons Peter to draw near to Him either for special revelation or miraculous demonstration, he is always accompanied by James and John, and sometimes by his own brother, Andrew. We will see more of this later . . .
5 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:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
The LORD tells them that they have freely received from Him that which they require for ministry and as such, they are to freely give by the power of His Spirit; yet this generosity of Jesus is – for now – restricted only to the house of Israel. He specifically tells them not to go unto the Samaritans or the Gentiles! Why is this, especially when at the end of this Gospel account, He tells His servants to go “unto all nations” (MARK 13:9-10)?
From the beginning of this study in Matthew we have portrayed Jesus as the Messiah of Israel because this is the emphasis made in Matthew's account. He came unto His own first (JOHN 1:11) because of the promise of God that He would indeed send the Messiah-King to them, according to myriad prophecies such as this one:
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
And this one:
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Had Israel received her Messiah as their rightful King at that time, it would have inaugurated the reign of Christ Jesus over His people, a prophecy that entails the length and breadth of what we have come to know as the Millennial reign (of 1000 years) or as presented here in our text, “the Kingdom of heaven”. Yet even though Israel as a nation rejected their Messiah, an event Scripture also has foreseen, the Messiah needed to present Himself to His people – just as promised!
What a tragedy that they rejected the very One that they were actually looking for! Yet this tragic event has opened up the fantastic opportunity for us Gentiles! For Jesus is not only the Messiah of Israel, but the Savior of the world, and prophecy also indicates that He would be a “Light unto the Gentiles” (IS. 49:6)!
Here is a web site called BIBLE PROBE; this page contains well over three hundred Messianic prophecies regarding the Person of Jesus Christ, where they are mentioned in the prophecy of the Word and also Scripture that shows their fulfillment!
9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
12 And when ye come into an house, salute it.
13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Why did the LORD give such a command for His apostles to make no provision as would seem reasonable for any such excursion? I think perhaps for two reasons (though there may be others that I have not considered): Firstly, to demonstrate for His apostles that if they are busy about seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (not only for themselves but for the righteousness of God to be imputed to others via the Gospel) “all these things” shall be added unto them (MATT. 6:33-34). Secondly and more conjectural would be so that as they preached to the poor, these apostles would be 'as one of them' and not a source for financial gain which would distract from the purpose for which they were sent. Should any seek money from the apostles, rather than the Gospel, they would choose poorly, preferring far lesser blessing for greater and eternal ones (See also ACTS 3:1-8).
The LORD empowered them to bestow a spiritual benediction of peace as well; such is obviously within the power of the Prince of Peace, by Whom we may know peace with God (ROM. 5:1), the peace of God (PHIL. 4:7) and peace from God (GAL. 1:3). If such a house was found worthy, that is, the hearts of those household were open to the Gospel and trust in Jesus Christ, then such would receive this God-ordained peace. If not, then that peace would return to those who have already done so (the apostles themselves).
Yet for those who would not receive the Gospel and the proclamation of the Messiah Who was in their midst, the judgment upon them would be far, far greater than that which fell upon Sodom and Gomorrha (See MATT. 11:20-24)! The shaking of dust from off the feet of the apostles was authorized by the LORD Jesus Christ. We don't see this practice done by any other, with the exception of Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (ACTS 18:6). However, we do see this practice (inappropriately I think) among some professing Christians today, self-proclaimed prophets and others and for very many and strange reasons. I don't believe there is any biblical justification for this practice today.
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
In verse 16 we have four different animals mentioned: sheep, wolves, serpents and doves; the first two are referring to nature, the last two refer to conduct. In the world today, we have 'dogs' or those considered by Jewish people allegorically as dogs; then there are the sheep of Israel (JOHN 10:11) and there are “other sheep” from a different fold that the LORD is bringing into His pasture (JOHN 10:16); these would be Gentiles that have come to faith in the Messiah. There are those who are beyond mere dogs, and are considered “wolves” ravenous, devouring, utter predators. These are those who are openly hostile against God's people. The nature of the sheep consists of a benign constitution, virtually harmless, gentle, even friendly. The nature of the wolf is diametrically opposite of that (typically as found in the animal kingdom that is).
Such is the nature of the true Christian, and the true rebellious sinner who opposes God and godliness. I've never seen trained 'special forces' attack sheep going after and slaying wolves, have you? If there ever was one, I wonder what his name would be . . . LAMBO? Just as our LORD Who possesses all power and authority, Who could have zapped His persecutors out of existence (!), conducted Himself (as a sheep before His shearers; see IS. 53:7) gently and inoffensively as an example to us, so we likewise should refrain from retaliation – in meekness before God, allowing Him to recompense evil perpetrated upon us (HEB. 10:30).
