Jesus identifies the twelve apostles, gives them power to remove unclean spirits and to heal sickness and disease. When the apostles are listed in this chapter, most of them are mentioned with details about their relations, name or occupation. The relations would have had more meaning to the 1st century reader in terms of context, but we can still garner some meaning from these clues. The apostles are listed in pairs, probably in accordance with how they were sent out. Brothers went with brothers for the strength of familiarity. Judas is mentioned last.
1. Simon (Peter)
2. Andrew (brother of Peter)
3. James (brother of John, son of Zebedee)
4. John (brother of James, son of Zebedee)
8. Matthew (tax collector and author of this book)
9. James (son of Alphaeus)
10. Thaddeus (first name was Lebbaeus)
11. Simon (the Cananite)
12. Judas Iscariot (the traitor)
Jesus’s primary command to the apostles was to go out and spread the word that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. To the apostles and their audience, the meaning of this statement, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” was probably a mystery. They would have been able to tell that God was working through them because of the miracles but the idea that God’s Son had come in the form of a man to seek and save the lost was a concept that would take some time to be understood. Nevertheless, Jesus wanted to spread the word that God’s plan was coming to fruition. Here are the details of Jesus’s instructions to the apostles as they went out to send the message:
– Do not go to the Gentiles (non-Jews)
– Do not go to the Samaritans
– Go to the lost of Israel (Jews)
– Preach that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”
– Perform miracles (heal, cleanse, raise, cast out)
– Do so freely
– Take no money, bag, extra clothes (they will be provided)
– Stay with people worthy to receive you
– Depart from the unworthy
The apostles had their work cut out for them. Through Jesus’ command we can see that they could have expected to be welcomed or shunned depending on their audience. We also know that the Jews (the primary audience for this excursion) had a leadership that resisted and thwarted Jesus at every turn. Add in that the apostles were going to be personally working miracles and the sense of adventure becomes overwhelming.
In these verses Jesus provides comfort and warnings. Warnings come in the form of men that will persecute, including going before governors and kings. They will be scourged in synagogues and family divisions will also occur. Jesus comforts them with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will direct their speech in times of trouble and also encourages them not to fear demons.
These verses are some of the most important and profound of Jesus’s words in my opinion. Take special care with reading verses 30, 32, 33, and 39. Jesus explains the intimate care and love that God’s has for us and that love is contrasted with the absolute devotion that is required of us as children of God.
Jesus brings words of truth and light and as such, our fear should not be for bodily harm or death but we should instead fear the doom of our soul. Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we ashamed of our faith? If so, Jesus will deny us. But if we speak of and claim Him, He will claim us before God.
Even though it is unpleasant, we should also be ready to abandon the closest family relationships for faith in Jesus. I need to be willing to sacrifice my life and the things most important to me for the sake of my faith in Jesus Christ.
This inspiring and enlightening chapter concludes with the continuing admonition to be selfless, giving, true and kind.