Matthew’s version of Jesus’ first charge to the twelve apostles is listed in this article. Some teachers have yanked bits and pieces of it out of context and would suggest that potions of it somehow speak of end times. Yet the Christ was clearly speaking directly to twelve men present that day who were his specific and intended audience. Most of what he said was self-explanatory. And while this essay is a little longer than I prefer for the site; I have posted a few comments at the end of the passage. There was simply no way to reduce content and still adequately identify some important points.
Mt. 10: 5 — 42:
“These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: ‘Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
‘Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.Â
‘But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
‘Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
‘Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.’”
“…For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
The Lord was not looking through a telescope off into the distant future, nor was he suggesting as the Mormons teach, that some of the twelve would still be roaming around today. This particular remark alluded to the end of the Hebrew dispensation. He clearly noted that the apostles would not have completed their charge to visit every city in Israel (a finite number) before the “the Son of Man” would return in judgment of the nation.
It was last call for Israel. It was to be sounded by John first, then by Jesus and his apostles. This was to be their final opportunity to repent as a people. The pending judgment would be visited upon the dying nation in fulfillment to what had long been prophesied, and which was now being once again warned of by the Son of God.
Jesus told the apostles that he had not come to “bring peace, but a sword” did he not? Jesus also told them to teach to Israel that the Kingdom of heaven was “at hand.” Judgment and the Kingdom were to come one along with the other. They were to instruct that the rules were about to change. Israel was being challenged to pay attention, to repent and to do it right away. This was Jesus and the apostle’s first charge — to warn Israel.
While most of the instructions and admonitions are specific to the twelve, some universal observations were given. The allusions to being set against father, mother, mother-in-law, etc. etc. are certainly used to note how Christianity would find enemies within one’s own house. That much is obvious. It holds true to any audience. However, the context specifically indicated that for the Jews of that day (he was after all speaking to his apostles) that your good Hebrew name and your extended family ties would only serve to bring trouble to you, if you were a believer and attempted to do what the Son of God taught through the Word of God. You simply could not remain in the favor of those who held to the old ways. If they were Jews and unbelievers still, these things would then create turmoil even possibly unto death. It may not have been in each case close family, but it might have been countrymen or some combination of family, friends and countrymen that caused bitter division.
If you a Jew were to repent and to strictly follow God, your family and friends, unless they believed too, likely weren’t going to accept you any longer, as you would be opposing them and painting their faith and values as vain and false, thus casting off family, tradition and ties. Your life would be subject to immediate change and to unending trouble for your effort. Stephen later rightly noted that the Jews were a stiff necked people. He died shortly thereafter by their hand. While Paul’s family sought to protect him, some of the contrary Jews had diligently followed him all the way through Asia and Greece trying to kill him at various times or to have him killed. Their dedicated pursuit was eventually successful.
Your good and holy Jewish family was likely not going to hear Christ, the apostles, or you. Trouble at home and in the family often brings about a breaking of the will against others in what one knows is right. Jesus noted here that compromise in deference to doing God’s will was not possible and would be fatal. Nothing is to come between you and the Lord God.
The Jews had much earlier grown to accept that their genealogy, family names and national history were all that was required for them to be counted in a covenant relationship with God. They were steeped in it. The closer you were to the temple the better off you were, so to speak. You could do as you pleased as long as you knew your heritage and stuck to those ties (not much different than what is taught in many places right now). The Law of Moses was yours, whether you paid any homage or attention to it. It was your talisman. And they didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ. They wanted more pomp and regalia and to “pick” their own messiah. Not much has changed in that today either. You could substitute any denominational name or other “world” religion in place of “Judaism” and the end play will be the same.
Jesus and the twelve would teach that all of this would not do. God had said, “I will have obedience and not sacrifice.” He demands an audience, and that those who seek him do so with humility and godly reverence — no matter what. Paul would later write that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
People don’t like being told that they are wrong, especially laden with generations full of tradition stacked out behind them. The Hebrews and Jews had the truth with them for a very long time, although by this time truth had all but vanished from their religion. That didn’t change a thing in their eyes. They were in “protect” mode. So, family would be set against family, friend against friend, community against community, and blood against blood. You will hold hard to what you have learned at any cost.
John was not fooling when he said, “God could raise up from these very stones children to Abraham.” The rocks would have paid attention too, as they would have had no history – no baggage. Most people have baggage. Isaiah wrote “Because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
For the greater part, the Jews never got it. They did not see judgment coming and they certainly did not think it was coming after them; they had the Law. They would not forsake their past and their traditions. It must have been very hard. They had Abraham. They were chosen. They knew what they were doing.
What the apostle’s first taught was both a warning and a threat. For doing that they each received of the hardships as they had been warned. But, they still taught the only way out for Israel: obedience to the Lord God Almighty through Christ. No excuse would be accepted in place of that.
Judgment would surely come to both the nation and to those who rejected Christ. And it did come. The majority of that nation spurned both the message and the messengers. It surely had to have been tougher than anything that you or I have ever thought of or have faced. And the point of it all surely is no different in its application today. Will you do the same and hold to your religion and its traditions, to what you were taught — or will you seek out the Word of God as your guide, even to the possible dissolution of ties with families and friends?
Jesus told the apostles, “You shall be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.” That they were.