Sending of the Disciples – Matthew 10

Read the Passage: Matthew 10

Sending & Instructions (10:1–15)

After giving his command to “pray [to] the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38), in Matt. 10:1–8, Jesus fulfills this prayer by sending out his disciples into Israel. The list of the twelve apostles in Matt. 10:2–4 is one of four such lists in Scripture (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; and Acts 1:13). While all four lists differ in order, they appear to indicate three distinct groups of apostles, with a definite leader of each group. Note that this list, in Matthew’s Gospel, is the only list in which Matthew is identified—by himself, no less—as a tax collector (cf. Matt. 9:9). The commands that Jesus gives his apostles in Matt. 10:5–8 as he sends them forth are interesting in that He specifically told them not to visit the Gentiles and Samaritans, but to focus on “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:6).

In Matt. 10:9–15 Jesus gives directives regarding the practice of the mission. In sum, here Jesus told his disciples that they were not to attempt to self-finance their travel, but rather to rely on the generosity of those to whom they were ministering. Jesus’ point here seems to be that he was trying to teach the disciples to trust in the Lord to supply their needs, as well as to teach those being ministered to about their duty to support the workmen (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1–18; 1 Tim. 5:17–18). Interestingly, on a later occasion (cf. Luke 22:35–36) Jesus gave nearly the opposite command to his disciples, as He instructed, “‘When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’ Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’”

Warning & Encouragement (10:16–31)

In Matt. 10:16–25 Jesus instructed his disciples on some of the difficulties they would experience and they embarked upon the mission of God. Clearly, the warnings Jesus gives here extended beyond the disciples’ immediate ventures. While some of the results Christ mentioned here certainly did unfold during the disciples’ travels, Jesus’ warnings here are more broadly applicable to the later preaching of the gospel, even to this present day. Here in this passage Christ emphasizes the fallen nature of the world, the need for wisdom and innocence, the expectation of rejection, the opportunity to testify before leaders, the spiritual anointing of the message, the gospel division of families, the need to persevere, the scope of the mission, and the need to be conformed to Jesus’ image. These difficulties are one reason why Jesus taught, “Consider the cost” (Luke 14:28).

After delivering a sobering warning in Matt. 10:16–25, Christ gives some encouraging words to his followers in Matt. 10:26–31. Here Jesus gives a proper perspective on the mission of God as He reminds his laborers that success in the mission is ultimately measured by faithfulness to God, not by measurable results. Indeed, as Jesus noted, as “Lord of the harvest” (Matt. 10:28), God is sovereign over all that happens. In this passage Christ exhorts his followers to not be afraid of their enemies, to remember that all will be revealed at the judgment, to confidently deliver the gospel message, to remember that their eternal destiny cannot be altered, to know that God is in control of even the most insignificant of material things, and remember that they are valuable to God. Three times in this passage Jesus says, “Do not fear” (Matt. 10:26, 28, 31).

Results & Reward (10:32–42)

Matt. 10:32–33 is one of the clearest passages in Scripture that describes the result of either accepting or rejecting the gospel message. Lest anyone misunderstand the cost of becoming a follower of Christ, in Matt. 10:34–39 Jesus recaps some of the personal costs of being one of His disciples. As He had noted in Matt. 10:21, here Jesus again teaches that the gospel often fractures families and necessarily entails dying to oneself. Yet, ironically, the gospel is life-giving and always results in the gaining of family members in the household of God (cf. Mark 10:29–30). This is one of the many paradoxes of Christianity, which include: dying to live, decreasing to increase, being last to be first, becoming a slave to be a master, becoming weak to be strong, becoming poor to be rich, submitting to become free, and being buried in order to rise.

Application Questions:

  1. Why did Jesus instruct his disciples to avoid the Gentiles and specifically to minister among the Jews (cf. Acts 3:25–26; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:3–5)?
  2. What is the best way to finance the gospel: have minsters be self-supporting or ask those who receive ministry for support (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1–18; 1 Tim. 5:17–18)?
  3. Which of Jesus’ warnings about the challenges of bearing the gospel have you found to be most relevant and applicable in your life?
  4. Does the thought of God being sovereignly in control of all things encourage you, frighten you, or confuse you?
  5. How did the disciples’ ability to minister differ from Jesus’ ability to minister? How does our ability to minister differ from Jesus’ ministry during His incarnation?