The latter two animals mentioned in this verse, serpents and doves exhibit certain traits that we Christians should emulate. Serpents are deadly creatures and will retaliate when provoked – how does this go with the LORD's admonition for His sheep? These reptiles are extra-sensitive to the vibrations that they feel on the ground, caused by approaching animals (or people); snakes can tell, depending on how powerful those vibrations are, how big the approaching threat is and will hide from them if they are too much to handle.
Thus we as Christians ought to be wise in avoiding danger whenever possible. At the same time, one sees a dove with their passive and quiet nature, perceiving them as entirely non-threatening; thus our conduct should also pose no threat whatsoever to any one, even our potential persecutors and tormentors (as seen in vs. 17 and 18).
We are not to fear what people can do to us (PS. 118:6; IS. 51:12) but resort to the LORD for comfort, peace and strength as well as wisdom and love when confronted by antagonizing opponents and persecutors. In vs. 19-20 the LORD promises that the “Spirit of [our] Father” will grant us words to speak that will confound our enemies (Consider Stephen in ACTS 7).
In LUKE's Gospel we have a parallel passage:
12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
And yet, believe it or not, I have heard pastors use MATT. 10:19-20 as a proof text that sermon preparation is not necessary, and would admit that they didn't study for the Sunday sermon or mid-week Bible study, trusting that the LORD would lead them and tell them what to say! Now it would be an entirely different story if a certain pastor was told by the LORD specifically to do such a thing, but by no means under usual conditions should any one, who seeks to retain integrity in the Word of Truth, refrain from proper study and exegesis (the proper explanation and interpretation of Scripture through diligent and critical examination of the text)! We are absolutely committed to the study of God's Word to show ourselves “approved” and a “worthy workman” (2 TIM. 2:15). The text above deals with testimony and witness in the Gospel before the lost, not with doctrinal teaching and exhortation of the saints in the Word.
21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
At the end of this chapter the LORD tells us that He came not to bring peace on Earth but a sword – and that this 'sword' would divide loyalties among family and friends who are opposed to Christ Jesus and the Kingdom of heaven. Yet because we will proclaim our loyalties to both, we shall indeed be hated, just as God's people have always been by the people of this world, and most especially by the religious people of this world. Consider the fact that the most trouble that the LORD Jesus had was not with 'the man in the street' but the religious organization and power of the Sanhedrin!
Nevertheless, He did encounter friction among His family who thought He was crazy (MARK 3:21), and we no doubt will have such problems as well (if we haven't already!).
It should also be noted that while these verses are applicable to all of God's chosen elect (whether of Israel or the church), here it's specifically directed at the Jewish believers (in the Messiah) as we can see in vs. 23, as our LORD mentions them going over all of “the cities of Israel”. While He is making His remarks to the apostles, it must be clear that these twelve aren't 'Christians' yet, as Christians are members of the church and the church at this point is yet future; in MATT. 16:18 the LORD Jesus states that He will build His church, not that He is building His church. He is dealing with them as members of the tribes of Israel, who like Abraham have expressed saving faith (with the exception of Judas Iscariot) in the Messiah.
As such I believe that the apostles here are representative of the remnant of Israel that will come to faith in the Messiah during the 70th Week of Daniel, the seven year period in which the Beast a.k.a. The anti-Christ will reign over the world; this remnant will of course incorporate the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (and perhaps even more Jews besides) who will proclaim “the kingdom of heaven” just as the apostles have been instructed in this chapter. It is these who will go over all the cities of Israel until the Messiah-King returns to this world and establishes His righteous reign in the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of Israel.
I've also known Christians who use vs. 22 as a proof text that one may lose their salvation – if they don't “endure til the end” and yet once again, this verse is being pulled out of context. The issue of salvation here is not regarding the salvation by grace of the soul of the repentant sinner, but rather the salvation of those who have managed to escape martyrdom as a result of the aforementioned 70th Week of Daniel, also known as “the time of Jacob's trouble” (JER. 30:7). We will examine all of these aspects of the coming 'Great Tribulation' and the preceding three and a half years when we get to Ch. 24.
This brings us to the end of the first half of this study in Chapter 10; the remaining part of the study is nearly complete and should get posted within the week. Until then, may the LORD bless your going in, and in your coming out, in your sitting down and in your rising up, and in all ways and all things, may you know the grace and peace, truth and love of Jesus Christ by all means!